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View Diary: Energize America coming to Congress. You can help (138 comments)

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  •  I agree w/several points, but pls explain (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Xan, A Siegel

    how you can ascertain:

    1. peak supply from renewable micropower sources occurs when it is needed least (e.g., sunny May day from solar, when there is not much aggregate demand), which results in much greater inefficiency of the current infrastructure; 3) "net" value of community-based electricity produced when a surplus already exists is much lower than that which is consumed during periods of high demand.

    Solar photovoltaics would produce the most when peak demand is greatest, summertime mid-day, when sun is strongest.  

    Is there a "surplus" of electricity anywhere?

    Agreed, distributed generation will require grid interconnection standards (IEEE stds) be followed to mitigate risks and problems.

    It would all end so quickly if they were just impeached.

    by netguyct on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 08:57:34 AM PST

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    •  If personal installed photovoltaic capacity (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Devilstower, Xan

      approximates personal baseload demand, rather than peak use, then there will be no surplus on summer days to sell back.

      For example, assume my average daily use during non-peak months is 2kW per hour.  If I install 2kW of photovoltaic capacity, I do not need to buy electricity from the grid (assuming the sun is shining that day).

      But in summer, when the air conditioners are kicking, I consume 4 kW during peak use hours.  Despite my solar panels producing at peak capacity (during peak hours)--and I agree that solar production tracks nicely with the daily electricity demand curve/sine wave--I still have to buy 2 kW from the grid.

      If I install enough solar to handle peak demand (4 kW), then I don't need to buy from the grid in the summer.  But in May (or September), when I'm only using 2 kW, I have 2 kW to "sell back."  Problem is, May isn't a peak demand month.  Every other net metering participant in my situation has excess capacity to sell back to the utility.  But the utility doesn't need it because its baseload plants can already provide for the May demand.  Because baseload plants are much more efficient than peaker plants, this glut of supply makes the distribution of electricity in a net metering system far less efficient in non-peak months.

      •  ok, but (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Xan, A Siegel, means are the ends

        if in non-peak conditions, a distributed infrastructure produces more than its owners require, therefore supplying the grid, won't the baseload plant fuel requirement be decreased?  
        If in the "ideal" condition every building were capable of producing more than it consumed, then I would agree there would be a surplus. But until every building is so equipped, why wouldn't the supplying of the grid be considered desirable?

        It would all end so quickly if they were just impeached.

        by netguyct on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 09:35:14 AM PST

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        •  Absolutely (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Xan, A Siegel, netguyct

          The question is whether this is a good thing.

          The goal with any decentralized system, IMHO, is to improve the efficiency of the entire system.  To the extent you can maximize, rather than exacerbate, the utilization of the baseload generating assets, you improve the efficiency of the entire system.

          You can make a much stronger case for compelling utilities to invest in environmental remediation when their most efficient assets are operating at 95% of capacity instead of 55% of capacity.  Keep in mind that most baseload plants are already more efficient than peaker plants, and more of them are nuclear/natural gas rather than coal-fired.

          In a net metering system, you would reduce demand from peaker plants, which is a good thing.  But you would also reduce demand from baseload plants, which is not necessarily a good thing.

          The trick is to "save" the surplus electricity from that produced off-peak from community-based renewable assets for use during peak periods.  More on this later...  

          •  Baseload systems ... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Xan, netguyct

            natural gas?  Thought natural gas, because of the ease/speed of turning on/off turbines, was the peak demand system ...

            Blogging regularly at Ecotality Blog for a Sustainable Future.

            by A Siegel on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 09:51:00 AM PST

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          •  I think our vision of the end goal differs.... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            A Siegel

            I agree that a distributed generation system starts out increasing the efficiency of the entire electric system.  However, maximizing the efficiency of the "as-is" infrastructure should be the first phase of a more far-reaching goal.. imho.

            In my vision of electricity infrastructure utopia, for lack of a better phrase, the owner/operators of the large baseload and peak plants get into the distributed generation space, or a more modular plant architecture and eventually shut down the existing, large plants.  Granted, this is a utopic 'vision' but it could operate closer to optimal efficiency more of the time.

            You make a very compelling point about getting the existing owner/operators to invest in environmentally sound operation....  However, as we've seen with the Oil Companies, record profits don't necessarily mean re-investment.  I agree with the principle and the goal, but what they do with the money realized from operating at peak efficiency is going to be their choice.

            It would all end so quickly if they were just impeached.

            by netguyct on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 10:36:25 AM PST

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      •  Baseline more efficient than solar? (0+ / 0-)

        The "efficient" baseline plants -- aren't a lot of them coal? So if the grid had excess solar power in May, we could shut down some coal plants until those peak summer months come around.

        What am I missing?

        -4.25, -4.87 "If the truth were self-evident, there would be no need for eloquence." -- Cicero

        by HeyMikey on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 09:56:59 AM PST

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        •  I think I see the problem... (5+ / 0-)

          Which I admit I had never thought about before, but it is going to be a challenge.

          Say you are an electric generating utility. You have to pay X bux for a plant to generate Y megawatts, which is what your service area* requires to cover its maximum demand, presumably a month-long heat wave in August when every AC unit is running day and night.

          Now you have that generating capacity all year long, but it's only making money in August. The rest of the year everybody has their needs met by their rooftop solar array. Suddenly ALL commercial power plants are "peaker" plants and the utility industry goes broke.

          So besides the extractive industries, we are going to have every power company in the world, not to mention GE and other generator builders, fighting us tooth and nail. We must find a way to work around this....

          *yeah, this is hopelessly simplified; the concept of "service area" for utilities went poof about the time I got laid off when Illinois Power got bought out by Dynegy and Enron-style geniuses decided to get rich by buying and selling paper rather than actually pushing electrons through wires. But this is for illustrative purposes only.

          Where are we going, and why am I in this handbasket?

          by Xan on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 10:56:39 AM PST

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          •  Don't panic. (0+ / 0-)

            The utilities will always need enough capacity for peak times. They will always recoup the cost of the excess capacity from their customers. They have always done this. This is OK. (Unless you can convince America to live without air conditioning.)

            The utilities will, for the foreseeable future, need to constantly increase capacity -- both baseline and peak. This is because (a) the population is growing, and (b) the population is using more and more electric gizmos. This is not exactly OK, but is probably unavoidable.

            To accomplish this capacity increase, the utilities currently plan to ADD NEW coal plants. For example, see this (Texas gov. wants to speed 18 new coal plants, OPPOSED by conservative Christians. Hooray!).

            We could do a lot of good by steering the utilities to add solar/wind/biomass instead of adding coal. (For more encouragement, Google "texas wind power.") Once we get that accomplished, we could start replacing the oldest, dirtiest coal plants with wind/solar/biomass. Those two are big enough goals for the present.

            -4.25, -4.87 "If the truth were self-evident, there would be no need for eloquence." -- Cicero

            by HeyMikey on Fri Feb 09, 2007 at 12:45:15 PM PST

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