Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Alpha 10 (rmt) Sun 25 Feb 01 14:34
When the wind is blowing, you're not spilling water behind a dam. The whole idea of the next generation grid, is distributed technologies each backing up the other. All interrelated, like an ecosystem. In fact, interrelating with the demand side as well, using smart DSM technologies. Many wind sites in Cali have capacity factors above 35%. Leavening the equation... after installation, the fuel is free. i'm waiting for John Bryson to apologize to Cauliflornians. Look folks, we made a mistake. Sorry. Hindsight, always a good predictor, shows us that we shouldn't have spent millions of your dollars cratering 1350 MWs of windpower approved by the CPUC five or six years ago. (Edison sued to prevent those 1350 MWs saying the 4.5 cent per kilowatt hour cost was too high. Bet he'd love to have those projects online right now. Ed.)
Call me Fishmeal (pk) Sun 25 Feb 01 15:00
It would be an interesting exercise to work out what it would take to run California on nothing but wind and hydro.
windblown (satyr) Sun 25 Feb 01 15:05
> i remember that story, what was his name? Sam Lovejoy <http://www.ecn.cz/temelin/Lovejoy.htm>
Alpha 10 (rmt) Sun 25 Feb 01 16:56
People like Sam Lovejoy are the catalysts to profound social and technological changes. Perhaps it's one of the themes of Reaping the Wind (product placement), not that i'm capable of discerning a theme in a book. But Peter seems to be telling the story of some of the visionaries who created the windpower industry against the entrenched technologies of poison. i can't tell you how hard we had to fight. Can't be done without those with vision, and guts. But times are changing. Windpower is a mature industry, worldwide. Now our problem is generating the critical mass necessary for society to realize the immediacy of putting fossil fuels back in their rightful place, underground. Burying the peaceful atom. Ending the swipe of Kali's paws into Appalachian mountainsides.
Alpha 10 (rmt) Sun 25 Feb 01 17:53
Peter, do you think phred's busy reading the book? (nudge, wink) Or do you think he's busy preparing his Bonneville bid?
Fuzzy Logic (phred) Sun 25 Feb 01 19:17
Wise guy. I've got a trip coming up and I'm knee deep in getting data projects ready for it. Meanwhile, I've been chatting with my old friend Don Bain, Oregon's wind guru, who was the wind specialist at the Oregon Department of Energy for nearly 20 years but is off on his own consulting gig now that things are finally starting to move up here. He points out that some of the new gas-fired power plants are near enough to windy sites that wind turbines can start using their transmission when that day inevitably arises. One of the problems is, of course, that people don't like to live in windy areas that much, so you have to move the power, and they like transmission towers even less than gigantic windmills. But the reality Peter and Randy are laying out is still there, no matter what. This is a direction we need to go in. I could also talk about solar, which has never gotten the push wind did but has been making slow progress all along. Many people don't realize the Luz trough-collection solar plant down in the Mojave is still supplying about 300 MW peak to the California grid. Luz got caught in the meat grinder of energy and tax credit policy at the end of the first Bush administration, but the technology is valid and just needs a push. Photovoltaics (PV) are much more visible in the public eye, of course, but progress is slow if steady on bringing the costs down and the manufacturing up. Of course, the cheapest way to cut out 20% of our building and industrial fossil fuel energy use is to seal the leaks, upgrade the lights, add insulation, paint the roofs, grow natural insulators (they are called "trees" and SMUD knows about this), upgrade rather than rewind old electric motors (10% of national electricity use! wake up people!!), and build new buildings right in the first place so you don't have to retrofit them later at twice the cost to get half the savings. But that stuff doesn't look good in glossy magazine ads, like wind turbines do. The turbine aesthetic is a very interesting one, and I wonder if you guys and our readers would like to talk about that. In classic Well-ian terms, then: Wind farms: boon or bete noir?
Peter H. Asmus (spacedebris) Sun 25 Feb 01 20:22
Phred -- thanks for piping in... We have to do all of the things Phred has said. And it is true that making energy efficiency exciting stuff is hard to do. Beleieve me, I've spent many years trying. But things like HVAC upgrades, better light bulbs and insulation values do not good copy make. Wind farms stand out. Some people love them; some people hate them. When I first drove throuhg the Altamont Pass, I thought the wind turbines were some kind of kinetic art display. Hell, I was a Wisco boy who had never even realized there were nuclear reactors in my home state. When I found out they generated electricity, I was totally in awe, dude. But on a more serious vein. Wind farms have emerged as icons. Sleek, slowing spinning turbines have been used in car and Nike ads, used as backdrops to thriller movies, and became the poster child of the green power pitch. Most folks like solar more, but a solar PV panel is boring. It just sits there. A wind turbine spins. This ever-present motion strikes a chord in some folks. Wind turbines remind us of how our some of our ancestors used to live. Wind mills, and later small DC wind generators, were kep power sources more than a century ago. People had to organize their lives around availability of power provided by nature. I just talked to a fellow in Winters who has installed a solar PV system and a small wind turbine. He gets most of his juice from these renwable systems. He's connected to the grid and uses it like a battery. I think that has been the fantasy of lot of us. It should become the standard, not the rare exception. From where Phred comes from, these turbines can be viewed as a menace. I can understand that. Pristine wilderness areas and power sources don't mix that well. I hate the Santa Barbara coast because of the oil derricks. I don't want to be reminded of our fossil fuel addiction when I gaze out at the Pacific... but in Portland, in the Columbia Valley, it is a different story. Phred, have you read the chapters in the book about how the pro-nukers in your neck of the woods (yes, I know Washington is a different tribe that the Ducks of Oregon), and others killed a lot of wind farms in the '90s. Some at Kenetech blame these rejections for the downfall of the company. Now BPA is looking for a 1000 MW of new wind. A new project was just announced, I believe in the Columbia Valley -- What's up in the PNW?
Call me Fishmeal (pk) Sun 25 Feb 01 20:47
>We have to do all of the things Phred has said. Sure, but I don't see top-down mandates and conservation tax credits ever being anywhere near as effective as a simple old-fashioned price signal. Especially for the big commercial and industrial users.
Peter H. Asmus (spacedebris) Sun 25 Feb 01 20:50
I agree. But then we have to do something to help low-income folks. We should take out every old refrigerator and other energy sucking appliances and change them out with the best there is....
windblown (satyr) Sun 25 Feb 01 21:18
> Most folks like solar more, but a solar PV panel is boring. > It just sits there. Heliostats and time-lapse video can help with that. Which has got me wondering whether the work that's gone into making windplant towers that can stand the strains involved with large turbines and high winds might carry over to the design of inexpensive mirrors and articulated mounts that can take wind loads without flexing so far as to lose focus. Tracking mirror arrays with a central collector, like Solar One, have got to be the cheapest way of doing solar thermal power, or would be if those tracking mirrors were coming off mass-production assembly lines.
Alpha 10 (rmt) Sun 25 Feb 01 21:32
Boon. Transmission constraints notwithstanding. But then i'm prejudiced. > Sure, but I don't see top-down mandates and conservation tax credits ever being anywhere near as effective as a simple old-fashioned price signal. Especially for the big commercial and industrial users So Fishmeal, how do you propose we ask fossil fuel companies to cost their product properly? I can see this news story: British Petroleum today announced a four-fold increase in oil prices to account for some of the subsidies and social and environmental costs previously paid through taxes. BP President Anthony A. Aardvaark said, "We're going to be the first oil company to properly allocate costs like environmental degradation, fossil fuel tax subsidies, and those pesky little F-18s necessary to protect our supply lines. And we've got to stop this horrible trend of exponential global farming." Condoleeza Chainmail, CEO of American Windpower, stated, "Finally."
Call me Fishmeal (pk) Sun 25 Feb 01 22:15
rmt: >So Fishmeal, how do you propose we ask fossil fuel companies to >cost their product properly? I don't. For one thing, they don't have to bear any of those societal costs, not directly, at least, so there's no incentive for them to pass these costs along in a (sometimes) competitive marketplace. That's why I'd like to see fossil-derived energy taxed much more heavily at the consumer end (and by consumer I include commercial, industrial, and even government users). spacedebris: >I agree. But then we have to do something to help >low-income folks. Low-income folks need help, for sure. They should get a lot more help than they get now. But they're just as capable of deciding how to allocate their resources as anyone else, whether it's for energy, housing, or food.
Fuzzy Logic (phred) Mon 26 Feb 01 03:06
Economists have said for years that energy rates are all wrong because they send no price signals about the consequences of using the next kilowatt hour or therm. The basically flat rates we now have are the vestige of a long gone era, when new energy sources and power plants cost less than the average, so expanding use could pay for new supply and keep everyone's rates down even while adding to fuel supplier and utility company profits. That era really only lasted from about 1925 to 1965; once the economies of scale had worked their way across all the fuels, there wasn't anywhere further to go, and the consequences started showing up: increase fuel costs, increased money costs, and then environmental controls (which are actually a very small part of energy costs, usually no more than about 3%). But we got hooked on flat energy rates and our economy basically co-evolved with the electric and gas utility grid systems. The history since the 1960s is basically one of trying to defend flat rates by building all sorts of unwieldy ratemaking and financing mechanisms to get around this fundamental change. The acronyms alone are enough to make any regular person's eyes glaze over: CWIP, LRIC, SO4, PBR, and I'm only listing a few. There are two main issues with moving toward marginal-cost-based rates reflecting both the daily and seasonal swings in energy cost and the longer- run development costs: equity and elasticity. The first one has already been alluded to. Those on tight budgets, and that includes not only "low income" people (gotta love that and all the other patronizing terms us energy bureaucrats have for this issue), but also businesses and agencies with either high energy inputs (like pulp & paper) or inflexible finances (like schools and hospitals). If you move too quickly toward marginal rates you end up with unacceptable results for a good many people and organizations. The second issue is a general one. While in theory adjustments to changing energy rates will be made smoothly and consistently (either through reduction in use, peak-shifting, or substitution with other energy sources or permanent energy efficiency), this never actually *happens* smoothly and consistently. There are both short term and long term factors that inhibit the adjustments. These in turn lead to the empirical observation of differing "short run and long run price elasticity of demand." But if you *don't* move to marginal rates, you will continue the current system of overdeveloping and overconsuming conventional resources because their true cost is not accounted for in the rates actually paid by users. Voila, the west coast resource crisis of 2001. So what we need is agreement on the goal -- moving toward marginal rates that reflect the real cost of the next increment of use -- balanced against the adjustments needed by users. This calls for careful rate design combined with an aggressive program of information, technology transfer and financial assistance to overcome the equity and elasticity barriers. By the way, this is a revised version (modulo the reference to the current mess) of a talk I used to give frequently in about 1984.
Peter H. Asmus (spacedebris) Mon 26 Feb 01 06:32
1984 -- now that was a good year. Phred -- thanks for that clear and somewhat concise lesson in energy economics. The problem, of course, is politics. Consumer groups are railing against any rate increase; Davis is worried about his presidential ambitions; the Texas power generators have become the evil enemy of us all; the utilities (as always) are asking for more money; and the enviros are still not aggressive enough in seeking solutions that make sense in a market that could encourage innovation. The only guys that look good these days, quite frankly, are the renewable generators. Randy -- where do you come down on the issue of raising rates? Is Davis being honest by saying the already approved 10 percent increase will be enough. Is it better to hide the costs through bonds? What do you think of the folks you worked with on Prop. 9. Are they being responsible today? Phred -- utilities in places in the Pacific Northwest are lookign at rate increases ranging from 30 to 60 percent. Is it fair that California doesn't raise it rates even though it is sucking all of this juice from everywhere in sight?
Paul Bissex (biscuit) Mon 26 Feb 01 07:52
Just wanted to poke my head in here to say I'm enjoying this thread. I'm also enjoying the book, with about two-thirds of it left to go. I live in Western Mass., about 45 minutes south of one Enron Wind installation in Vermont, and probably less than two hours from Grandpa's Knob. I'm planning a field trip. Carry on.
Peter H. Asmus (spacedebris) Mon 26 Feb 01 08:26
Thanks Paul....yeah! Someone actually reading the book! When you get a chance, let me know who is your favorite good guy -- and your favorite villain.
windblown (satyr) Mon 26 Feb 01 09:49
Let's hear a little more about this book!
Alpha 10 (rmt) Mon 26 Feb 01 10:16
Thanks for such a detailed precis of energy economics, phred. If we develop a phased program to implement true cost energy pricing, the nation's economy would have to adjust, never easy. Only if it coincided with an aggressive push to renewables would there be a comparable and offsetting boost to the economy. On the other hand, if we don't move to true cost energy pricing, while rates would remain artificially low, the other costs born by society, such as increased health care, environmental degradation, and military defense of the supply lines, when added to the cost of global warming, could be far more devastating to the economic well being of the nation. From my perspective, true cost energy pricing is a powerful tool, but we can't implement that tool without an aggressive program of changing to a solar/hydrogen economy. Under this scenario, the short-term economic benefits provided by focus on renewable technologies offset the shocks to the system, and the long term takes care of itself. I'm disturbed by the Governor's signals to the national media yesterday. They differ from the back room signals, which seem so positive towards renewables. His meetings with Wall Street are absolutely the key to a solution, but i can't foresee Wall Street breaking with the status quo. If someone key at Credit Suisse First Boston or M-L was digesting this discussion, i'd feel more comfortable. And let's hear more about the book.
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 26 Feb 01 10:20
And way back above, our resident marine engineering expert, pk, remarked that fossil fuel is less expensive than wind power in moving ships. Why is this? And is there any interest in hybrid designs, where wind could decrease the quantity of fuel burned? That wind is not cost effective at sea is astonishing.
Alpha 10 (rmt) Mon 26 Feb 01 10:37
For one thing, fossil fuel costs are not allocated at sea, just as on land. You're still buying artificially low cost fuel. i'm way out of my league discussing shipping, or should i say in deep water, but an aerodynamicist friend yesterday told me that with new materials able to build taller masts and better sails, a new generation of clipper ships might be the most efficient seagoing transport. Perhaps a sustainable future would look quite different from our preconceived ideas.
Peter H. Asmus (spacedebris) Mon 26 Feb 01 11:17
And about that book, written over a period of almost ten years. During that time Jerry Garcia died, my grandmother died, my entire body freaked out, I began divorce proceedings, I encountered a mid-life crisis and writer's block, and I moved away from Sacramento after living there for almost 20 years. The book was a vehicle for personal growth. The fact that it came out -- finally -- after missing three deadlines at this very point in time is synchronicity. The power crisis has been very, very good to me. Anyone else out there want to write a book? I would have to say that the release of the book was one of the most satisfying experiences I ever had. But it was very painful, like having a baby. Finding one's voice in this wilderness of woe we call society is enough to drive one to.....wine. Just a human touch to all of these discussions about technology. Randy, could you tell us a little more about the pleasures of being human?
Call me Fishmeal (pk) Mon 26 Feb 01 11:22
Phred: >If you move too quickly toward marginal rates you end up with >unacceptable results for a good many people and organizations Right, that's why I'd use part of the tax windfall to ease "hardship" cases in private, public, and even industrial sectors during transition. It may not be ideal, but on our current trajectory, we end up with exactly the same unacceptable results - albeit maybe delayed a few months - without the tax revenue for widespread bail-outs. There have been lots of visionaries, engineers, and even a few crooks trying hard to make commercial sail work over the last 25 years. (One could write a book about modern commercial sail that almost exactly parallels _Reap the Wind_, I'd bet.) Some pretty cool demo ships have been built, but nothing so far that can pay its own way. And I suspect this would still be the case even if you doubled or tripled fuel price to account for all the societal costs of fossil fuel. That would just push the optimum to slower and larger ships to save fuel, because in ship propulsion there's a very strong economy of scale (resistance is L-squared or less, but capacity is L-cubed). Spin-offs from sailboat racing always threaten to change the landscape somewhat - there's a round-the world race in progress right now that saw the one-day distance record shattered: It's up to something like 650 miles in 24 hours, by a fully crewed 33 meter (110 ft) catamaran. They might break 60 days for the round-the-world course. It would be an interesting exercise to pull an old T-2 (tanker from the Second Punic War) out of mothballs and stick a pair of big modern wind turbines on it, bow and stern. Those ships were steam-electric, and have a big electric main propulsion motor right there ready to go. (We used one of those T-2s for the 100KW OTEC demo platform.) If I remember correctly, the original T-2 power plant made 3-phase 60 Hz AC, and this was fed to the 90-phase AC motor to achieve the necessary 30:1 reduction in shaft speed. (The whole reason for doing it that way was because they couldn't get big reduction gears during wartime for direct steam turbine propulsion.) So this contraption might just plug together with off-the-shelf and existing components.
Call me Fishmeal (pk) Mon 26 Feb 01 12:08
Most of the T-2s had 6,000 SHP (shaft horsepower) installed. That's about 4.5 MW. So if there's room for three of the modern 1.5 MW turbines, and if the ship doesn't have to go directly upwind or downwind so they don't shadow each other too badly, then you could cruise along fat and happy at 14 knots. Slow down to 10 knots, and you only need 1.6 MW total. What's the diameter of those things, again? And do you have a quick number for longitudinal thrust on the turbine shaft, so I can check heel angle? More info on the T-2 is at <http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Campus/3415/t2tanker-nf.html>
Philippe Habib (phabib) Mon 26 Feb 01 12:31
It took me a few days to get here but I finally made it. I read the book and found myself flipping back constantly to trace the path of the various characters. Wind offers a fixed operating cost that doesn't depend on what side of the bed some oil producers got up on this morning. One thing that I felt wasn't really addressed very well by the book was the bird mortality. I think the issue is way overblown because we're willing to kill 100x more birds due to an oil spill because that spill doesn't have the clear linkage to the generating plant. Right now, I generate my entire household electricity usage with grid tied PV. If the small wind turbines weren't so obnoxiously loud, I might have considered going that route for part of the load.
Fuzzy Logic (phred) Mon 26 Feb 01 13:16
To get back to Peter's question, well, we in the Northwest aren't real happy about the fact that we have been dragged into all this. The Columbia River hydro system is increasingly seen as a resource that ought to be priced at market levels -- this is just a code phrase for a power grab from the south. California will always be able to outbid us for the energy. The fight over Bonneville's "regional preference" under the 1964 Transmission Act that provided for the Pacific Intertie to begin with is going to be an epic one. In the meantime, as we are being chastised for not doing enough for California, we are draining our reservoirs, setting up a huge salmon slaughter later this year in the face of the best ocean return in at least a couple of decades. The west coast drought is probably worst right at the heart of our system, which is the heavy snowpack in northeastern Washington and Idaho and southwestern British Columbia. The snow there becomes the spring flush through the hydro dams starting in late April through August, which also provides the margin for California's summer heating load. But here we are in the winter not only selling or swapping power to California (a long story I won't get into), but being forced onto the open market, whose prices are basically controlled by the California- Arizona (Topock) natural gas price and the artificially restricted ISO/DWR price. Seattle City Light, for example, has been buying power at $500 to $1500 a megawatt; the 10% they buy that way is about 80% of their current costs. Seattle is contemplating a *50%* rate increase this year. Our economy is far more electricity dependent (many residences still have electric space, water and cooking heat, for example), so the impact is going to be no less than seismic. My own utility, Portland General Electric (an Enron subsidiary now being sold to Sierra Pacific in Nevada, long story I won't tell now), is shielded from this only because they made some good bets in the mid-term power markets last summer. But that probably won't last beyond mid-2001, the way things are going. The region's economy is much stronger than in the early 1980s, when the onset of rate increases due to the WPPSS nuclear power plants caused a remarkable ratepayer revolt. But the projected increases here are far larger. BPA's wholesale rate, which is around 2.5 cents per kWh now, is slated to go to 4.5, 5.5 or even 6.5 cents on October 1, depending on what happens in the west coast markets. If California is getting a fever, the Northwest is already headed toward the full-blown flu. Our fates are tied together by contracts, interconnecting electric, gas and water systems, and by the fact that the Pacific Ocean drives the climate throughout our region, and right now the winter weather patterns are so disrupted that we are expecting *under* a 50% snowpack (and thus runoff through the BPA dams) this year. We could handle this calamity on our own, barely. There is a concept known as the "Firm Energy Load Carrying Capacity" which has long been the fulcrum of Northwest electricity planning and contracts. We can't hold the line when California, the US Department of Energy and Congress are basically demanding that we bail California out too. So, you will not be surprised to hear that we are a little, um, surly about the notion that we aren't doing enough for California right now. With Bonneville draining its bank account by about $150 million a month to cover things here, we don't have much time to have an attitude, though.
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