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Power

Computers Causing 2nd Hump In Peak Power Demand 375

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the that's-why-i-compute-with-the-monitor-off dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Traditional peak power hours — the time during the day when power demand shoots up — run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. when air conditioning begins to ramp up and people start heading for malls and home but utilities are now seeing another peak power problem evolve with a second surge that runs from about 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. when people head toward their big screen TVs and home computers. 'It is [not] so much a peak as it is a plateau,' says Andrew Tang, senior director of the smart energy web at Pacific Gas & Electric. '8 p.m. is kind of a recent phenomenon.' Providing power during the peak hours is already a costly proposition because approximately 10 percent of the existing generating capacity only gets used about 50 hours a year: Most of the time, that expensive capital equipment sits idle waiting for a crisis. Efforts to reduce demand are already underway with TV manufacturers working to reduce the power consumption in LCD and plasma while Intel and PC manufacturers are cranking down computer power consumption. 'Without a doubt, there's demand' for green PCs, says Rick Chernick, CEO of HP partner Connecting Point, adding that the need to be green is especially noticeable among medical industry enterprise customers."
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Computers Causing 2nd Hump In Peak Power Demand

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  • by zappepcs (820751) on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:42PM (#25442565) Journal

    I hope that the 'market' comes up with many of the ones that I can think of.

    Battery UPS in your PC case... stores power for power outages and uses the battery during startup cycles, thus spreading the draw from the grid to less used times.

    EU just made incandescent lights illegal.

    Green design homes

    Light timer switches with built-in motion sensors and other such devices.

    More efficient solar energy. Windows with solar collectors built-in as well as LED lighting so that daylight can continue unabated.

    The list goes on. Anything that prevents a 250 watt drain on the grid during peak times will reduce the problem dramatically if millions of homes participated. Say 2 million homes used 250W/hr less at peak times for any given grid supply area: 500MegaWatt hour savings. That's a lot of savings.

  • Re:Simple solution. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jrp2 (458093) on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:52PM (#25442719) Homepage

    "Just change the air time of American Idol to 6:00pm and turn politics to 8:00-9:00pm"

    LOL. Scary, but true.

    That would not solve the problem, as it would just enhance the effect of the 4-7pm peak.

    Move American Idol to 6am and you might actually spread power usage a bit.

    Yeah, yeah, I know you were joking, just had to play along.

    Seriously now, the solution is demand-based control. Move laundry and other big users of electricity to the middle of the night, and charge demand-based rates (cheaper rates at night when demand is lower). This has to be done as automatically as practical, with little user intervention.

    We will not likely be able to affect things like TV and Internet usage times, but we can spread the load on high consumers like laundry, dish washers, car charging (when the comes along), etc. There might even be some hope for Air Conditioning, but that is a bit tougher to time.

  • Article blows (Score:5, Interesting)

    by inviolet (797804) <slashdot@ideasmat[ ].org ['ter' in gap]> on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:53PM (#25442739) Journal

    If air-conditioning is the peak demand, which it is in the South, then no reductions to such "secondary peaks" like evening TV-watching (etc.) will help, because the utilities must maintain the generating capacity to meet the highest peak.

    Only when air-conditioning demand is brought below the next-highest peak will there be any benefit at all from these secondary reductions.

    That said, computers and TVs do contribute to the air-conditioning peak, and so it helps to make them more efficient... but that wasn't the point of the article.

    The air-conditioning peak can only be brought down by difficult measures: upgrading the windows and insulation of older homes, upgrading older air-conditioning systems to newer models, keeping the house hotter inside, overhauling older duct systems to fix leaks and the like. Those are expensive and/or painful measures, and more importantly, those measures fail to tell us that "it is virtuous to buy a new computer or entertainment system". We very much like to be told that it is virtuous to do what we already wanted to do.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:55PM (#25442779)
    EU just made incandescent lights illegal. Wasn't there an article on here last year about GE inventing a more effecient incandescent and California's ban effectively killing that technology?
  • bandwidth (Score:5, Interesting)

    by drakyri (727902) on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:56PM (#25442795)
    This is a little off-topic, but there's an analogous jump for bandwidth.

    I used to work at a fairly large university, and you could watch the bandwidth charts and see what was happening:

    9 am - people arrive at work, bandwidth climbs
    1 pm - bandwidth plateaus - people are eating lunch / students waking up or getting back from early classes
    5 pm - bandwidth halves as workers go home
    7 pm - bandwidth climbs again due to student usage
    9 pm - plateaus
    2 am - begins to decline
    6 am - minimal usage
  • Re:Wow. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gfxguy (98788) on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:58PM (#25442821)

    I read about some interesting tech on slashdot a few years ago... a refrigerator sized fuel cell unit that converts natural gas to electricity... enough to power an "average" household.

    With all the loss in conversion and transportation of electricity, you'd think being generated locally would save a lot of electricity (since there's little to no loss in pumping that natural gas to the home).

    Moreover, I think we should begin a slow conversion back to DC (either by having a "whole house" DC converter or generating the power locally). Electronics would be cheaper and lighter, people wouldn't need all those transformers plugged in (usually wasting electricity whether they are being used or not), think of how much is lost on the conversion and often needing fans to cool the power supplies!

    I wonder how much power is lost using solar panel systems and windmill systems that convert their charge to AC only to have it converted back to DC by the appliance using it?

  • Re:Simple solution. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Monday October 20, 2008 @01:05PM (#25442935) Homepage Journal

    We will not likely be able to affect things like TV and Internet usage times,

    How long can a TV run from a car/truck battery? If electricity prices varied by time of day and/or your connection's current power draw, it might actually be cost-effective for people to run some daytime things from batteries that they could recharge overnight.

  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Monday October 20, 2008 @01:06PM (#25442953)

    The list goes on. Anything that prevents a 250 watt drain on the grid during peak times will reduce the problem dramatically if millions of homes participated. Say 2 million homes used 250W/hr less at peak times for any given grid supply area: 500MegaWatt hour savings. That's a lot of savings.

    And if every home saves 250W/hour for five hours a day, then each of them will see about $4 per month savings on their electric bill.

    Which is so trivial that noone will bother with the effort required to make the savings.

    You won't sell a conservation measure on the notion "the country will save oodles of money", you have to sell it on "YOU will save oodles of money". Which is, frankly, pretty hard to do these days - unless you happen to live in an uninsulated house, with a 30 year old AC/Heater, there's not really a whole lot you can do to significantly (key word here is significantly) affect your monthly bill.

  • Re:Simple solution. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jumperalex (185007) on Monday October 20, 2008 @01:13PM (#25443051)

    I was about to say the same thing ... so here I am doing it :) But seriously you are right. The first thing I thought of was, "hmmm a bigger UPS would certainly solve the problem." Although I'd need to size it even bigger for constant charge/discharge cycles or it will die a quick death, but still the point remains ... the market for On-site power storage would skyrocket which would also help that same market in its support for things like Wind and Solar. By increasing the market for local energy storage we are more likely to see an increase in investment for new-tech and a reduction in consumer cost as R&D/fixed-production costs can be amortized across more units.

  • I can confirm this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CdBee (742846) on Monday October 20, 2008 @01:14PM (#25443071)
    My employers make and sell consumer television sets.

    One of the large power companies pays the proportionate costs of our advertising for all the TVs we sell which consumes less than x watts (Sorry - can't reveal the figure).

    They do this because its in their interests to get lower-consumption TVs out there, and paying our advertising is easier than paying for additional capacity.
  • Re:Wow. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by johnlcallaway (165670) on Monday October 20, 2008 @01:15PM (#25443085)

    Be careful agreeing to those rebates from the power company. The ones I have read come with a small string ... the power company gets to use the carbon offsets associated with the solar cells/water heater for the life of the system.

    Whether this is a good trade off or not I'm not sure. Makes some sense for them to receive some of the offsets, they helped pay for it. But I'm not willing to give up 100% of the offsets unless they are willing to pay 100% of the cost.

    Putting in the solar cells and heater are a good thing, but I don't think I'm going to be asking the power company to help pay for it.

  • Re:Wow. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Miseph (979059) on Monday October 20, 2008 @01:26PM (#25443269) Journal

    "With all the loss in conversion and transportation of electricity, you'd think being generated locally would save a lot of electricity (since there's little to no loss in pumping that natural gas to the home)."

    The problem is that, generally speaking, a few large generators are more efficient than a whole bunch of small ones. To the extent that transmission loss is greater then the loss from using small (relatively inefficient) generators rather than big (relatively efficient) your statement is true... but my guess is that currently we lose a lot more in transmission than we gain from using larger generators.

  • Re:Simple solution. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Guysmiley777 (880063) on Monday October 20, 2008 @01:44PM (#25443557)
    Quoting a dollar amount is meaningless. Power cost varies WILDLY from location to location. How many kWh is $100?

    Where I just moved to I'm paying $0.155/kWh. Where I was before it was $0.065/kWh.
  • Re:Simple solution. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Monday October 20, 2008 @01:58PM (#25443727)

    My business partner's wife is very big into aquariums. They just installed a new 750 gallon tank in their basement, and with all the metal halide lights (used to promote plant/coral growth), their power bill is pushing $700/month. I've spoken with him about switching to new full-spectrum LED systems that have a higher initial investment, but would bring his bill down to $250-$350/month.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 20, 2008 @02:41PM (#25444399)

    Alternatively one could use water tanks and potential energy as a energy store. Although I can't really follow the logic of calculations above in detail, in comparison one would need something like 10-meter (33 feet) gravitational potential difference between two pools of water, each 44 cubic meters (11600 gallons) in capacity to provide comparable storage. "Charge-recharge" cycles wouldn't wear it too much, and heat on pump motor and generator ends could be used for heating with water cooling system. Cost of building this system would easily be quite something in comparison to couple batteries though...

    Would it make sense? I don't think so, but it'd be fancy. ;)

  • Re:Simple solution. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 19thNervousBreakdown (768619) <davec-slashdot&lepertheory,net> on Monday October 20, 2008 @02:47PM (#25444485) Homepage

    $0.03/kWh, all day every day. I live where I do specifically for that and the excellent broadband available.

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