Author Topic: The future of the electric grid  (Read 2358 times)

Offline Obviousman

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #15 on: February 21, 2021, 02:56:52 PM »
This is all quite interesting - I've always just 'flicked the switch' without a second thought about how the "green steam" gets to me.

Reminds me of a friend of a friend explaining about a new residential development near the CBD in Melbourne , Victoria, Australia. People were complaining that there weren't going to be enough EV charging points or something, and people complaining that the government wasn't committed to reducing carbon emissions, etc.

He explained that the existing grid simply could not provide the required power / load.

I'll post his email if I can find it.

Offline Obviousman

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #16 on: February 21, 2021, 04:15:28 PM »
Not quite as I remembered it but some might find the instance interesting:

Quote
Here's a fascinating insight, from the ground, into just how far away and unlikely mass charging of electric vehicles is in Melbourne. I suspect it wouldn't be too wide of the mark in other cities throughout Oz...............maybe even Canberra

I recently did some work for the body corporate at the Dock 5 Apartment Building in Docklands in Melbourne to see if we could install a small number of electric charging points for owners to charge their electric vehicles. We had our first three applications. We discovered:

1. Our building has no non- allocated parking spaces ie public ones. This is typical of most apartment buildings so we cannot provide shared outlets.

2. The power supply in the building was designed for the loads in the building with virtually no spare capacity. Only 5 or 6 chargers could be installed in total in a building with 188 apartments!!

3. How do you allocate them as they would add value to any apartment owning one. The shit fight started on day one with about 20 applications received 1st day and many more following.

4. The car park sub-boards cannot carry the extra loads of even one charger and would have to be upgraded on any floors with a charger as would the supply mains to each sub board.

5. The main switch board would then have to be upgraded to add the heavier circuit breakers for the sub mains upgrade and furthermore:

6. When Docklands was designed a limit was put on the number of apartments in each precinct and the mains and transformers in the streets designed accordingly. This means there is no capacity in the Docklands street grid for any significant quantity of car chargers in any building in the area.

7. It gets better. The whole CBD (Hoddle Grid, Docklands)and Southbank is fed by two sub stations. One in Port Melbourne and one in West Melbourne. This was done to have two alternate feeds in case one failed or was down for maintenance. Because of the growth in the city /Docklands and Southbank now neither one is now capable of supplying the full requirement of Melbourne zone at peak usage in mid- summer if the other is out of action. The Port Melbourne 66,000 volt feeder runs on 50 or 60 year old wooden power poles above ground along Dorcas Street South Melbourne. One is pole is located 40 cm from the corner Kerb at the incredibly busy Ferrars /St Dorcas St Intersection and is very vulnerable to being wiped out by a wayward vehicle.

8. The infrastructure expenditure required would dwarf the NBN cost excluding the new power stations required

These advocates of electric vehicles only by 2040 are completely bonkers. It takes 5-8 years to design and build a large coal fired power station like Loy Yang and even longer for a Nuclear one (that’s after you get the political will, permits and legislative changes needed ). Wind and solar just can’t produce enough. Tidal power might but that’s further away than nuclear.

It's just a greenies wet dream in the foreseeable future other than in small wealthy countries. It will no doubt ultimately come but not in the next 20 years.

Offline LunarOrbit

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #17 on: February 21, 2021, 07:33:43 PM »
This is all quite interesting - I've always just 'flicked the switch' without a second thought about how the "green steam" gets to me.

I didn't really give it much thought until recently, but I've been trying to learn more about it. It gives me hope that there are solutions to the problems we're facing.

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He explained that the existing grid simply could not provide the required power / load.

Whenever new electrical devices explode onto the market (think of TVs, clothes washers & dryers, refrigerators, microwave ovens, personal computers, air conditioning) the power grid adapts fairly quickly.

I think there are a lot of things we can do... such as reducing energy usage in other areas, improving efficiency, expanding solar & wind generation, and adding energy storage to the grid. Saying "it's too hard so let's not bother" is what we've been doing for too long. If we took it more seriously 40 years ago we would be under less of a crunch now.

Right now our existing solar & wind power generation capability is being under utilized because of the way we produce power on demand. Near where I live you will often see wind turbines completely still on windy days because there isn't enough demand for electricity at that time. If we had grid storage capacity we could utilize solar & wind farms on low demand days, and then use that stored power on cloudy/windless days (or when a freak weather event takes out the traditional power stations). You can sell that excess power to other states or countries that need it and make a profit. It would also allow you to reduce the need to fire up fossil fuel peaker plants when demand spikes.

If every new building was built with a solar power roof and battery system it would allow home/business owners to charger their vehicles, which would mean no additional demand on the traditional power grid. But not only that, it would allow the building owner to sell electricity to the grid. They could also use their vehicle as a backup power supply for their building if needed.

And how much electricity does fossil fuel refining demand of our grid? If everyone switched to EVs, wouldn't that mean the oil industry would require less electricity?

The Engineering Explained YouTube channel just put out a video going over why the grid can handle the switch to EVs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dfyG6FXsUU
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Offline Obviousman

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #18 on: February 21, 2021, 08:32:43 PM »

Offline bknight

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #19 on: February 21, 2021, 08:32:55 PM »
And of course people are trying to blame the windmills, not the infrastructure.  As a friend put it, she hadn't realized the Green New Deal had already been passed and implemented in Texas, of all places . . . .

I'll answer Jay and provide some information for you.  My wife and I bought a generator over ten years ago and survived quite well through the 10-12 degree temperatures.  I had one copper water line that burst in in five spots, but little or no damage to the house.  Our neighbors were without power for almost 3 days through that period did not fare so well.  I would guess 95 % of houses sustained burst pipe water damage when the temp dropped.
Anyway to the power issue.  I don't believe it is an infrastructure problem but a generating problem.
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Offline bknight

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #20 on: February 21, 2021, 08:35:13 PM »
And when you thought it couldn't get worse...

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-22/texans-stuck-with-high-electric-bills-after-winter-storm/13177926
.

We haven't received our bill yet so i can't comment on that, but I hope the government prevents these high bills.  We shall see. 
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Offline Allan F

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #21 on: February 22, 2021, 09:45:29 AM »
I really haven't followed the news on this, since events closer to home has dominated. How bad was the weather? Is this disaster related to the american way of building timberframed houses with gypsum walls?
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Offline bknight

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #22 on: February 22, 2021, 10:24:43 AM »
I really haven't followed the news on this, since events closer to home has dominated. How bad was the weather? Is this disaster related to the american way of building timberframed houses with gypsum walls?

With burst pipe flooding the walls/floors until somebody thinks to shut the incoming water off.  There were some who weren't at home when the temps rose above freezing thereby increasing the extent of damage.
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Offline gillianren

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #23 on: February 22, 2021, 10:29:08 AM »
I don't believe it is an infrastructure problem but a generating problem.

Leaving aside that power generation is arguably part of infrastructure, the problems had a lot to do with things like natural gas lines freezing.  Apparently, even with some windmills out of commission because of freezing, the remaining ones were producing more electricity themselves, because the wind was so strong. 
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Offline jfb

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #24 on: February 22, 2021, 01:57:49 PM »
Y'all okay down there in Texas?  Just pointing out how Rick Perry was President Trump's energy secretary.  The whole nation might have dodged a bullet here.  Stay warm.

Perry's the reason we have such a large renewable component in our grid - he really championed wind and solar while Governor.  He had big, forward-thinking plans like the Trans-Texas Corridor, a massive infrastructure project for transportation and utilities that had everyone losing their minds because it was very "big gummint" and would have had an eye-watering price tag.  We're talking rights-of-way on the order of a quarter mile wide for roads, rail, and utility lines.  There were real practical issues with the plan beyond the cost, though, and it was eventually shelved.

Perry always frustrated the hell out of me because he's not stupid1, but he always played into the yee-ha culture of "We're Texans, we thrahv on adversity" and it's all bullshit.  No, I would not rather spend three days freezing than allow the federal government to regulate our grid, thank you very much.  But otherwise, I would take Perry back in a hot minute over Abbott right now2.  Abbott using this as an opportunity to take shots at the GND (which isn't even a law yet) is just downright gross. 

Our deregulated grid is cheap, most of the time.  It works, most of the time.  But when it falls down, it falls down hard.  Anyone on a wholesale rate plan like Griddy is staring at bills in the thousands of dollars for several hours of power usage, but fortunately most of us go through providers that negotiate fixed prices for 6 to 12 months at a time.  We're part of the Bluebonnet Electric Co-op, which was able to keep all their customers up (within the limits of the rolling blackouts mandated by ERCOT). 

Natgas delivery (which is the responsibility of the Texas Railroad Commission3, not ERCOT) was the big failure as the lines are not winterized and froze up, which was the bulk of the shortfall on the generation side.  What gas was available was prioritized for residential use (for good reason - you don't want everyone's pilot lights to go out, then start the gas up again and asphyxiate or explode everybody).  The older coal-fired plants had their coal piles freeze up so they were down as well.  Apparently there were some idle plants that weren't frozen but also weren't brought on line, and there are questions that need to be asked about that.

But everyone needs to remember, we don't do winter.  South of the Caprock we don't have 100+ straight hours of subfreezing temperatures combined with freakish amounts of frozen precipitation.  Plants were down for maintenance because this is the time of year power usage is typically at its lowest. 

In a bad winter down here (Austin area) we'll get an overnight hard freeze four of five times a year, a night of freezing rain that leaves elevated roads an ice rink, and maybe some sleet a couple of times.  It'll snow once a decade, usually a light dusting that's gone by noon because the ground is still warm from the previous day being sunny and 70.  But usually the lows are in the 40s and we'll have extended periods of warm and sunny.  Houses are built to keep heat out, external hose bibs and faucets are fully exposed, inner pipes often aren't insulated, many houses are built on slabs (no basements or crawlspaces), all because we deal with six straight months of daily highs in the 90s or higher.  In August our daily lows can be in the 80s. 

We came out of it about as well as anyone could expect - even though we were caught in the rolling blackouts, we never lost our water and we have gas for heating and cooking, so we always had hot water.  Had a couple of inside lines freeze up, but I was able to run the hot water long enough to get the cold side moving again.  Only burst pipe was an exposed line from the house to the garden, which has its own shutoff valve and I will fix in the next day or so.  Between that break, the constant drips, and needing to run hot water to unfreeze the cold side, our water bill is going to be a bit uglier this month, but better that than having to replace a bunch of plumbing.  Little did we know 16 years ago we were moving into the one neighborhood that could weather this storm as well as it did. 


1.  I have (very briefly) met the man in person.  Yes, he had some bad moments in the 2016 primary - he was also on painkillers for a back injury. 

2.  I would prefer a Democrat, but the state Democratic party is dysfunctional, and Democratic candidates for state office tend to be...well, not good.

3.  Which could really stand a name change, as they haven't had anything to do with railroads for a while now.

Offline jfb

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #25 on: February 22, 2021, 02:19:46 PM »
And when you thought it couldn't get worse...

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-22/texans-stuck-with-high-electric-bills-after-winter-storm/13177926

Those people were on a wholesale rate plan and represent a tiny minority of Texas electric customers.  It can be a good deal because most of the time it's cheaper than the fixed-rate plans (you're not paying a monthly service fee or anything like that), and occasionally the wholesale price goes negative, which means you get a little money back.

When things go pear-shaped like they did last week, the wholesale rate spikes to $9000/MWh and you're exposed to all of that. 

I have little sympathy for homeowners who signed up for such a plan - it's not a default option, you have to actively seek it out, and you have to understand the risk you're exposing yourself to.  It's a big problem for renters who are responsible for utilities, though, if the landlord is on such a plan.  Those are the people getting screwed right now.

Our Congressman, Michael McCaul (R, TX-10) stated on CNN that some of the federal relief money coming in will go towards paying those bills, or at least offsetting the bulk of them.  We'll see. 

Offline bknight

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #26 on: February 22, 2021, 03:29:35 PM »
I don't believe it is an infrastructure problem but a generating problem.

Leaving aside that power generation is arguably part of infrastructure, the problems had a lot to do with things like natural gas lines freezing.  Apparently, even with some windmills out of commission because of freezing, the remaining ones were producing more electricity themselves, because the wind was so strong.
Your definition of infrastructure.  Mine is the transmission of said energy.
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Offline JayUtah

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #27 on: February 22, 2021, 03:40:56 PM »
Perry's the reason we have such a large renewable component in our grid - he really championed wind and solar while Governor.

Oh, I see.  So the judgment heaped upon him in the media is probably not as justified as it sounds.  Thanks for filling in the details.  I hope you guys literally weather the storm and come out of it okay.
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Offline jfb

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #28 on: February 22, 2021, 04:34:35 PM »
Perry's the reason we have such a large renewable component in our grid - he really championed wind and solar while Governor.

Oh, I see.  So the judgment heaped upon him in the media is probably not as justified as it sounds.  Thanks for filling in the details.  I hope you guys literally weather the storm and come out of it okay.

There is going to be a lot of misdirection and finger-pointing over this because God forbid Republicans take an ounce of responsibility for their own failures.  I wouldn't be surprised if Perry gets thrown under a bus by Abbott and other state Republicans in the name of deflecting blame owning the libs. 

Instead of winterizing we'll blame the windmills.  20 years from now it will happen again. 

No, I'm not cynical at all
« Last Edit: February 22, 2021, 04:42:18 PM by jfb »

Offline jfb

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #29 on: February 22, 2021, 10:51:46 PM »

I'll also acknowledge that, you know, Ted Cruz could not personally do anything about what was happening. 

He couldn't fix power lines or water lines, no.  As a Senator, he could have helped coordinate federal relief efforts.  He could have used his Twitter account to communicate status of repairs, provide relief information, relay messages between different groups, any number of small but useful things. 

Even the empty symbolism of a photo op handing out bottles of water would have been something.

These are things that normal politicians who even just pretend to give a crap about their constituents do.  But no, his first instinct wasn't to do any of that, his first instinct was to fly to Cancun because he could.  His second instinct was to blame his family when the optics went sour and he had to come back (and do the stupid photo op handing out bottles of water). 

Dude is a moral and ethical vacuum.