Toward an Anti-fragile Electric Grid: Reassessing Environmental Policy

I had a revelation last night about the electrical grid. I was responding to an old friend’s comment where he stated that we needed distributed generation. I could have used the example of Mao’s Great Leap Forward with the blast furnaces in everyone’s yard, but I wanted to maintain our friendship, and stuck to Riccardo’s comparative advantage argument instead.

Then it hit me. Prior to 1970, electric generators were located very close to the point of consumption (I am talking US here). This minimized the line losses. Interconnects were put in to allow for some power sharing especially in the event of a forced outage. In general, the system was stable and one outage in one location would not necessarily affect another.  It was also characterized by a larger number of smaller generators, this applied to every thermal generator. Continue reading

The Second Law: The limited potential of wind energy

Cal Abel
23 March 2013

After watching An Inconvenient Truth and becoming aware of the push for renewable energy, I questioned the efficacy of renewable energy sources meeting global energy needs. I thought thermodynamics held the key in being able to understand this. Thus my quest began in January 2007. Today, I can report meaningful progress on this subject.

To build the appropriate model, I started with some publicly available fine grain data from the Bonneville Power Administration. I used data from January 1, 2007 00:00 to February 28, 2011 12:05 PST. The data is segregated into 5 minute blocks of the average power within that 5 minute period. Here is the excel file of the BPA wind power/capacity and grid load. You can verify this data by comparing the previous links. The date format is from Mathematica and is in “Absolute Time” : each full integer is 1 second. As a reference, 3376598400 is January 1, 2007 00:00:00 PST. The data is posted here in a parsed format only for your convenience and to aid in your analysis as the entirety of the modeling can readily be done in Excel if so desired. Continue reading