Share good ideas and conversation.   Login, Join Us, or Take a Tour!
comment by kleinbl00

I want WanderingEng to fact check me and tell me where I'm full of shit.

1) Traditionally, power generation has been a combination of thermodynamics and energy conversion. Chemical to thermal to kinetic to electrical. Nuclear to thermal to kinetic to electrical. Also traditionally, the simple physical behavior of working fluids combined with the manufacturing state-of-the-art rewarded larger-scale installations. A wind farm, however, goes from kinetic to electrical. A solar farm goes from radiant to electrical. A hydroelectric dam goes from kinetic to electrical. Due to the nature of wind energy, any wind farm is necessarily a composite of hundreds or thousands of generators. Due to the nature of solar, the output of the array is the output of photoreceptors whose number is counted in scientific notation. As such, economies of scale cease to matter quite so much. A 10MW nuclear reactor is a heavy industrial work employing hundreds of people in one place and energy distribution is necessarily concentrated. A 10MW wind farm covers square miles of territory and employs a fraction as many employees. A 10MW hydroelectric plant is either operational or it isn't. A 10MW solar array is however many grid points are energized.

2) Traditionally, an electrical utility is effectively a bond organization that manages and protects a large capital asset. With solar or wind energy, the capital costs scale proportionate to the output. Up-front costs are lower and less investment is necessary.

3) Therefore the need for monopoly protection of utilities may be becoming a thing of the past. If the grid is municipally-owned, the grid owner must only maintain the connection between the consumer and the producer of their choice. LADWP offers users the choice to purchase some percentage of their energy from renewables at greater expense; if Tesla builds a MegaFarm in Nevada and dumps into the grid at 7c/kWh they have the ability to drive Navajo Station out of business.

Which, let's be honest. Probably isn't better for jobs but is hella better for ecology.

I'm cool with it. I was one of those assholes that paid extra for renewables. Shit, if I get to pick who I buy long distance service from, surely I should in theory be able to pick who I buy power from.

WanderingEng  ·  329 days ago  ·  link  ·  


Agree on all points. A few nuances are that wind tends to be rewarded for meeting some minimum threshold of turbines. It costs X thousands of dollars to haul a crane to and from a site whether you're putting up one turbine out a hundred, so average costs go down when you build more. But one the machinery and crews are there, one solitary turbine costs about as much to erect as one amid a field of a hundred. The employee thing is huge. The wind sites I know have very minimal staffing. I think solar is even less.

On the other stuff, it gets tricker.

    Utilities need newly defined responsibilities and new ways to make money, through services rather than new hardware. That kind of reform will require regulators, politicians, and risky experiments. Very few states — New York, California, Massachusetts, a few others — have consciously set off down that path.

I'm not sure exactly what the article is referring to here, but the Independent System Operators (ISOs) have markets for things like capacity and frequency regulation.

Capacity boils down to the ability to meet demand. Does your generator run by burning a pile of rocks you keep on site? Pretty good chance you'll be able to supply demand when needed, so you get full credit. Is your plant powered by wind that, by its nature, varies with the weather? You get 17% credit. The generators get some payment for capacity.

Frequency regulation is about changing the load and generation balance. This balance is important, so companies are paid for this to the extent it's needed. Batteries are already doing this in some areas, otherwise it's mostly done by the big power plants. They do it inherently. Wind and solar can do it, if they're told to do it. Making a market for it gives price signals to everyone. It's revenue for large stations until they're slowly priced out.

I say all that in regard to this:

    Therefore the need for monopoly protection of utilities may be becoming a thing of the past. If the grid is municipally-owned, the grid owner must only maintain the connection between the consumer and the producer of their choice.

The connection between supply and demand is an important piece, but so is capacity and frequency. In industry lingo, that's what the Balancing Authority does. They acquire sufficient capacity and frequency regulation (and probably singe other things) to meet demand. The output of wind and solar fit into that, but when supplied to an end user, they don't see the aggregated and dispersed capacity and frequency costs that are going to, in part, fossil and nuclear generation.

b_b  ·  329 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Shit, if I get to pick who I buy long distance service from, surely I should in theory be able to pick who I buy power from.

I live in one of those cool states where the republicans are trying to ensure that consumer access to renewable energy is as limited as possible. God I hope we skullfuck these nihilists this fall. Just saw that a Trump +20 district in PA is now considered a tossup in a special election. You'd think that 50 years of scorched earth politics would catch up to you sooner or later, but I'm not counting my chickens. I used to think that the only thing the GOP was correct on was their hawkish stance on the USSR. They've even screwed that up now. The environmental shit is the worst though, since so much of it is permanent. We need to force both parties to pay attention to it (Clinton pretty much never uttered the phrase "climate change"), and that starts with kicking like 90% of GOPers out of congress.

kleinbl00  ·  329 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Yeah over the course of my life they've shifted from Archie Bunker to SPECTRE.

b_b  ·  329 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I just saw on Twitter that mnuchin is reopening TPP talks. I'm crying laughing at these fucks. Spectre, indeed.

kleinbl00  ·  329 days ago  ·  link  ·  

mnuchin is the best.

What I love is that his social climber wife? The one with the acting career that nobody heard of? Who hashtags all her goddamn brands and poses with money?

Grew up in a mutherfucking castle.

b_b  ·  329 days ago  ·  link  ·  

At least she didn't marry him for his money. Elle did a profile of her that was one of the most subtly mean things I've read in a long time. It was hilarious.

kleinbl00  ·  329 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Link that shit yo

veen  ·  329 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Shit, if I get to pick who I buy long distance service from, surely I should in theory be able to pick who I buy power from.

You can't? I'm surprised you guys don't have something similar over there.

Regardless, I got to pick my own energy supplier last week for my new apartment. The energy market is kinda weird - more than half of consumers buy green energy here, but what you're paying for is that your energy supplier buys energy rights to renewable energy sources. That renewable energy can come from various places in Europe - there have been cases where it was cheaper for biomass energy plants to import pellets from the U.S. and burn it up for the EU market, so it's not always so "green". In my case, I pay a few euros per month to force my energy supplier to buy local wind energy on the market whenever possible. Or is that similar to what you're paying extra for renewables?

kleinbl00  ·  329 days ago  ·  link  ·

    In the USA the traditional model of the vertically integrated electric utility with a transmission system designed to serve its own customers worked extremely well for decades. As dependence on a reliable supply of electricity grew and electricity was transported over increasingly greater distances, power pools were formed and interconnections developed. Transactions were relatively few and generally planned well in advance.

    However, in the last decade of the 20th century, some US policy makers and academics projected that the electrical power industry would ultimately experience deregulation and independent system operators (ISOs) and regional transmission organizations (RTOs) were established. They were conceived as the way to handle the vastly increased number of transactions that take place in a competitive environment. About a dozen states decided to deregulate but some pulled back following the California electricity crisis of 2000 and 2001.

Short of hanging solar panels on my house, I have never had the opportunity to choose who provides my power. Most of us haven't. To no one's surprise, utilities regularly rank as the most-complained-against companies in the United States; Comcast is one thing but LADWP is a whole 'nuther monster.