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Ask Slashdot: Minimizing Oil and Gas Dependency In a Central European City? 250

An anonymous reader writes I live in a big city in central Europe. As most of you know from recent news, most of Europe's (and quite a bit of China's) gas supply comes from Russia and is very likely to be cut off several times during the next few winters (China's time will come in later years). What many might not know is that not just our natural gas supply, but also our petrol ('gas' for the Americans in the audience) often comes partly from Russia and some of our electricity comes from gas powered stations. Most of our leaders, at least in Germany and Hungary, are in bed with the Russians and likely won't do anything about fuel security. I live in an building with a south-facing roof and I own the roof space but I don't have enough land here to put a wind turbine or something similar on. Can anyone make good suggestions for ways to cut down my dependence on unreliable power supplies? Extra points for environmentalism, but I am even willing to pay more to be sure the heating is there in winter and my server keeps running.
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Ask Slashdot: Minimizing Oil and Gas Dependency In a Central European City?

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  • by fisted ( 2295862 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @06:29PM (#48329211)

    for the Americans in the audience

    Okay, AC confirmed it. We're an audience after all.
    Shit.

    • register here for ideas, slashdot seems a strange place to ask the question about fossil fuel dependency http://cleantechnica.com/ [cleantechnica.com]
  • Get involved on the government.
    As far as solar goes, pointing the panels WEST means more energy is generated during peak hours; which is more beneficial over all the trapping the maximum light. Winding up power plants to peak use a tremendous amount of power.

    • by quenda ( 644621 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @07:03PM (#48329643)

      As far as solar goes,

      OP is asking about Central Europe during winter. Solar is not an option - certainly not for backup.
      Wind turbines are not economical on a small scale, and not reliable enough as a backup.

      Backup power and heating is a common problem with well-know solutions:
      generator, oil or LPG heater with stored fuel, improved insulation.
      Heat needs may be reduced temporarily by covering windows, closing off unused rooms, taping gaps, lowering thermostat.

      The government really should be building nuclear plants, and gas ones that can switch to pulverised coal or oil if needed, with large stockpiles near the site.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by knightghost ( 861069 )

        Switching back and forth daily to different energy sources more than doubles the capital outlay. Bloody waste of resources.

        Natural Gas, Coal, or Nuclear - nothing else has matured enough, and won't for decades.

        • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @11:09PM (#48331317)

          Highly disagree, OP sounds like a ripe candidate for solar water, not to be confused with photovoltaics. Solar thermal is highly efficient and pretty cheap in comparison.

          A modest setup would need only three hours a day sun just to supply hot water for daily use, and a bigger setup or more time for supplying hot water for heat (radiant heat using water is extremely common there).

          He's asking for heat and not electricity per se, solar water is ideal for that and many times cheaper than PV for the same results.

      • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

        OP is asking about Central Europe during winter. Solar is not an option - certainly not for backup.
        Wind turbines are not economical on a small scale, and not reliable enough as a backup.

        That's okay, since the Slashdot TOS agreement requires us to recommend nuclear power above all others.

        So to the OP: start working on a fission reactor in your basement. Once you have it running, it will be very cheap and reliable.

      • One midterm solution that Munich helped pioneer is to have central heating on a large scale. The city's power plant got rid of its cooling pools, and instead pipes the water heated by generating electricity into homes. The city has bee pretty successful in expanding the network so much that the electricity plants have slowly moved from heat being the by-product to electricity being the by-product to the demand for hot water and warm radiators now a driving force. Oh, and it is popular in the city also becau

        • by AGMW ( 594303 )
          You can get central heating boilers (I've certainly seen gas fired ones in the UK) that are actually mini-generators, the heat almost being a bi-product of the electricity generation. More pricey than the normal boilers but an interesting technology.

          If you can setup your roof solar panels (be they solar thermal or solar PV) to follow the sun that should increase efficiency, but it might be marginal. I've also seen a lens system fitted over a solar panel that concentrates the solar radiation.

          Next is to t

      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        just buy nuclear energy from france then.

        if by central europe he means swizerland or germany, then fuck it, just let the state handle it...

        it's pretty damn unlikely that they don't find petrol for sale and germany can just burn it's own coal for heat and electricity.

        or he could spend enermous amounts of money for setting up a steam boiler and generator or an aggregator that can use woodgas - which is fine if he happens to have unlimited amount of firewood to burn but environmentally pointless and likely to

  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @06:35PM (#48329301)

    that's what the USA does. most of our oil is from right here and canada

    • Europe doesn't have much locally drillable oil resources, as for fracking, it's a sensitive subject which splits population right in half.

      • In europe we 'frack' since roughly 1950 ... no one cares.
        I doubt however there is much left to frack.

        • by khallow ( 566160 )

          In europe we 'frack' since roughly 1950 ... no one cares.
          I doubt however there is much left to frack.

          Depends what is there. The current approach though is new and was first put in use some point in the 90s with wide scale use in the US some point after 2000. So it doesn't matter what fracking methods were used in the 50s.

          I have heard that there are fields in Europe which can be exploited with the new methods.

          • The high cost of oil and low interest rates (and being completely and totally addicted to oil) are more compelling reasons why America went bonkers for Bakkenpuffs; the recent price dip should be a good test to determine just how resilient those producers are, and to see who is out swimming sans skivvies. Also, the population density is rather higher in Europe, which may nix or upsize the costs of any fracking, depending on where those hypothetical fields might be located (there was a recent 96% slaughter o

    • that's what the USA does. most of our oil is from right here and canada

      In the USA, landowners generally own the subsurface mineral rights to their land, but in Europe, often it's the government that owns those rights. This makes it easier to stop oil or gas projects than to start them.

    • that's what the USA does. most of our oil is from right here and canada

      References?

      I have trouble believing that 'most' of the oil and byproducts thereof consumed in the US is domestically (including CA if you want) sourced.

      • http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pe... [eia.gov]

        here is a breakdown by country. for example all of opec countries give us 3.700 TBPD canada alone gives us 3.100 TBPD (there is no US so im unaware of our own internal production that we keep vs exporting)

        All imports are 9.700 TBPD and 2/3rds of that is non opec (makes you wonder why open dictates the price of oil here as much as it does)

        TBPD = thousand barrels per day
  • If it's 24 hour semi-reliable power you want for periodic short (up to several days) grid outages than the easiest method would probably be a small generator and a stored supply of fuel. (not the most environmental but it works)

    Some will suggest solar with your roof area, which you are obviously aware of, but if you want 24 hour power with that you will need a large battery bank which is going to cost you more and take up a large amount of space.

    As far as heating the cost effective method is to add more ins

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      You don't need a large batter set up. You need a way to store the energy. And chemical battery is only one way to do that.

      • Chemical batteries are also, generally the cheapest most compact method to store electricity, which is what you need to run servers, if all you want to do is store energy, hot water is a better method.

        All the other storage methods have huge losses when trying to get electricity out, requiring larger and larger storage capacity to deliver the required electricity.
        .

    • Good advice. And add some gas powered cooking appliances & keep a few tanks on hand. Don't try to be 'environmental' during power outages or worst case conditions, instead invest to save energy the rest of the time and you're per euro impact will be much greater.
  • by unimacs ( 597299 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @06:42PM (#48329385)
    You said you own the roof space. Do you own the whole dwelling? Can you insulate the walls, attic, and air seal bypasses? Can you run a heat pump? It still requires electricity but not that much. If you can purchase petrol when it's available and run a generator (or photovoltaics) when it's not, that might be the ticket. Of course the more more energy efficient your home and appliances are, the easier it will be to function off the grid, - even if it's just sporadically.

    Do you really need to run your own server or can you have it hosted somewhere else?
  • citation, please? (Score:5, Informative)

    by kraut ( 2788 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @06:43PM (#48329409)

    Most of leaders, at least in Germany and Hungary, are in bed with the Russians and likely won't do anything about fuel security.

    Don't know much about Hungary (*), but if you really think that Merkel is "in bed with the Russians" you have bigger problems than worrying about your fuel security.

    Anyway, oil dependence is essentially transport based; more specifically, private car use. So cut or reduce your dependence on that. You live in a multi-storey building of which you control only part - some kind of apartment block - so probably a fairly densely populated area. That makes it simple: If you currently drive a car to work, stop doing that. If you're really lazy, you could get a motorbike or scooter, drastically reducing your dependence; if you're not that lazy start cycling. With a bit of practice, a 20-30K commute on a bike is really not hard, and you'll save money on gym fees. That's oil dependance sorted.

    Natural gas is trickier if you don't own the building (or at least apartment). If you can, you should probably install solar panels on the roof - not for your own use, as such, but to take advantage of the feed-in tariffs. And then buy an electric convection heater so you can heat your apartment if the gas gets cut off. And maybe buy a good sleeping bag or extra duvet. That won't save you from a catastrophic meltdown - you'd need a wood burning stove, a cabin in the woods, and a seriously unhealthy dose of paranoia(**) for that, but it will make short outages of gas a lot more comfortable.

    (*) Feel free to sing this comment to the tune of Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World" :)
    (**) You seem to already have 1 of those three.

    • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

      With a bit of practice, a 20-30K commute on a bike is really not hard, and you'll save money on gym fees.

      Yeah, that's all well and good, except for two factors:

      1) Winter.
      2) We don't all have the luxury of coming to work smelling like someone who just took a 20-30K bike ride....

      • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

        I'm in England where late winter climate is stupendously cold - and we have the pesky Atlantic current stopping the island from freezing solid in October. Central Europe just gets fucking cold in winter, and when I say cold, I mean it gets colder than Greenland. Even in England at this time of year I will be wanting to get somewhere desperately (as in, life and death situation) to be caught out on a bike. If I even leave the house. I don't do cold, which is inconvenient considering where I live.

        • No worries mate, other than your fingers and ears, you'll stay plenty warm while pedling 20-30Km unless your in Antarctica. It's a balmy -12 degrees Celsius in THULE, GREENLAND right now and 11 degrees Celsius in MINSK, BELARUS, so I suspect you might be exagerating a smidgen.

        • by Nemyst ( 1383049 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @09:40PM (#48330879) Homepage
          I think most Europeans think they have cold winters, but they don't really know what "winter" means. Hint: if your entire country gets paralyzed by less than 30cm of snow, you don't get bad winters. If you rarely dip below zero Celsius during daytime, you don't get bad winters.

          It always amuses me to see French exchange students arrive here. The ones with a modicum of sense will have talked with people here so they'd get good winter gear ASAP, but a few think that they're used to the cold. Then they get their first -25C in January.
          • Good on you for having a larger.... errrr.... more severe winter than Europe. But getting back on topic: do you cycle in those -25C for 20 or 30 km?
            • The only place I've been matching those conditions (though not the only place to have them, by any means) is Finland.

              I don't know how far they were going - the town I was in wasn't 20km on a side, I think - but I definitely saw people on bicycles. It was almost surreal. They're bundled up around the head so much you can barely see their eyes (mouths are just fog-emitting slits), they have thick winter gloves and boots on, and long-sleeved but light shirts and pants. Riding on thick mountain bike tires (excu

        • England gets stupendously cold? It routinely reached -28C last winter where I live. What would that be? "Ludicrously cold"? "Plaid"?
      • 1) thanx to global warming, germany has no real winters anymore since roughly 25 years (except where it is quite high, like Blackforest or the Alps)
        2) if you cicle without sweating, which is easy, you don't smell. Actually if you shower once a while and are healthy, you don't smell even if you sweat.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

          Try Uniqlo's anti-bacterial clothing. It keeps you dry and kills the bacteria that cause you to smell when you sweat.

      • Cycling is most often easier than walking, in the cold. And it's door to door.
        With a car, you're walking to the car in the cold, then at arrival you step out of a heated car into the cold and walk the remaining length to the actual destination.
        I'm imagining a crowded city and no funds for your own private garage or great parking at the work place.. Even then, if you need to go to a campus, with car you'll go to the parking lot and walk some distance, with bicycle you'll park right next to the entrance of th

        • With a bicycle, you still need to walk from the vehicle parking space to the door if a place has no bike rack or if a bike rack isn't very close to the door. At a lot of large shops, the only thing remotely resembling a bike rack is the shopping cart return in the parking lot.
    • If you're really lazy, you could get a motorbike or scooter, drastically reducing your dependence; if you're not that lazy start cycling. With a bit of practice, a 20-30K commute on a bike is really not hard, and you'll save money on gym fees.

      why do I get the feeling that the geek sees himself and everyone around him as forever twenty-five years old?

    • Anyway, oil dependence is essentially transport based; more specifically, private car use ... That's oil dependance sorted.

      Private car use is just a tiny part of oil use, although the only many people you see directly. Public communication is largely based on oil as well, but it's still not the point.

      Even if you decide to use own muscle power for moving around, there is a bigger problem, especially in large cities - practically all goods are nowadays delivered to shops via road transport. Most important - food. Unless you can find a food source that is not transported by car into the city, you are still pretty much oil dependen

  • One idea that's starting to take hold here is the notion of community solar. An individual homeowner may not have the ideal site for a solar installation, but maybe there is a place in the neighborhood that does. So a community solar project gets funding from many individuals that share the energy and the expense.
  • by gatkinso ( 15975 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @06:55PM (#48329561)

    When they are sitting in the cold dark and see your lights, you have scant minutes before they kick down your door.

  • by dlingman ( 1757250 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @06:58PM (#48329595)

    Minions and a giant hamster wheel hooked to a generator.

    If minions are in short supply, can always put a pig in the wheel. (Might need to swap pigs out every few hours) - but, you save, cause the wheel can be smaller.

  • Wood stove for heat!

    Drink beer and turn off the AC in summer.

    Seriously.

  • Your most cost effective strategy is going to be to focus first on load reduction and efficiency, and then on reliable backup energy sources second. It's hard to give specific suggestions without knowing more about your situation. Space heating is likely to be critical in any case, and that can largely be handled by adequate insulation and air sealing. The Passivehouse Institute [passiv.de] will have a lot of guidance for you there.
  • by loonycyborg ( 1262242 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @07:09PM (#48329713)
    I don't see a problem here. But oil overall oil will deplete soon enough and the best alternative is solar IMO. You can draw large amounts of power with solar panels alone, probably enough for a computer.
    • Yes, but when they try to control others, as well as invade other European nations, well, that is a problem.
      • It's nothing different from other European countries. For example, Russia itself long time ago lost its old capital, Kiev, to invaders from Poland and Lithuania. Stuff like that will keep happening until concept of nationality and national state is fully obsolete.
  • Critical to any of your questions is your budget, as well as available space secondarily.

    If you have the $$$ you can of course install solar as well as install a very pricey battery bank and inverter setup to have power backup. It is possible to get yourself setup for a few days of stored energy without too much trouble (still very expensive). Get an EV like a Leaf or a Tesla to avoid petrol usage. Stay grid tied so that you can keep keep your battery bank and EV topped up during long dark periods in cas

  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @07:24PM (#48329901)

    There is no good solution.

    Solar panels and a battery bank will keep you in minimal electricity. You can run a tablet, a laptop and internet router plus perhaps charge your flashlights. A larger installation might run a 12-volt microwave or 12-volt freezer.

    As for heat, I suggest many layers of clothing and lots of well insulated quilts. Hot water bottles were once popular and will be again.

    Cooking? If you can get to the roof, then buy a few bags of coal for the winter and a heater than can handle coal (not a standard wood stove) and cook up there. Coal is fairly cheap, compact and generates a good amount of heat. With coal, you can boil water for the aforementioned hot water bottles.

    Coal will also kill you with carbon monoxide if you try burning it inside the house. Try and avoid that.

  • cheap Chinese solar panels on the roof, with an inverter capable of islanding if you can get it past your building codes people. That way you'll have some power during the day when there's no power in the city. Do you own the land? If so, put in a geothermal heat pump. More efficient than traditional heat pumps; so, lower energy consumption and lower operating cost. You're in the city so wood heating might be out of the question... If it's not, put in a wood pellet stove for heat when the oil and gas
  • I'm not an expert, but you asked on Slashdot so I guess you are willing to listen to non-expert opinion.

    • Insulate as much as you can. In the USA we can hire experts to come out, look at a building, make recommendations, and then carry out the work. My home, for example, had its insulation upgraded as much as possible: thick insulation in the attic space, as much insulation into the walls as they could take (not much), and windows replaced with triple-pane windows filled with krypton gas.
    • If you expect to lo
  • Move somewhere where the power is mostly local and non-fossil in origin, and preferably where you have an ocean or two between where you live and any countries that might want a rematch for world domination (if tanks are rolling outside of your window, where your power comes from becomes a secondary concern). Pacific Northwest (either Canadian or American) fits the bill.

  • Is Kerosene cheap? Stockpiling enough kerosene to make it through a gas fluctuation should be trivial. In Japan my main spaceheating kerosene tank held 80 liters and I kept 100 liters in reserve on my deck.

    a closet could easily store 200 liters in poly tanks. 1 liter could heat the house for two hours. So a typical heating day I would use 4 liters. Use an electric blanket at night. So my stockpile could last me about a month. Maybe less for you. How long is a gas cutoff?

    For electricity you could stockpile

  • I've given some thought to this and believe that insulation, modern well-designed heat and ventilation systems, perhaps incorporating heat exchangers for heat-recovery from the air leaving the house, systems to heat the water with sunlight hitting the roof or heat storage using a borehole heat exchanger are the right solution.
  • Buy a petrol heater, you know the kind that doesn't have a chimney.

    With this device you can emergency heat your apartment with wide variety of liquid fuels, thus drastically reducing the number of solar panels required.

    Real 70s countryside vibes with this one, and really bad room air. Of course the air quality improves with the quality of fuel. Coleman fuel > jet A > unleaded petrol.
  • http://pvwatts.nrel.gov/ [nrel.gov]

    It's U.S.-centric, but it also includes data for a lot of major non-U.S. cities. Instead of having to guess how much power your solar panels will generate, the site uses latitude and historical weather data to estimate how much your panels will generate. Northern parts of central Europe (like Germany) tends to have pathetic ROI on solar (capacity factor around 0.10). But for lower latitudes in Central Europe you should be able to hit close to 0.15 - about the average for the c
  • 1) get rid of your politicians. They are as bad as the neo-cons/tea* here in America. These bastards have made us dependent on China. Really bad IDEA.
    2) Ideally, your nation would change their approach to AE. The best thing is to require that all new buildings under 5 stories have enough on-site Alternative energy that EQUALS the amount of energy used for your HVAC (with Heating AND COOLING). In general, that will mean Solar. BUT, it could be others. However, this would get builders to focus on insulation
  • You really should consider getting coal=>methane conversion going. You can bury the excess CO2. Interestingly, if Germany and Poland were to tap their coal in this fashion, they could provide all of Europe.

    Ideally, America would tap our coal and convert into methane that we can use to keep our prices down, but also export to any nations that Russia decides to screw with.
    • Germany has not much coal left, except for lime/brown coal.
      No idea about Poland, but never heared they had noticeable coal supplies.

      • Poland is loaded. That is why they do not like kyoto.
        That is also why, when data from OCO2 comes out, the world is in for a major shock.
  • An acquaintance who lives in Germany once showed me an experimental setup he had: replaced his house's heating with a small generator (sealed unit) that generated electricity as well as heating the house from the waste heat. Apparently it was still allowed to run on the "heating oil" (diesel fuel), while natural "heating" gas-burning versions were available too. So you still get the heat for which the fuel originally was intended, but some electricity as a bonus. You'd still be dependent on a stockpile of f

  • Mail your representatives to build modern nuclear reactors. Nuclear has come a long way. Passively safe designs have been around for a while. With a combination of breeder reactors, waste transmutation, and glassification, waste is a non-issue. And let's not forget that nuclear has the lowest number of deaths per Terawatt-hour of energy produced--lower even than wind/solar/hydro**

    **Sources:
    http://webcache.googleusercont... [googleusercontent.com]
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/ja... [forbes.com]
    • You forget: the OP lives in europe, likely germany.
      So: no new nuclear reactors.
      Your advice and his mail if he followed it: are pointless.

  • The easiest way to solve problems with gas supply in Europe is to build more pipelines to/from Russia that bypass areas of political instability. Firstly, allow the construction of the South Stream pipeline - paid for in full by Russia. Secondly, open the second half of the OPAL pipeline to Russia. Neither of those options would cost Europe a cent.
  • Most of our leaders, at least in Germany and Hungary, are in bed with the Russians and likely won't do anything about fuel security.

    I do not know about Hungary, but Germany is heavily investing in the renewable energy [wikipedia.org].

    Or you expected them to immediately cut the pipes? halt production and transportation? cut the forests to heat the homes?

  • For heating, a stove is great, both when it comes to any supposed outages (also of electricity) as well as making for really cosy living. Also wood is pretty cheap and a renewable energy source.

    Depends on if you are more afraid of a power outage or gas crysis ;) You can also use bottled gas for most gas stoves (though you need to configure them for it) which makes you more independent from short-term outages.

  • It depends on the amount of space you want to heat and how strong your roof is, but large gas bottles (200-500kg) can be bought in my neck of the woods, and there are multiple services that travel to my place to fill them. If access is an issue then multiple smaller bottles may do the trick - it all depends on how long you will be without gas.

    Oh, and insulate your place. Walls, ceiling, windows, even consider the floor.

  • You really need to move. If you had your own land, you could have a large tank of heating oil or propane. Either one will heat a building and run a generator. There really is nothing else that can store enough energy to do what you want except maybe coal, but a coal operated generator is not an easy thing to DIY. As for where you live right now, you could see how much weight your floors will tolerate and get as many batteries as you can to be charged from the AC mains power and solar on the roof. You could
  • The OP initially sounds plausible and hooks enough readers in with an interesting but ultimately unsolveable problem. The bit where he says, "..and my server keeps running." is guaranteed to score brownie points with /.-ers. The Russian fossil fuel industry is in the business of making money and it's not going to allow anything get in the way of it maximising its profits. Unstable, irregular energy supplies on their part will encourage consumer countries to increase investments in alternative sources, e.g.

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