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Power Earth Technology

Expanding the Electricity Grid May Be a Mistake 412

Posted by kdawson
from the big-systems-thinking-needed dept.
Perhaps T. Boone Pickens was onto something. Al writes "An article in Technology Review argues that plans to string new high-voltage lines across the US to bring wind power from the midsection of the country to the coasts, could be an expensive mistake. What's needed instead are improved local and regional electricity transmission, the development of an efficient and adaptable smart grid, and the demonstration of technology such as carbon capture and sequestration, which could prove a cheaper way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions than transmitting power from North Dakota to New York City."
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Expanding the Electricity Grid May Be a Mistake

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  • Yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @06:14PM (#28697185) Journal

    Yes, because we all know that every locale has magic electricity faeries just waiting to produce low-carbon-footprint electricity.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by mikelieman (35628)

      It does when you beam the electricity to ground-stations from orbiting solar power satellites.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shakrai (717556)

      Yes, because we all know that every locale has magic electricity faeries just waiting to produce low-carbon-footprint electricity.

      Well, there is one extremely low carbon footprint technology [wikipedia.org] that we know works and scales well. Too bad the people who oppose it do so without offering any real alternative besides the "renewables" that we've been waiting decades for or the prospect of a lower standard of living.....

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Smoke2Joints (915787)
        it all depends how much you want to spend, what your requirements are, and what resources are available to you. the options [ecoinnovation.co.nz] are [ecoinnovation.co.nz] out there [ecoinnovation.co.nz]. even for large scale applications [sandia.gov].

        but from the tone of your post, you dont seem to be the type of person willing to generate your own power.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Joce640k (829181)

        It's ironic that the people who could ultimately end up wrecking the earth are the "greens" and the"save the earth" types who'll do anything they can to prevent nuclear power.

         

        Isn't ignorance wonderful?

         

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by falconwolf (725481)

          It's ironic that the people who could ultimately end up wrecking the earth are the "greens" and the"save the earth" types who'll do anything they can to prevent nuclear power.

          Isn't it ironic that those who want nuclear power are "Hooked on Subsidies [cato.org]"?

          Falcon

      • Re:Yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dachshund (300733) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:41PM (#28699787)

        Too bad the people who oppose it do so without offering any real alternative besides the "renewables" that we've been waiting decades for or the prospect of a lower standard of living.....

        I've met the opponents of nuclear energy, and they're not tree-huggers. They're your neighbors. They drive SUVs, have backyard cookouts, and they buy still buy mylar balloons even though so-and-so says the kill whales (the kids love them... what can you do?). In fact, they don't even care about the possible environmental impact of nuclear power plants --- just as long as they're nowhere the hell nearby.

        Some people delude themselves into the idea we'd be building nuclear plants everywhere if it wasn't for those environmentalists (and their pesky dog! [newsgab.com]) In real life, there's about a snowball's chance of nuclear plants being constructed near major population centers. In part that's because the economics suck, but mostly it's because Joe and Jane sixpack don't want them there.

        It may feel nice to shout hypocrisy at those evil environmentalists, but it's a mug's game. So get it out of your system, go learn a bit about this great country we live in. Then come back and maybe you can contribute something.

        • Re:Yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

          by The_Quinn (748261) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @02:50AM (#28700735) Homepage

          there's about a snowball's chance of nuclear plants being constructed near major population centers. In part that's because the economics suck, but mostly it's because Joe and Jane sixpack don't want them there.

          There are already nearly 100 nuclear plants in the U.S. alone, and the people being served by them seem generally fine with it and do not fear it.

          Most of the fear-mongering comes, historically, from environmentalists, who essentially place the environment above the well being of humans. Virtually every proposed form of energy production is disliked by core environmentalists, including wind (which takes 10's of thousands of acres of turbines to equal a medium-sized coal plant) and solar (taking 12.5 square miles of cells to match a large coal plant). And those only generate energy when the wind is blowing, or the sun is shining.

          The only form I haven't heard environmentalists condemn is geothermal (probably because I'm ignorant of it), but geothermal causes earthquakes [nytimes.com]

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Candid88 (1292486)

            Virtually every proposed form of energy production is disliked by core environmentalists

            It sounds like you are simply lumping various completely independent groups of people together as "enviromentatlists" based on very selective critiera.

            This over-simplification of the infinite number of different opinions out there into two opposing camps of either pro/anti something is rarely helpful, despite its common usage in the mainstream media (e.g. conservative/liberal labels which mean very little).

            As in the link

      • Re:Nuclear power (Score:4, Informative)

        by Dare nMc (468959) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:23AM (#28700053)

        Nuclear is only a partial solution (currently) also. It is all mostly in your wiki article, but the high points IMHO:
            1) shortage of Uranium mining (used at 2* the rate it is mined currently.)
            2) shortage of manufacturing capacity (containment vessels)
            3) many reactor technologies that can reduce #1 just haven't been proven to be viable yet(breeder reactors, fast reactors, etc)

        I agree objections to any nuclear expansion are just wrong. But we can't just drop any options, because their is clearly no one solution to cover our energy addiction, let alone to get us through the next 20 years.

    • by mangu (126918) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @06:57PM (#28697665)

      every locale has magic electricity faeries just waiting to produce low-carbon-footprint electricity

      You're absolutely right, and that's why we need either nuclear power or a large power transmission grid to lower CO2 emissions.

      The problem with the large power grid is that power is generateed at a 60 Hz frequency. This corresponds to a 5000 km wavelength. A quarter wave line [google.com] has a length of 1250 km (about 780 miles for the unit-challenged).

      A quarter wavelength line has the property that a short circuit at one end appears as an open circuit at the other end and an open circuit appears at a short. This makes it very difficult to transmit 60 Hz power over a line of approximately that length, the line must be "impedance matched", by putting capacitors and/or inductors at several points along the line. Worse still, the line impedance varies with load, because when a higher current runs through the wires they heat up and, by dilation, lengthen and rest at a lower position, thereby increasing the capacitance to ground, which means those capacitors and inductors must be variable.

      One solution is to use direct current [google.com], but that's as expensive or more than matching the impedance, although the grid becomes easier to stabilize when direct current is used.

      All in all, any solution for making more electricity available is expensive. Conservation is the easiest and cheaper way to implement technically, but it seems, at least in the USA, very difficult for the people to accept.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @08:24PM (#28698391)

        Conservation is the easiest and cheaper way to implement technically, but it seems, at least in the USA, very difficult for the people to accept.

        There will _always_ be more people.
        There will _always_ be greater demand for resources.
        This seems very difficult for conservationists to understand.

        You were right with the nuclear argument if we can just deprogram^H^H^H^Heducate the populace about how safe it really is; at least enough to placate the NIMBY crowd.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MikeURL (890801)
          I grew up on Long Island and I remember the Shoreham nuclear power plant fiasco. Sadly the more dense the population the easier it to scare people with nightmare scenarios. It was very easy to tell people to think about the LIE at rush hour...and then imagine it if the entire Island was trying to empty.

          But really you could make that argument anywhere with high population density. Pick any city and then tell the people to imagine the roads on Mother's Day and then imagine them if every person had to ev
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by The_Wilschon (782534)

        Conservation is the easiest and cheaper way to implement technically, but it seems, at least in the USA, very difficult for the people to accept.

        Also the least future proof. Electricity or at least energy consumption will increase, barring some disaster that leaves this all a moot point anyway.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by NeutronCowboy (896098)

          Why is this an either or proposition? The beauty of conservation is that it is completely technology independent.

    • by timeOday (582209)

      Yes, because we all know that every locale has magic electricity faeries just waiting to produce low-carbon-footprint electricity. Depends on how big the "locales" are. For instance, the article says importing electricity from the midwest to the coasts may be a mistake, since they're closer to offshore wind. So, the article agrees we need to build a smart grid. It's just questioning how far the rollout should go. I'm not sure there are any serious plans for a truly national power grid, so it's somethin

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tunapez (1161697)
      That's T Boone, the Electric Faerie! All you have to do is build them thar local transmission lines with tax payer money or else he'll drop it to focus on his water monopoly already in place!

      Haven't seen any wind turbines on Fl-Ebay yet, but when they do I'm gonna "Buy It Now"!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dasher42 (514179)

      I don't think I've ever seen a more undeserved insightful mod. That was non-specific heckling without a point.

      Here are some points for you: the amount of innovation in green energy is tremendous these days. Take your pick, some of these are from this very site:

      24/7 baseload electricity from the sun for utilities, great for sunny climates, cost-competitive with coal [solar-reserve.com]
      Steady large-scale wind power from stacked kites [tudelft.nl]
      Cutting consumption and greenhouse gasses with microgrids [lbl.gov]
      As seen on this very site, cost-effec [raw-solar.com]

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @06:15PM (#28697191)

    All this talk about solar and wind energy being "free" and building these giant wind farms and turbines has had me wondering about something that I never see addressed. Has anyone considered the meteorological effects of removing all that energy from the atmosphere? I mean wind and solar energy serve a FUNCTION, they move our weather systems around, melt our snow, power our rivers, etc. You start taking a significant chunk of that energy out of the atmosphere, couldn't you end up with climate changes that could be even more devestating than the global warming you're trying to avoid?

    No energy is truly "free," after all. But environmentalists keep talking about wind and solar as if there's NO downside whatsoever. It seems to me that there might be a pretty big one.

    • by ByTor-2112 (313205) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @06:18PM (#28697243)

      Hopefully the drag from all those windmills will slow the earth's rotation enough to eliminate those damnable leap years.

    • by polar red (215081) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @06:28PM (#28697349)

      yeah, like building 1 billion houses has no impact. or demolishing 10 billion trees.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by elrous0 (869638) *
        If you're being serious here, then yes that's rather the point. ANYTHING you do on a large scale has an impact. Nothing is free. Scaling up wind and solar could produce just as many unintended consequences as any other form of power generation. But everyone's so infatuated with them right now that no one seems to even be CONSIDERING the potential problems (all I've heard are a few grumblings about birds getting hit by the turbine blades and the environmental costs of producing solar panels).
        • by markk (35828) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @10:14PM (#28699177)

          People have looked at Wind right side up, upside down, back and forth and have raised issues that make anti-nuke people look sane. The problem with Wind is that it is a real threat to coal, so there is a lot of paid for flack. Especially if combined with NG and/or Nuclear with utility level Solar for peaking in the right areas. Given good distribution we know we can use wind turbines to over 30% electric power because it is being done right now in various European grids. The issue will really be capital cost and marginal cost. The scary thing for the coal folks is that there is no ongoing resource cost and as wind turbines get out of the 20 year capital payoff period they are going to be the cheapest marginal cost electricity.

          Wind Power right now is close to 3% of U.S. electrical production and doubling again in 3 or 4 years. (And that is ignoring Picken's "plan" which was partially a front to own gas and water transport rights) Over half of all new power plant license requests in 2008 were for wind power. Nobody is calling for Plains to Coast power lines except for coal companies so they can criticize them. Intermediate level regional interconnects are what most propose now and they will be another up front capital cost item that will cause greatly reduced cost in 20 years or so. The better the regional interconnects the less variable the wind power is, and the cheaper the balancing cost.

          Of course as Wind Power grows there are starting to be boondoggles and all the other BS things that go along with big time capital enterprises. Wind is the first "alternative" power that will have to deal with those issues and that is actually a sign of maturity to me. It becomes more like any other big business. We really are on the wave for wind as long as it isn't shut down by coal interests.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by publiclurker (952615)
      Considering the size of the earth relative to the size of any windmill farms, I seriously doubt we could ever extract a significant amount of the available energy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Buelldozer (713671)

        I happen to agree with you but the devil's advocate in me replies that they said the same thing about the Buffalo.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by elrous0 (869638) *
          ...and hydroelectric power, a power generation method once considered quite "green," which turned out to cause some unexpected problems [wikipedia.org] as well.
      • by Tanktalus (794810) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @07:05PM (#28697727) Journal

        I'm pretty sure they said the same thing about pumping pollution into the air, too. The volume of pollution pumped out of factories vs the volume of the atmosphere, it'd never be significant. What do you know - as more people started jumping on the bandwagon, new technology found new ways to pump out pollution. If we invest heavily in wind farms, new technology will come along to extract more energy in less land footprint.

        And who says what "significant" is? Maybe the amount of energy available is barely over the cusp of self-sustainability, and extracting a couple hundred MW* completely ruins the jet stream, plunging us into droughts and famines the likes we've never seen? Or maybe the extraction of minor amounts of energy destabilises the jet stream such that it causes hurricanes in places that would never otherwise see them? Who knows? How can we know? Of course, maybe we have to be taking out huge amounts of energy to make that difference - we don't know that, either. (It's probably somewhere around 1.21 jiggawatts...) The question to me isn't whether we should or not (we should), it's what do we do to fix it if we do take too much out? If you think pumping out too much CO2 is bad, this has potential for much worse. Then again, it might be nothing. Can't tell.

        * yes, W, not J. The sun is replenishing the energy in our atmosphere, so I'm assuming here that you have to take out energy above and beyond the energy added to the ecosystem by the sun on a continual basis to effect any change.

        • by noidentity (188756) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @08:42PM (#28698515)

          I'm pretty sure they said the same thing about pumping pollution into the air, too. The volume of pollution pumped out of factories vs the volume of the atmosphere, it'd never be significant. What do you know - as more people started jumping on the bandwagon, new technology found new ways to pump out pollution. If we invest heavily in wind farms, new technology will come along to extract more energy in less land footprint.

          The difference is that pollution accumulates, while the wind dissipates pretty quickly. And hell, putting up a large structure probably blocks more wind (turns it into heat and sound) than a turbine could. Also, is anyone really concerned that having solar collectors on the ground is going to disrupt things as compared to having the sun hit the ground instead?!?

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by moosesocks (264553)

            Don't forget that the surface of a forest has a huge frictional coefficient, and sucks the power out of a gust of wind just as fast as a turbine.

      • You are correct that we can't extract a significant amount of the wind energy. But wind flow is pretty tricky, and even if farms wouldn't affect flow in the upper atmosphere, they could affect flow where we care about it. at the earth's surface.

        I would say that this is still an open question.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by geekoid (135745)

        But look at the size of the windmill farms if they were to generate ALL of our power.

    • That's the beauty of it when winter comes the gorillas freeze!

    • I read about it somewhere. Said it actually raised temps 2-3ÂF while in operation.

    • You Gotta Be Joking (Score:5, Informative)

      by v(*_*)vvvv (233078) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @06:55PM (#28697641)

      You start taking a significant chunk of that energy out of the atmosphere, couldn't you end up with climate changes that could be even more devestating than the global warming you're trying to avoid?

      No. The wind is surface wind, so imagine how much wind is actually in the atmosphere. The wind pushing your clouds is a bit higher up. With sunlight, the energy is either heating your tiles, or charging them. It is a preference, not a robbery of some sort. And we find charge has more uses than hot tiles.

      Free, though, it is not, and you are correct about there being a downside. It is in the form of cost, infrastructure, and energy efficiency, among others.

    • Oh, please! you're not serious? am I just not getting the joke?

      Windmills changing weather patterns? does nobody ever pick up a science book!

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        We've never done this kind of generation on even a tiny fraction of the scale it would take to generate the our worldwide power needs (which, I might add, are ever increasing). You laugh it off too casually.
        • by maxume (22995) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @07:51PM (#28698115)

          Human energy utilization is on the order of 15 terawatts. The sun hits an earth size disc at the earth's orbit with more than 100 petawatts (I would guess that at least 30 or 50 petawatts actually make it to the ground).

          There is some chance that it will cause problems, but we don't have the capacity to build up fast, so we are going to have quite some time where we are harnessing 1/10,000 of the Sun's energy. We can use that experience to decide if 1/1,000 of it poses some risk to the environmental conditions that we like to live in.

    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @07:02PM (#28697699) Homepage

      All this talk about solar and wind energy being "free" and building these giant wind farms and turbines has had me wondering about something that I never see addressed.

      Yeah it's only brought up in every single /. discussion about wind power.

      You start taking a significant chunk of that energy out of the atmosphere, couldn't you end up with climate changes

      Yes but what makes you think wind power could ever take a 'significant' chunk of energy out of the atmosphere? A windmill only takes a tiny fraction of the energy out of the wind that moves through the area described by its rotation. The wind passing through that area is a tiny, tiny fraction of the atmosphere energy that passes over the windmill. You could cover the earth with wind farms, and you'd be taking a tiny, tiny fraction of the atmosphere's energy. And up to a certain, very large, point it isn't even clear we'd be removing more energy than the trees that existed before industrial logging and agriculture cut them down.

      Could it affect the climate? Yes. Is it a reason to worry? No.

      No energy is truly "free," after all. But environmentalists keep talking about wind and solar as if there's NO downside whatsoever.

      Seriously, compared to what it is replacing, it is so close to zero impact as to be indistinguishable. When every fossil fuel plant has been shut down, and when we're contemplating blanketing whole continents with wind/solar farms, that's when the impact of these technologies will be significant. Then maybe we'll have to find a better solution, but hey thanks to getting rid of all the coal plants we should have plenty of time to do so.

      I don't think any environmentalist would claim that they have literally NO impact, outside of this relative comparison where it is only hyperbole of the smallest order. Yes, wind isn't "truly free". No, that's not a reason to stop building wind farms as fast as possible, because "not free" isn't within orders of magnitude of "as costly as current power sources". This concern is so far out there that it just reeks of grasping at straws. The fact is that for today and the foreseeable future, the environmental benefit of wind farms is unequivocal and enormous.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jeffliott (1558799)

      Solar is free in the sense that you describe. All the electricity it generates that is spent will eventually heat up some load somewhere, and unspent energy will just heat up the surface, just like if it were a tar covered roof. Nothing is lost, since the energy removed still enters the system in the same quantity, just somewhere else, hopefully nearby.

    • Yes, anyone has indeed considered it, at least considered the possibility, which is more than one can apparently say for some of the experts producing reports and studies like the last one about giant wind farms here on /. in the last week or two. They seem to have rather optimistic tunnel vision, which seems to be a common affliction with too many people who become too emotionally attached to ideas. They want so much to "make it so" (to mimic Jean-Luc Picard) that they become a bit delusional in the proc

    • I have the same concerns about wind energy. There is some evidence [geocities.com] that it can effect local ecology.

      Solar energy on the other hand, isn't used very efficiently. In fact, in much of the world shade structures that converted solar energy to electricity would provide a double service: cool via shading while using unwanted radiative energy.

      The only way that using solar could effect climate is if we significantly changed the albedo [wikipedia.org] by placing dark solar panels in a place that was very reflective. However, ot

    • by Ambitwistor (1041236) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @07:21PM (#28697865)

      There have been some studies, for example "The influence of large-scale wind power on global climate" [pnas.org].

    • by Bemopolis (698691) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @07:27PM (#28697917)

      You start taking a significant chunk of that energy out of the atmosphere, couldn't you end up with climate changes that could be even more devestating than the global warming you're trying to avoid?

      Yes you could. However, building the number of windmills required to satisfy all of our energy needs wouldn't make a noticeable dent in the climate AT ALL. Just to give a sense of scale, consider the following: wind power is primarily the result of solar input. At Earth distance sunlight delivers 1360 watts per (projected) square meter; that's about 10 megawatts per football field (or, if you prefer, soccer pitch.) Over the lit surface of the Earth, that's an energy input of 173,000 terawatts.

      The current energy consumption of mankind? 16.

      Note that this is just solar input (of which some percentage goes into wind power). This doesn't even touch on the potential of tapping into ocean tides, which is driven by gravitational forces. And of course the supernova remnant fuel storage device known as nuclear fission. Compared to the impact of releasing long-sequestered carbon from beneath the ground back into the atmosphere, stealing power from the wind is chicken feed.

    • by compro01 (777531) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @07:33PM (#28697971)

      Has anyone considered the meteorological effects of removing all that energy from the atmosphere?

      Yes, and it's insignificant.

      According to the NOAA [noaa.gov], an average hurricane releases roughly 14 Terawatt-hours of energy per day. According to the EIA [doe.gov], annual global electrical production comes to about 20 Terawatt-hours.

      To summarize, one single hurricane can power the entire world (with room to grow) for an entire year if captured for two days.

      Now consider how many hurricanes and typhoons there are in a year, how long they each last, and do the math. And don't forget about lesser weather phenomenon like thunderstorms (An average thunderstorm releases about 10 gigawatt-hours) and wind in general, which also release a non-trivial amount of energy.

    • I'm not so worried about that as I am about the very real dangers of the pollution solar voltaic energy causes. We're all rushing headlong into this without considering what we're going to do with the waste.
  • by basementman (1475159) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @06:17PM (#28697221) Homepage
    Made a quick template for you, could come handy for future posts. "What's needed instead is $buzzword1 and $buzzword2, the development of $buzzword 3 and the demonstration of technology such as $buzzword4, which could provide a cheaper way to reduce $buzzword5."
  • by cats-paw (34890) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @06:18PM (#28697245) Homepage

    I spell carbon capture "c o a l s u b s i d y".

    It's not going to work, it's just another way to subsidize coal companies, as if letting them blow the tops off of mountains wasn't enough.

    Installing renewables local to where the power is needed is, of course, a great idea.

    • With so many global warming skeptics about, you'd think they'd be at least as suspicious of carbon sequestration. Has anyone actually looked at the proposals being put forward? It's a complete joke.
    • by astar (203020)

      The extra electrical transmission capability is so the speculators who jacked up the electrical cost not too long ago can continue to operate and do it again more effectively.

  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @06:19PM (#28697249)

    Decentralized generation seems likely to offer more jobs at the local level, both for construction of smaller, more numerous generating facilities and for on-going staffing and maintenance.

    • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @06:31PM (#28697399) Homepage
      That's an advantage? It sounds like a disadvantage to me. It's electricity. We don't use electricity as an end in and of itself, we use it to achieve other valuable goals. If it takes more work to get it this way, that's inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and wasteful - and a drag on every other sector of the economy that uses electricity.

      There's an old story about the Communists in China digging a dam, and an observer asks why they're using shovels instead of excavators. "To create more jobs", they say. "Oh, I thought you were building a dam. If it's jobs you want, take away their shovels and give them spoons."

      • by hedwards (940851) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @06:39PM (#28697499)
        It's complicated, but you're trying to balance the location of the generation with the location of the use with the needs of the electrical grid with the ability to put hardware there to do the previous steps.

        You're trying to balance it so that you've maximized the output and efficiency while minimizing the cost and environmental impact. It's not easy to do by any stretch of the imagination. That's why you're wanting to decentralize it, but you're having to also bear in mind that transmission lines and extra workers do add to inefficiencies inherent in the system.

        On top of that, you've got to be aware of regions like the west coast, south and new England which are all subject to their own geographic oddities and risks. So that you can minimize the consequences of a hurricane, earthquake or eruption.
      • So its either maximize efficiency or maximize jobs? Go stand over there with the Commies and the Captains of Capital. Noses to the corner, please.

      • "That's an advantage? It sounds like a disadvantage to me"

        I think you're missing the real advantage: Brownouts don't effect huge populations because power is local, just imagine if the entire internet could be taken down by a single router. While something may technically be "ecnomically inefficient", it's relative to costs and benefits of redundancy and independent power networks.

        Economic efficiency does not exist in a vacuum and often times is very vacuous concept - i.e. locked down platforms for chips

    • by westlake (615356)

      Decentralized generation seems likely to offer more jobs at the local level, both for construction of smaller, more numerous generating facilities and for on-going staffing and maintenance.

      In other words, small, inefficient and wasteful.

      You build your hydro plant on the Niagara River because you can generate massive amounts of power from facilities which will last more than 100 years - with maintaince and rehab on a 25 year cyle.

      It's not a make-work project - it is a power project.

  • by overshoot (39700) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @06:22PM (#28697291)
    Every time someone suggests that we should continue burning carbon and just store the CO2, I can't help but think of Mars Attacks [imdb.com].
  • Central Generation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @06:28PM (#28697347)

    The CBI in the UK has been railing against our governments focus on wind power as well [bbc.co.uk].

    They were also keen on carbon-capture and also nuclear.

    It's funny how big corporate interests are not so keen on projects where any little group of people could afford their own small-scale generation capacity. Although I could be talking through my tinfoil hat.

  • by hAckz0r (989977) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @06:34PM (#28697435)
    Ok, so I'm supposed to believe that Alfred P. Sloan, someone that made a VAST FORTUNE off of technology that burns oil, is going to like us NOT burning oil? Who would have ever thought that...

    http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Alfred_P._Sloan,_Jr. [newworldencyclopedia.org]

  • Two Words (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @06:38PM (#28697495)

    Nuclear Power.

  • Nuclear! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by greg_barton (5551) * <<moc.oohay> <ta> <notrab_gerg>> on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @06:40PM (#28697515) Homepage Journal

    Just about anything but nuclear [blogspot.com] is a mistake.

  • Smart Grid (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MC2000 (1246222)

    Smart Grid technology is actually just around the corner. I was just listening to the CEO of Cisco talk about how they're trying to make a big push into this industry, a quick search turned up this; http://www.cisco.com/web/strategy/energy/smart_grid_solutions.html [cisco.com]

  • With to days grid all it takes is a homer Simpson to mess it up.

    There was that time he spilled food all over his control board and took out new york.

  • We keep going after the same model over and over again. Search Finster's Law: A closed mouth gathers no feet. Big conglomerates produce and consumers buy. They get to set the rates and raise prices when they can come up with an excuse (weather, maintenance, etc) and commodities traders can bet on the spot prices. It's an old and broken model that benefits corporations while sapping money from consumers. With all the billions they keep mentioning wouldn't it be nice if someone had a clue and said: "if we
  • Being overly optimistic (I know), but once the fusion (NIF or similar facility) research succeeds and the fusion energy is tamed we would actually need such a hight voltage grid in place. Of course it will probably not happen in our lifetimes.
  • by geekoid (135745)

    We need to do both, and sequestering with current technologies will not last long term.

    We need to be using solar thermal and not wind.

  • by alizard (107678) <{alizard} {at} {ecis.com}> on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @07:22PM (#28697873) Homepage
    this is what the author really wants to sell us as an alternative to moving to renewable energy.

    and the demonstration of technology such as carbon capture and sequestration, which could prove a cheaper way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions

    Capturing CO2 simply requires running smokestack emissions through a chilled ammonia bath at the cost of 25% input power... i.e. we get to pay for a 125% increase in the amount of coal burned.

    How do we move all these gigatons of CO2 to disposal sites and store it forever?

    Big, high pressure pipelines. Odd that nobody talking up a "clean" coal future ever talks about the comparative costs of a national pipeline network vs a smartgrid.

    We have massive unused heavy manufacturing capability in terms of both idle car factories and a trained labor force that can be converted to building renewable generation capability. The question of replacing coal with wind/concentrated thermal solar is a question of political will, not technological capability.

  • Changing technology (Score:3, Interesting)

    by steveha (103154) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @07:53PM (#28698125) Homepage

    He makes one interesting point: it would take a long time to build transmission lines that could carry large amounts of power all the way from the midwest to the northeast. In that time, technology could improve in a way that could make the project pointless.

    On the other hand, improving the existing grid from 1940's tech to modern tech is guaranteed to be worth doing. (Is he correct that a major chunk of our existing grid is 1940's tech?)

    On the subject of clean and decentralized power, how much longer before we get those solar roofing tiles that can contribute a useful amount of power? Even if we didn't wait for the improved tiles, would today's solar tiles provide a useful increment of electricity to feed into the current grid?

    He quotes a price of $60 billion to build the new transmission lines. What would be the effect of using $60 billion to subsidize people to put solar tiles on top of existing buildings? How about $60 billion worth of pebble-bed or similarly safe small reactors, each one in a piece of the grid?

    I'm not an expert on any of this stuff, but I'm inclined to agree that this project sounds like a way to put a whole bunch of eggs into a single basket. If we're going to do something big, let's try to make our electricity grid more decentralized, instead of adding one more frakking huge centralized source (however eco-clean).

    steveha

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Firethorn (177587)

      I think he's missing the biggest reason for these interconnect power lines.

      You see, the vast majority of our electricity is generated from 'on demand' sources. IE excepted unanticipated breakdowns, you want power, you get power. You have the ability to schedule at least short down times around periods of lower demand. With wind, it's not the individual turbine you have to worry about, otherwise you'd simply overbuild the wind farm to take the relatively horrible If it wasn't for this, you could simply ov

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @09:00PM (#28698669)

    which could prove a cheaper way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions than transmitting power from North Dakota to New York City

    Or, according to this NY Times article [nytimes.com]:

    An influential coalition of East Coast governors and power companies fears that building wind and solar sites in the Midwest would cause their region to miss out on jobs and other economic benefits. The coalition is therefore trying to block a mandate for transcontinental lines.

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