Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Where is OZ?

I received an e-mail at work yesterday about power conservation. We were asked to turn off unnecessary lights so that we could help conserve power for the burning Central Valley residents. This follows instructions issued by the state yesterday.

I found this e-mail interesting because just that morning, NPR had reported that while power consumption was expected to rise with the heat index, California didn't risk rolling blackouts because it had put more power on-line following rolling black outs in 2001. Now I am all for power consversation. But I think we are being trifled with.

Suddenly we hear that the Palmdale's regional air traffic center went dark grounding aircraft, forcing those already in the air to land, and causing huge disruptions in flights all over Southern Califronia. Why? A traffic accident downed power lines to the facility, triggering backup generators. Their surge protectors then failed, causing the blackout. It wasn't the first time that glitches had appeared. Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich agreed and requested a dedicated power line be strung up. Well, why did it take so long to figure out how exposed that system was to damage?

So I start to wonder if Oz is playing around in the power grid again. I grew up in the Central Valley where we had a small pool and no air conditioner. Temps were regularly over 100 degrees in the summer. So this heat wave is nothing new to those of us from the valley. We never had a problem and we had our own local power supplier. The population of the Central Valley has grown, but local power suppliers have more stable grids that those of the state. The state grid, to its credit, amanged to withstand record consumption rates that exceeded 46K megawatts. But we still have a power grid so faulty that a mere traffic accident can take it out. That's just wrong. Whe needs a terrorists when some idiot driving while yacking on a cell phone can run into a power pole and take out half the of LA?

Either we are being fed a line of crap or someone is playing games. I say bring back real regulation in the power market.


Anonymous said...

I'm curious about what Dr. Strangelove would say about a decentralized grid. If there were technology to allow homes and businesses to generate solar and/or wind power and then sell the excess back into the grid, would it help? I mean shouldn't the solar generation go up as the heat index goes up?  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Dr. Strangelove said...

Dr. S is first trying to understand the "Oz" reference. I must be missing something basic.

As for solar power... I think that the "photovoltaic cells" depend upon the intensity of light striking them (as the name suggests) rather than the ambient air temperature. Naturally in the summer, when the sun is more directly overhead, there is more light (while clouds would obscure it) but the day-to-day fluctuations in air temperature should not mean much.

As for a decentralized power grid, there are some benefits due to decentralization. Copper wire is good, but as you know, the transmission lines are not (yet?) woven of superconductors, so there is loss along the way. A rule of thumb is about 5-10% of the power is lost (less with the super-high voltage lines) but for very long lines of low voltage to remote areas, the loss can be up to a third of the power. There's a fascinating discussion of the North American power grid here.

For fossil fuels, the most efficient arrangement for transport adn combustion is to burn them at a centralized facility. This outweighs transmission losses, and is one reason we don't all use portabe generators in our homes. But solar panels don't work this way. Decentralization is fine for them, and it's a good idea.

Last year's "Million Solar Homes" proposal from Gov. Schwarzenegger-- a 10 year, $2 billion subsidy plan for new-home owners, that might have made California the #1 solar producer in the world--got bogged down in details and partisanship on both sides. The biggest sticking point appeared to be the Democrats' insistence (and Republican refusal) to require a prevailing wage be paid to installation technicians. Republicans estimated the requirement could hike the cost of installation 30%... above the usual illegal alien labor, I suppose?

If we get a united government in California in the Fall, that kind of legislation could be come a reality, saving billions for consumers in the long run. As RbR is fond of saying, Vote Democrat!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, right. Don't expect Angelides to do anything but feed his political backers from the trough. Another subject, though. I have half a mind to vote for Arnie. Those on this blog will think I've lost the other half.

As for the power grid, regulation is key. The "free market" only works as promised if there is a real market. Otherwise, electricity supplies are easily driven by citizen demand (unlike schools, which people are loath to pay for unless they have kids, everyoen's got lights). 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

Oz, as in Wizard of = the invisible man pulling the switches behind the curtain. You feel is presence, but can't figure out where he is.

I should have titled it Where is the Wizard of Oz. My bad for incomplete metaphore.

Are the photovoltaic cells the newly developed ones that are supposed to be thin, like plastic sheeting? I have read somewhere that they are tyring to develop new solar cells that are like nano-cells that can be spread into rooftiles and then used to conduct electricity for a given house. Was I dreaming, or are they working on that?

Also, I have an uncle who lives in Alaska. He has a windmill on his property that was subsidized by the state. He repays the state by generating power back to the grid. Once the cost of the windmill is paid, he will either get a refund on his power bill or a check. Not a bad pilot program! 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

LTG, I really think you are making the perfect the enemy of the good. You'll vote for a feckless Republican (who supports the Minute Men Vigilantes and George Bush's War on Liberty) out of spite against a Democrat you didn't support in the primary. I don't follow that logic at all!

Your vote for Schwarzenegger (and even worse, your public support of him) will only help a Republican party bent on the accumlation of tyrranical power. That Schwarzenegger is slightly less wacko than George Bush or Sam Brownback et al is cold comfort. One could argue he's worse because he knows better and still supports them.

As for the heat-sun thing. I know how solar panels work but I was assuming a correlation (especially in California) between sunny days and air temperature. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Well, it's not just heat, it's solar radiation. Lower latitudes get more of it. One of the two main reasons Hollywood was founded was that it had (1) huge # of sunny days and (2) the average daily lumens are far above most of the rest of the country to the north.

As for Arnie, I've got your goat right here, RBR. Petting it now... 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...


// posted by Raised By Republicans

Dr. Strangelove said...

RbR writes, "I know how solar panels work but I was assuming a correlation (especially in California) between sunny days and air temperature." Yes, RbR is right. My point was only that one might hope that a record heat wave would bring extra solar energy, but as you know it doesn't quite work like that.

Another fun fact, since I did not actually know how solar panels worked... I did some checking around and there are some interesting, counter-intuitive facts about photovoltaic cells. All other things being equal operating performance drops appreciably with higher temperature. A solar cell on a hot day (100 degrees F) will produce about 15% less power than on a cold day (40 degrees F.)

Anonymous said...

Yikes! So extreme heat reduces the efficacy of solar energy generation!? Not good news at all! Here in the Great Plains there is increasing reliance on wind turbines. Many farmers have set them up on their land to supply power for their farms. Others have rented out land to local power companies to build their own turbines.

But what was that figure Dr. S. gave us about how many wind turbines we'd need? 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Y'all should go read the Technology Review special on global warming (including lots of interesting material on alternative sources of power).

Technology Review special on Global warming and what we can do about it .

Higher efficiency copper, indium, gallium, and selenium (CIGS) photovoltaics being commercialized.

Technical discussion of nanotechnology science that could revolutionize photovoltaics.

// posted by Chris

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