[Server-sky] [ExI] Power sats again

Keith Lofstrom keithl at gate.kl-ic.com
Wed Jul 17 22:25:38 UTC 2013

On Tue, Jul 16, 2013 at 07:40:04AM -0700, Charles Radley wrote:
> BPA argued that this was unreasonable,  however, in 2011 the FERC ruled 
> against BPA and forced them to buy all the wind power even when there 
> was not enough demand for it.   BPA wanted the right to turn off the 
> wind turbines, but FERC ruled that BPA does not have the right to do that.

Bitcoin smacks of busywork to me, but the idea of turning excess
energy into more valuable outputs is a great idea.  Google turns
a kilowatt hour of $0.05 wholesale electricity into $20 of bottom
line results.  Shipping raw industrial inputs is silly when you can
convert them into high value products with low shipping expense.
Even undeveloped countries ship sugar, not sugar cane.

The usual problem with conversion of erratic sources is the capital
cost of the conversion tools.  Most rapidly-depreciating high tech
stuff does not want to be idle 90% of the time.  Water pumps are
examples of low tech stuff with long lifetimes that can stand to
be idle.  But most places where water needs pumping are a long
way away, at the end of expensive power lines.  We can only pump
so much water until we run out of useful places to store it.  The
problem with hydro in most places is that it is remote, or small,
or destructive of habitat, and usually all three. 

Regards wind energy, we have lots of power engineers here in the
Pacific Northwet and I sometimes attend their meetings.  We also
have a lot of innumerate greenoids who can't tell a watt from a
joule.  The interactions are "interesting". 

Here is a plot I made of 2012's 5 minute averages of regional 
power demand horizontally, available wind power vertically:

A perfect power source would be a diagonal line that matches
instantaneous production to instantaneous demand.  Honest
accounting would measure power sources by their 80% reliable
availability, which for wind power is less than 2% of the
nameplate rating.  If your car or house or computer was 
randomly unusable more than 20% of the time, you would scrap

Windfarms in the Northwest are touted as if they produce 4.7GW
all the time.  The maximum they ever produced was 4.37GW for
one five minute period in 2012, with an average of 2.18 GW
and a mode (50% availability) of less than 0.74 GW.  The
availability is fractal, not even as good as random.

Electricity is valuable to customers because the power is
reliable, standardized, meterable, and adjustable to varying
demand.  An energy source's value diminishes as it loses those

At the other end of the energy usability scale is one 3600 MT
nuclear explosion per year.  That produces 4.2 trillion
kilowatt hours per year of energy, about the same as annual
US electric generation, but in a lethally inconvenient form. 

At some point, a technology crosses over from "useful power"
to "extreme nuisance", and without good rapid-response high
capacity power storage ( http://launchloop.com/PowerLoop ) we 
gotta just grin and adapt to the bad decisions made by others.
As suboptimal as the results are, they would be far worse if
the decision-makers were also in charge of cleaning up the
messes they make.  

This email is too long already.  In the next email I will 
discuss what this means for Server Sky, and a presentation I
will make in two weeks that is difficult to design because
of these problems.


Keith Lofstrom          keithl at keithl.com         Voice (503)-520-1993

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