The more Electric Cars people drive the greater the Stress on the Electric Grid

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 16th, 2014

Week in Review

Have you ever noticed your lights dim when your air conditioner starts?  They do because when an electric motor starts there is a momentary short circuit across the windings.  Causing a great inrush of current as they start rotating.  Once they are rotating that inrush of current drops.  During that surge in current the voltage drops.  Because there is no resistance in a short circuit.  So there is no voltage across a short circuit.  And because everything in your house goes back to your electrical panel that momentary voltage drop affects everything in your house.  Including your lights.  The lower voltage reduces the lighting output.  Momentarily.  Once the air conditioning motor begins to rotate the short circuit goes away and the voltage returns to normal.

Air conditioners draw a lot of power.  And during hot summer days when everyone gets home from work they cause the occasional brownout.  As everybody turns on their air conditioners in the evening.  Stressing the electric grid.  Which is why our power bills rise in the summer months.  For this great rise in demand causes a corresponding rise in supply.  Costing the power companies more to meet that demand.  Which they pass on to us (see Electricity Price Surged to All-Time Record for March by Terence P. Jeffrey posted 4/16/2014 on cnsnews).

The average price for a kilowatthour (KWH) of electricity hit a March record of 13.5 cents, according data released yesterday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was up about 5.5 percent from 12.8 cents per KWH in March 2013.

The price of electricity in the United States tends to rise in spring, peak in summer, and decline in fall. Last year, after the price of a KWH averaged 12.8 cents in March, it rose to an all-time high of 13.7 cents in June, July, August and September.

If the prevailing trend holds, the average price of a KWH would hit a new record this summer.

All-electric cars are more popular in California than in Minnesota.  Because there is little cold and snow in California.  And batteries don’t work so well in the cold.  AAA makes a lot of money jumping dead batteries during cold winter months.  So batteries don’t hold their charge as well in the winter.  Which is when an all-electric car requires more charge.  For the days are shorter.  Meaning that at least part of your daily commute will be in the dark and require headlights.  It is colder.  Requiring electric power for heating.  Windows fog and frost up.  Requiring electric power for defogging and defrosting.  It snows.  Requiring electric power to run windshield wipers.  Slippery roads slow traffic to a crawl.  Increasing the time spent with all of these things running during your commute.  So the all-electric car is more of a warm-weather car.  Where people who don’t live in sunny California may park their all-electric car during the worst of the winter months.  And use a gasoline-powered car instead.

As those on the left want everyone to drive all-electric cars they don’t say much about the stress that will add to the electric grid.  If everyone switched to an electric car in the summer it would be like adding a second air conditioner at every house.  Especially after work.  When everyone gets home and plugs in.  Causing an inrush of current for an hour or so as those discharged batters recharge.  A discharged battery is similar to an electric motor.  As it’s the current flow that recharges the battery cells.  There’s a high current at first.  Which falls as the battery charges.  So summer evenings will have a lot of brownouts during the summer months.  As the added electric load will greatly stress the electric grid during the evenings.  A demand that the power companies will have to supply.  At the same time they’re replacing coal-fired power plants with less reliable renewable forms of power generation.  Such as solar farms.  Which will be fast running out of sunshine as these cars plug in.

If people switch from gasoline to electric power in their cars en masse the average price for a kilowatt-hour will soar.  It’s simple economics.  Supply and demand.  The greater the demand the higher the price.  And there is little economies of scale in power production.  Because more power requires more fuel.  And the kicker is that even people who don’t drive will have to pay more on their electric bills when people switch from gasoline to electric cars.  And their gas bills if gas-fired turbines provide that peak power demand.  Raising the price of natural gas.  Making everyone pay more.  Whereas only drivers of gasoline-powered cars are impacted by the high cost of gasoline.


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Short Circuits, Ground Faults and Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 9th, 2014

Technology 101

AC Power uses Reciprocating Currents to produce Rotating Electromagnetic Fields

There is a police crime lab television show that can solve a crime from a single fiber.  Many crime lab shows, actually.  Where they use high-tech science and music montages to solve many a crime.  Which is great if you DVR’d the shows as you can fast forward through them.  And save some time.  In one of these shows the writers goofed, though.  Because they didn’t understand the science behind the technology.

Someone murdered a construction worker by sabotaging a power cord.  By cutting off the grounding (or third) prong.  The fake crime scene person said this disabled the ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) device in the GFCI receptacle.  Leaving the user of the cord unprotected from ground faults.  So when said worker gripped the drill motor’s metallic case while standing in water and squeezed the trigger he got electrocuted.  And when the investigator saw that someone had cut off the grounding prong of the cord he said there was no way for the GFCI to work.  Which is, of course, wrong.  For the grounding prong has little to do with tripping the GFCI mechanism in a receptacle.

If you look at an electrical outlet you will see three holes.  Two vertical slots and one sort of round one.  Inside of these holes are pieces of metal that connect to wiring that runs back to the electric panel in your house.  One of the slots is the ‘hot’ circuit.  The other slot is the ‘neutral’ circuit.  And the third slot is the ‘ground’ circuit.  Now alternating current (AC) goes back and forth in the wiring.  It will come out of the hot and go into the neutral.  Then it will reverse course and come out of the neutral and go into the hot.  Think of a reciprocating engine where pistons go up and down to produce rotary motion.  AC current does the same to produce rotating electromagnetic fields in an electric motor.

The Current in our Electric Panels wants to Run to Ground

If the current can come out of both the hot and the neutral why aren’t both of these slotted holes hots?  Or both neutrals?  Good question.  The secondary winding on the pole-mounted transformer feeding your house has three wires coming from it.  The secondary is a very long wire wrapped many times around a core.  If you measure the voltage at both ends of this coil of wire you will get 240 volts.  They also attach a third wire to this coil of wire.  Right in the center of the coil.  So if you measure the voltage from this ‘center tap’ to one of the other two wires you will be measuring the voltage across half of the windings.  And get half of the voltage.  120 volts.

These are the three wires they bring into your house and terminate to your electric panel.  The center tap and the two wires coming off the ends of the secondary winding.  They attach each of the two ‘end wires’ to a hot bus bar in the panel.  And attach the center tap to the neutral bus.  They also connect the ground bus to the neutral bus.  A 1-pole circuit breaker attaches to one of the two hot bus bars.  Current travels along a wire attached to the breaker, runs through the house wiring, goes through the electrical load and back to the panel to the neutral bus.  So this back and forth current comes from the 120 voltage produced over half of the secondary coil of wire in the transformer.  Where as a 2-pole breaker attaches to both hot bus bars.  Current travels along a wire attached to one pole of the breaker, runs through the house wiring, through the electric load and back to the panel.  But instead of going to the neutral bus bar it goes to the other pole of the 2-pole breaker and to the other hot bus bar.  So this back and forth current comes from the 240 voltage produced across the whole secondary coil in the transformer.

Current wants to run to ground.  It’s why lightning hits trees.  Because trees are grounded.  The current in our electric panels wants to run to ground, too.  Which we only let it do after it does some work for us.  When we plug a cord into an electric outlet we are bringing the hot and neutral closer together.  Like when we plug in our refrigerator.   When the temperature falls a switch closes completing the circuit between hot and neutral through the compressor in the refrigerator.  So the current can run to ground.  Which is actually a back and forth motion through the conductors to create a rotating electromagnetic field in the compressor.  Which runs back and forth between one of the hot bus bars and the neutral bus bar in the panel.

Ground Faults don’t trip Circuit Breakers when finding an Alternate Path to Ground

When we stand on the ground we are grounded.  We are physically in contact with the ground.  We can lie on the ground and not get an electric shock.  Despite all current wanting to run to ground.  So if all current is running to ground why don’t we get a shock when we contact the ground?  Because we are at the same potential as the ground.  And no current flows between objects at the same potential (i.e., voltage).  This is the reason why we have a ground prong on our cords.  And why we install a bonding jumper between the neutral bus and the ground bus in our panels.  So that everything but the hot bus bars is at the same potential.  So no current flows through anything UNLESS that something is also connected to a wire running back to a hot bus in the panel.

Of course, if there is lightning outside we don’t want to be the tallest object out there.  For that lightning will find us to complete its path to ground.  Just as electricity will inside our house.  This is the purpose of the grounding prong on cords.  And why we ground all metallic components of things we plug into an electric outlet.  So if a hot wire comes loose inside of that thing and comes into contact with the metal case it will create a short circuit to ground for that current.  The current will be so great as it flows with no resistance that it will exceed the trip rating of the circuit breaker.  And open the breaker.  De-energizing everything in contact with that loose hot wire.  Eliminating an electric shock hazard.  For example, you could have a fluorescent light with a metal reflector in your basement.  It could have a loose hot wire that energizes the full metallic exterior of that light.  If you were working in the ceiling and had one hand on a cold water pipe when you came into contract with that light you would get a nasty electric shock.  But if it was grounded properly the breaker would trip before anyone could suffer an electric shock.

Ground faults are a different danger.  Because they don’t trip the circuit breaker in the panel.  Why?  Because it’s not a short circuit to ground.  But current taking a different path to ground.  That doesn’t end inside the electric panel.  For example, if you’re using a hair dryer in the bathroom you may come into contact with water and cold water piping.  Things that can conduct electricity to ground.  And if you are in contact with these alternate paths to ground some of that current in the hot wire will not equal the current in the neutral wire.  Because that back and forth current will be going in and out of the hot bus.  And in and out of a combination of the neutral bus and that alternate path to ground through you.  Electrocuting you.  But because of your body’s resistance the current flow through you will not exceed the breaker rating.  Allowing the current to keep flowing through you.  Perhaps even killing you.  This is why we have GFCI receptacles in our bathrooms, kitchens and anywhere else there may be an alternate path to ground.

So how does a GFCI work?  When current flows through a wire it creates an electromagnetic field around the wire.  If you’re looking into the wire as it runs away from you the field will be clockwise when the current is going away from you.  And counter clockwise when coming towards you.  In an AC circuit there are two conductors with current flow.  And at all times the currents are equal and run in opposite directions.  Cancelling those electromagnetic fields.  Unless there is a ground fault.  And if there is one the current in the neutral will decrease by the amount running to ground.  And the electromagnetic field in the neutral conductor will not cancel out the electromagnetic field in the hot conductor.  The GFCI will sense this and open the circuit.  Stopping all current flow.  Even if the ground prong was cut off.


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There will be Carbon Emission whether we Power our Cars from Poo or Gasoline

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 2nd, 2014

Week in Review

Hydrogen is very flammable.  It’s why we use helium in our blimps.  Because using hydrogen is just too dangerous.  As the Hindenburg disaster has shown us.

So hydrogen is a pretty dangerous thing to be messing with.  Unlike gasoline.  Which is pretty safe and stable in the liquid form.  You could even put out a cigarette in a puddle of gasoline.  It’s dangerous doing so.  And you shouldn’t try it.  But the most dangerous thing about gasoline is its vapor.  Ignite that and there will be an explosion.  Which is what happens inside our internal combustion engines.  Where our cars first aerosolizes the gasoline, mixes it with air, compresses it and then ignites it.  Of course that explosion is deep within our engines.  Where it can’t harm us.  Still, it isn’t advised to smoke while refueling.  Because there are gas vapors typically where there is gas.  And you don’t want you car exploding like the Hindenburg.

Fuel cells use hydrogen to make electric power.  All you have to do is stop at your hydrogen fueling station and fill up your hydrogen tanks.  Just don’t smoke while doing this.  Because hydrogen in its natural state is an explosive gas.  This danger aside the hydrogen fuel cell is about to give the all-electric car a run for its money.  And last’s night meal may be providing the hydrogen (see POO-power comes to California: Orange County residents to trial SUVs fuelled by human waste by Mark Prigg posted 2/25/2014 on the Daily Mail).

The fuel-cell powered Tucson can drive for 50 miles per kilogram of hydrogen, and its two tanks hold about 5.64 kilograms (12.4 pounds).

Costs of compressed gas in California range from about $5 to $10 per kilogram, depending on the facility, and it takes around three minutes to fill the tank.

Hyundai says it hopes the technology will become popular – and will take on the electric car as the eco-vehicle of choice.

‘Hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles represent the next generation of zero-emission vehicle technology, so we’re thrilled to be a leader in offering the mass-produced, federally certified Tucson Fuel Cell to retail customers,’ said John Krafcik of Hyundai Motor America.

‘The superior range and fast-fill refueling speed of our Tucson Fuel Cell vehicle contrast with the lower range and slow-charge characteristics of competing battery electric vehicles.

‘We think fuel cell technology will increase the adoption rate of zero-emission vehicles, and we’ll all share the environmental benefits.’

If you crunch the numbers and compare it to a gasoline-powered Ford Taurus the numbers aren’t so good.  A Ford Taurus gets 29 miles per gallon on the highway.  And has an 18 gallon gas tank.  Which means one tank of gas will take you 522 miles on the highway.  At $3 per gallon for gas that one tank of gas will cost you $54.  By comparison the fuel cell gives you only 282 miles on a full tank.  And costs between $28.20 and $56.40 for a full tank.  Dividing cost per mile that comes to somewhere between $0.10 and $0.20 per mile.  While the gasoline-powered Ford Taurus costs about $0.10 per mile.

So at best the fuel cell will have a fuel cost equal to the gasoline-powered engine.  But it only has about 54% the range on a full tank.  Meaning you’ll have to stop about twice as often to fuel up with the fuel cell.  And good luck not blowing yourself up playing with hydrogen at the fuel pump.  That is if you can even find hydrogen fueling stations along your drive.  The only real good thing you can say about a fuel cell when comparing it to a gasoline-powered car is at least it’s not as bad as an all-electric car.  And those zero-emissions?  Sorry, that’s not exactly true.  The hydrogen may be zero-emissions but making the hydrogen isn’t.

First, sewage is separated into water and biosolids.

The waste water is cleaned, filtered and treated for reuse, while solid waste is piped into airless tanks filled with microbes.

A byproduct of their digestion is a gas that’s 60 percent methane and about 40 percent carbon dioxide, which is burned at the plant for power generation.

However, some is filtered and piped into a unique, stationary ‘tri-generation’ fuel-cell device, designed by the Irvine team, that produces electricity, heat and hydrogen.

The hydrogen gas is then piped several hundred feet to the public pump where fuel-cell autos are refueled daily.

Almost half of the source gas is carbon dioxide.  And carbon dioxide has carbon in it.  This is the same gas they want to shut down coal-fired power plants for producing.  Oh, and methane?  That’s a greenhouse gas.  This is the gas coming out of the butts of cows and pigs that some are saying are warming the planet.  And when you burn methane guess what you get?  Water and carbon dioxide.  More manmade carbon emissions.  That’s a lot of global warming they’re creating in the effort to prevent global warming.

This is one thing fuel cells share with all-electric cars.  They may be emission free.  But the chemistry to make them emission-free isn’t.  We’re still putting carbon into the atmosphere.  We’re just doing it in different places.  And if we are wouldn’t it be cheaper and easier just to keep using gasoline?


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The Ford Model T is probably a Safer Choice for a Cross-Country Trip than an All-Electric Car

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 16th, 2014

Week in Review

The United States is no doubt tired of winter.  It’s been a long one.  Snow, ice and cold.  Especially cold.  With below-zero temperatures in northern states.  And freezing temperatures even in southern states.  In fact, it’s been such a brutal winter that every state in the United States but one has snow.  Florida.  It’s just been a long, cold winter.  But it’s been a good one for those in the snow removal business.  And for those in providing a jump-start for dead batteries.  For batteries just don’t like cold weather.  Which is another problem with all-electric cars.  In addition to finding a place and the time to charge them (see Tesla Model S Electric Car Versus … Ford Model T? A History Lesson by John Voelcker posted 2/14/2014 on Yahoo! Autos).

While the fast-expanding network of Tesla Supercharger DC quick-charging stations now permits both coast-to-coast and New York-to-Florida road trips by electric car, the magazine conducted its test last October…

And as it points out, in its area of the country (Ann Arbor, Michigan), there were no Supercharger stations last fall.

(There is now one, along I-94 in St. Joseph, Michigan, 26 miles north of the I-90 cross-country corridor–one of 76 operating U.S. Supercharger locations as of today.)

So it couched its Tesla-vs-Model T test as the equivalent, a century later, to the question it imagined potential buyers of the first automobiles may have pondered: How does this stack up against my old, familiar, predictable horse..?

In due course, small roadside businesses sprang up to sell gasoline for the newfangled contraptions, usually in the same place they could be repaired.

But travelers couldn’t be confident of finding gasoline until well into the 1920s, a result of the Model T turning the U.S. into a car-based nation almost by itself.

Imagine driving across a state the size of Michigan on a road trip.  From St. Joseph to Detroit on the other side of the state it’s about 200 miles.  Which it will take you over 3 hours to drive at posted speed limits.  Now imagine driving this with only one gas station to stop at.  One you’re not familiar with.  One that you will have to drive around a little to find.  While you’re running out of energy.  Now imagine you’re in an all-electric car.  And you find this one charging station and there are 4 cars ahead of you waiting for their 30-minute quick charge.  Which could increase your charging time from one half hour to two and a half hours.

Every gas station has electric power.  So every gas station could sell electricity for electric cars, too.  If someone had to wait a half hour to charge their car that is a lot of time they could be buying stuff from the mini mart all these gas stations have.  So why aren’t they building these things?  Is it that they don’t want the liability that might come from a faulty charger starting a battery fire?  Is it because there are so few all-electric cars to waste the investment on?  Is there a question of how to charge for electricity?  Or do they not want to turn their gas stations into parking lots with a bunch of cars waiting for their half hour of charge time?

Perhaps the reason Michigan only has one Supercharger station is because Michigan has long, cold winters.  Limiting electric car traveling to the summer months.  In fact, if you live in a northern state look for the charging stations some big stores have installed to show how green they are.  Chances are you won’t see a single car at them during the winter.  For when it comes to cold winters gasoline has it all over batteries.  Gasoline provides far greater range.  You can jump-start a gasoline engine in the coldest of winters and then drive home.  And if it’s cold you can crank the heat up to make it feel like summer inside that car.  Something you can’t do in an electric car without sacrificing further range.

The Model T was an improvement over the horse.  But the electric car is just not an improvement over the Model T.  Because a gasoline-powered car is superior to an all-electric car.  For if one was going to travel across a state the Model T would have better odds of getting you where you were going before running out of energy.  And even if you ran out of gas someone could bring a can of gasoline to you so you could drive to the next gas station.  Whereas an electric car would require a tow truck to the next charging station.


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Man arrested for Stealing Electricity for his Electric Car

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 7th, 2013

Week in Review

A bankruptcy judge just ruled Detroit can file bankruptcy.  Dealing a blow to the union workers and pensioners who will see their benefits cut.  A lot.  But in so doing Detroit may be able to do something it hasn’t been able to afford in a long time.  Turning the streetlights back on.

A lot of these streetlights have burnt out lamps.  Some are damaged.  While others have been shut off to cut costs.  Because the electric power to light these is a large cost item.  Even in Britain some cities are turning their streetlights off during parts of the night because they just can’t afford to keep them on all night long.  Which puts a silly incident like this into a new light (see Why Did This Man Get Arrested for Charging His Electric Car? by Tyler Lopez posted 12/5/2013 on Slate).

Early last month, a police officer approached Kaveh Kamooneh outside of Chamblee Middle School in Georgia. While his 11-year-old son played tennis, Kamooneh was charging his Nissan Leaf using an outdoor outlet. When the officer arrived, he opened the unlocked vehicle, took out a piece of mail to read the address, and let a puzzled Kamooneh know that he would be arrested for theft. Kamooneh brushed the entire incident off. Eleven days later, two deputies handcuffed and arrested him at his home. The charge? Theft of electrical power. According to a statement from the school, a “local citizen” had called the police to report the unauthorized power-up session.

The total cost of the 20 minutes of electricity Kamooneh reportedly used is about 5 cents…

Are political attitudes toward environmentally friendly electric vehicles to blame..?

Contrary to popular belief the ‘fuel’ for electric cars is not free.  It takes fuel (typically coal, natural gas, nuclear, etc.) to generate electric power.  Which is why we all have electric meters at our homes.  So we can pay for the cost of generating that electric power.  Therefore, this guy was stealing electric power.  Even if he lived in the city he stole from.  Because current taxes don’t pay for electric power.  People pay an electric bill based on their electric usage.  As shown on an electric meter.

This illustrates a great problem we will have if large numbers of people switch to electric cars.  This will place a huge burden on our electric generating capacity.  Have you ever placed your car battery (in a standard gasoline-powered car) on a charger when you had a dead battery?  If so you may have noticed the voltage meter on the charger barely move.  Because a dead battery places a ‘short-circuit’ across the charger.  Causing a surge of current to flow through the battery.  Recharging the plates.  As the charge builds up the current starts falling.  And the voltage starts rising.  Imagine great numbers of people plugging in their depleted batteries at the same time.  It will do to the electric grid what air conditioners do to it in the summer.  As a bunch of them turn on the lights dim because of that current surge going to the air conditioners.  Leaving less power available to power the lights (and other electric loads).

Air conditioning was such a problem that utilities placed a separate ‘interruptible’ meter at homes.  So that during the summer when the air conditioner load grew too great the utility could shut off some air conditioners.  To reduce the demand on the generating systems.  People lost their air conditioning for periods of time.  But they got a reduced electric rate because of it.

As more people add an electric car to the electric grid it will strain generating capacity.  And raise electric rates.  To get people to use less electric power.  If demand far exceeds supply electric rates will soar.  Perhaps causing a lot of people to look for a free ‘plug-in’ to escape the high cost of electric power.  Transferring that cost to others.  Like cash-strapped cities who can’t afford to leave the street lights on all night.

Few have thought this out well.  Getting more people to use electricity instead of gasoline at the same time we’re trying to replace reliable coal-fired power plants with intermittent wind and solar farms is a recipe for disaster.  In the form of higher electric bills and rolling blackouts.


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A Renewable Boom means more Expensive and Less Reliable Electric Power

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 20th, 2013

Week in Review

The news on our green energy initiatives sounds good.  We’re importing less oil.  And adding more and more wind power.  If you’re a proponent of green energy you no doubt are pleased by this news.  But if you understand energy and economics it’s a different story.  You’ll think the country is moving in the wrong direction.  Ultimately raising our energy costs.  Without making much of an impact on carbon emissions.  And just because we are exporting gasoline doesn’t mean we’re on the road to being energy self-sufficient (see The Renewable Boom by Bryan Walsh posted 10/11/2013 on Time).

Earlier this year, the U.S. became a net exporter of oil distillates, and the International Energy Agency projects that the U.S. could be almost energy self-sufficient in net terms by 2035.

This is not necessarily a good thing.  Being a net exporter of oil distillates.  It means that US supply exceeds US demand at the current market price.  That’s an important point.  The current market price.  The US has been in an anemic economic recovery—though some would say we’re still in a recession—since President Obama assumed office.  During bad economic times people lose their jobs.  Those who haven’t are worried about losing theirs.  And they worry about the uncertainty, too, about the cost of Obamacare.  So people are driving less.  And they are spending less.  Because they have less.  And worry about how much money they’ll need under Obamacare.  So they’re not taking the family on a cross-country vacation.  Some are even spending their vacation in the backyard.  The so called ‘staycation’.  No doubt the 10 million or so who disappeared from the labor force since President Obama assumed office aren’t driving much these days.  So because of this US demand for gasoline is down.  And, hence, prices.   Even though gasoline prices are still high and consuming an ever larger part of our reduced median family income (also down since President assumed office), gasoline prices are higher elsewhere.  Which is why refineries are exporting their oil distillates.  To meet that higher demand that has raised the market price.

But the biggest source of new electricity in the U.S. last year wasn’t a fossil fuel. It was the humble wind. More than 13 gigawatts of new wind potential were added to the grid in 2012, accounting for 43% of all new generation capacity. Total wind-power capacity exceeded 60 gigawatts by the end of 2012—enough to power 15 million homes when the breeze is blowing.

These numbers do sound big for wind.  Like it’s easy sailing for wind power to replace coal.  But is it?  Let’s look at the big picture.  In 2011 the total nameplate capacity of all electric power generation was 1,153.149 gigawatts.  So that 13 gigawatts though sounding like a lot of power it is only 1.127% of the total nameplate capacity.  Small enough to be rounding error.  In other words, that 13 gigawatts is such a small amount of power that it won’t even be seen by the electric grid.  But it gets even worse.

We used the term ‘nameplate capacity’ for a reason.  This is the amount of power that this unit is capable of producing.  Not what it actually produces.  In fact, we have a measure comparing the power generation possible to the ‘actual’ power generation.  The capacity factor.  Which measures power production over a period of time and divides it by the total amount of power that the unit could have produced (i.e., its nameplate value).  Coal has a higher capacity factor than wind because coal can produce electric power in all wind conditions.  While wind power cannot.  If the winds are too strong the wind turbines lock down to protect themselves.  If the wind is blowing too slowly they won’t produce any electric power.

The typical capacity factor for coal is 62.3%.  Meaning that over half of the installed capacity is generating power.  Some generators may be down for maintenance.  Or a generator may be shut down due to weak demand.  The typical capacity factor for wind power is 30%.  Meaning that the installed capacity produces no power 70% of the time.  And it’s not because turbines are down for maintenance.  It’s because of the intermittent wind.

So coal has twice the capacity that wind has.  Does this mean we need twice the installed capacity of wind to match coal?  No.  Because if you tripled the number of wind turbines in a wind farm they will still produce no power if the wind isn’t blowing.  In this respect you can say coal has a capacity factor of 100%.  For if they want more power from a coal-fired power plant they can bring another generator on line.  Even if the wind isn’t blowing.

You could say wind power is like parsley on a plate in a restaurant.  It’s just a garnishment.  It makes our electric power production look more environmentally friendly but it just adds cost and often times we just throw it away.  For if coal provides all our power needs when the wind isn’t blowing and the wind then starts blowing you have a surplus of power that you can’t sell.  You can’t shut down the coal-fired power plant because the wind turbines don’t produce enough to replace it.  You can’t shut down the wind turbines because it defeats the purpose of having them.  So you just throw away the surplus power.  And charge people more for their electric power to cover this waste.  Like a restaurant charges more for its menu items to cover the cost of the parsley the people throw away.


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Green Energy Policies raise the Cost of Heating this Winter in the UK

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 19th, 2013

Week in Review

You can either fight ‘manmade’ global warming or you can have low energy prices.  But you can’t have both (see British Gas to raise prices by 9.2% posted 10/17/2013 on BBC News Business).

British Gas is to increase prices for domestic customers, with a dual-fuel bill going up by 9.2% from 23 November.

The increase, which will affect nearly eight million households in the UK, includes an 8.4% rise in gas prices and a 10.4% increase in electricity prices.

The company said it “understands the frustration” of prices rising faster than incomes. The average annual household bill will go up by £123 [$198.89]…

The company said that the cost of buying energy on the global markets, delivering gas and electricity to customers’ homes, and the government’s “green” levies, were all factors in the decision to put up prices.

With a focus on renewables we bring fewer fossil fuels to market.  Coal, oil and natural gas.  And with the war against clean nuclear power we’re shutting down our reactors.  So instead we focus on the more costly wind and solar power.  Because it takes a lot more costly infrastructure to capture the ‘free’ energy from the sun and the wind.  So much that the taxpayer has to subsidize them.  To bring us that ‘free’ energy.  When the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, that is.  Which brings us to that costly distribution system.

People can put solar arrays on their home to use that ‘free’ solar power during sunny days.  But what about cloudy days?  And night?  Wind farms can generate ‘free’ wind power when the winds are blowing right.  But what about when they are not blowing right?  Either too fast?  Too slow?  Or not at all?  What then?  Fossil fuels.  That’s what.

Baseload power (typically coal that takes hours to bring on line) is a funny thing.  To be cost effective power plants run at full capacity 24/7.  When demand rises they can bring on some ‘peaker’ units (typically gas that are quick to bring on line) to add additional capacity.  So power companies have to maintain baseload power even if the people aren’t buying any to be available when solar and wind aren’t.  And if all the homes disconnected from the grid and ran on solar power during the day the power companies would still have to keep them physically connected to the grid.  So these homes can use their power at night.

This is why energy prices are rising.  Revenue at power companies are falling due to that ‘free’ wind and solar power while their expenses are not.  And because they are selling to fewer customers they have to charge them more to cover their expenses.

Affordable energy for the people lies with fossil fuels.  Not renewables.  Governments have to choose.  All the people.  Or their liberal base.  Less costly power from fossil fuels.  Or more costly power from renewables.  It’s that easy.  For you can fight ‘manmade’ global warming or you can have low energy prices.  You just can’t have both.


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Another Electric Car bursts into Flames

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 5th, 2013

Week in Review

One thing we learned from Breaking Bad was to respect the chemistry.  And that’s what batteries are.  Chemistry.  The kind of chemistry that’s a little on the dangerous side.  Unlike gasoline.  Which we can store relatively safely in tanks under our cars.  Where little chemistry goes on inside our gas tanks.  To use that gasoline to power our cars we have to do a couple of things.  We have to aerosolize it.  Combine it with oxygen.  Compress it.  Then ignite it.  Then and only then does it release its incredible energy.  Producing great heat in the engine.  But not the gas tank.  Which needs no cooling system.  It’s a little different in an electric car.

In a battery the chemistry is all local.  It produces electricity—and heat—where the chemicals are stored.  In the battery.  One of the problems with electric cars is their limited range.  And you fix this problem with bigger and more powerful batteries.  That can produce a lot of electricity—and heat—as they charge or power the car.  Making battery cooling a requirement for safe battery use.  To keep those chemicals under control.  But sometimes these chemical reactions go out of control.  Causing fires as cars re-charge in their garages.  Causing fires that grounded the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  And this (see Hot Wheels! Tape of Tesla Fire Has Stock Tanking by Dan Berman, Hot Stock Minute, posted 10/3/2013 on Yahoo! Finance).

Tape of a Tesla (TSLA) on fire is giving new meaning to the term “hot wheels.” The video was shot on Tuesday after a Model S sedan went up in flames…

In an e-mail sent to The New York Times, Tesla spokeswoman Elizabeth Jarvis-Shean wrote that the fire was caused by the “direct impact of a large metallic object to one of the 16 modules within the Model S battery pack.” The e-mail went on to say, “Because each module within the battery pack is, by design, isolated by fire barriers to limit any potential damage, the fire in the battery pack was contained to a small section in the front of the vehicle.”

Contained to a small section?  It looks like the fire engulfed the whole car.  All because of some metal debris thrown up from the roadway.  Of course, a way to protect against something like this in the future is to add a metal shield that can take a direct hit without damage.  Adding a thick piece of metal under the car, though, adds weight.  Which, of course, reduces range.

This is a problem with electric cars.  Improving safety results in a reduction in range.  Because it adds weight.  It adds weight, too, with gasoline-powered cars.  But one full tank of gas can hold a lot more energy that all the batteries can on an electric car.  And when you run out of gas all you have to do is stop at a conveniently located gas station and fill up.  Which takes about 10 minutes or so.  Unlike a recharge of an electric car.  Which can take anywhere between a half hour (with a high-voltage fast charger) to overnight in the garage plugged into a standard outlet.  Which is why electric cars are more of a novelty.  Those who have them typically have other more reliable cars for their main driving needs.  For though gasoline-powered cars catch fire, too, when they’re not on fire you know you’re going to get home.


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Wind-Generated Electric Power is 2-3 times more Costly than Coal-Generated Electric Power

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 25th, 2013

Week in Review

A lot of people think wind-generated electric power is free.  Because the wind is free.  But wind-generated electric power is not free.  Wind turbines are very expensive.  And you need a lot of them to produce enough electric power that is useful.  Making it more expensive than the old-fashioned power we once knew and loved.  That generated from coal-fired power plants.  And it’s not a little more expensive.  It’s a lot more expensive (see Offshore wind costs will fall if development continues by EDI Editor posted 8/23/2013 on EDI).

Now a study commissioned by the German Offshore Wind Energy Foundation, along with Siemens and other companies in the industry, has concluded that the cost of electricity from offshore wind can be reduced by about one-third over the next decade if development continues consistently. At present the cost of electricity produced by offshore wind is approximately three times the cost of conventionally produced power, so reducing costs is essential if widespread adoption is to happen…

In analyzing the projected cost development of electricity generated from offshore wind, the study concluded that costs could be reduced by about 31 per cent, assuming stable market development, reaching at least 9 Gigawatt installed capacity in Germany by 2023.

All right, wind-generated electric power costs three times as much to produce than conventionally produced power.  Such as from a coal-fired power plant.  But in a very rosy ‘best case’ projection where the economy is strong and there are great advancements in the technology of wind power they can bring the cost of wind-generated electricity down one third.  So it is only twice as costly as conventionally produced power.

So we will pay a premium for any electric power generated from wind turbines.  At worst it may triple electric power costs.  At best it may only double its cost.  Which is the last thing any of us want to hear as we struggle through the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  So why do it?

To save the planet, of course.  As the global warming fundamentalists warn us the end times will come unless we fall to our knees and affirm our belief in global warming.  And agree to pay 2-3 times more for our electric power to absolve us of our global warming sins.  And not to listen to the ‘factsayers’ who tell us the data shows the planet is NOT warming.  For Al Gore sayeth it is.  And he should know.  For he became a very rich man proselytizing people to the global warming faith.  Hallelujah.


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Building Wind Farms for a Quick Buck despite Public Opposition

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 17th, 2013

Week in Review

If you ever went hiking in a state park you’ve probably seen signs admonishing you to tread lightly.  To stay on paths only.  So as not to disturb the pristine environment.  Because environmentalists love this planet so much they will take all precaution to keep it pristine.  Except when it comes to putting these ugly things all over the place (see Locals get the wind up as turbines advance in Ireland by Geoffrey Lean posted 8/9/2013 on The Telegraph).

Some six per cent of the country’s electricity is now generated from the wind, and wind farms are a common sight in much of the country. In parts of inland West Cork, for example, it is rare to find a view that does not contain them, and there are places where four or five encircle you on surrounding hills. But so far there has been relatively little of the opposition to them that has become common on the other side of the Irish Sea.

Imagine that.  Only 6% of electricity comes from wind yet it’s rare to find a view without a wind turbine in it.  A much larger percentage of electricity comes from coal-fired power plants but it is a rare view indeed that includes a coal-fired power plant.  For they are much harder to find.

Angry scenes broke out last week at a “public information” meeting on plans to erect twelve 131 metre high turbines near the iconic mountain of Shehy More between the town and the upper Lee valley to the north. It would be visible for miles around in popular hiking territory and is, locals say, the third wind farm to be proposed in the last year for the hills around picturesque Loch Allua between the villages of Inchigeela and Ballingeary.

If everyone hates these turbines then why are they building so many?

Dave Edmond, of the appropriately named nearby alternative community of Coolmountain, led the revolt, accusing the wind industry of “just wanting a quick buck.” He added: “They have figured out how to get the grants and ‘shemoz’ the authorities” and predicted that the turbines would soon be “as obsolete and curious looking as the Easter island statues.”

Imagine that.  It’s greed.  In the form of fat government grants to build these white elephants to appease the global warming enthusiasts.  And they will become obsolete and curious.  As there are so many now that you can’t look in any direction without seeing one.  Yet they only provide 6% of their electricity.  Just imagine how many it will take to actually replace coal-fired power plants.  Probably so many that they will kill every living flying thing.  As no airspace will be free of these spinning killing machines.

Again, odd.  For someone who loves the environment so much to tread all over it.


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