Tag Archives: power

What We Talk About When We Talk About the Decentralization of Energy – Maggie Koerth-Baker – Technology – The Atlantic

16 Apr

Following electric utility deregulation in the 1970s, the jobs of generating electricity, transmitting it over long distances, and distributing it around localized regions have increasingly been done by different entities.

This is happening now, outside of the shift toward alternative energy, but as we generate electricity using more renewable resources–as generation becomes increasingly distributed, to match the locations of inherently local sources of energy–that trend will only accelerate. The day may come when no electric utility generates anything. Instead, it might simply coordinate the movement of electricity between generators and customers. Rather than making and selling electricity, utilities like the municipal utility in Gainesville, Florida, could someday find itself selling the service of making sure that all of the solar panels in town work together in a reliable way, alongside storage systems and mid-size power plants.

If there’s one lesson you should pick up from this story, it’s that alternative energy isn’t only about changing what we put in our fuel tanks or how our electricity is made. Alternative energy is going to alter entire business plans and change who we are, what our responsibilities are, and how we think about ourselves.

via What We Talk About When We Talk About the Decentralization of Energy – Maggie Koerth-Baker – Technology – The Atlantic.


Are transmission lines holding America back? – The Washington Post

12 Oct

Local is the way to go! More resilient, more reliable.

That’s why a growing number of people who work in the industry are now questioning whether massive, centralized clean-energy projects really are the future. What good are huge solar farms in the desert if you can’t get them wired? Perhaps smaller, distributed sources of clean energy — rooftop solar panels, say, or small turbines — that don’t need fancy new transmission lines are a more promising option.

“It’s long been conventional wisdom that it’s much easier and cheaper to build those big plants,” Allan Schurr, vice president of strategy and development at IBM’s energy and utilities group, told me. “But, when we interviewed customers, we found a strong appetite for individuals having control over their own energy future.” As an alternate model, Schurr points to Germany, where well-crafted incentives for rooftop panels have transformed the cloudy nation into a solar leader. And there’s a lot of untapped potential here: the National Renewable Energy Lab has estimated that we have 661,000 megawatts of rooftop-solar resources here in the United States.

via Are transmission lines holding America back? – The Washington Post.

How Energy Drains Water Supplies – NYTimes.com

21 Sep

The worries in Texas bear out what an increasingly vocal group of researchers has been warning in recent years: that planners must pay more attention to how much water is needed in energy production.

“Water and energy are really linked,” said Henrik Larsen, a water policy expert with the DHI Group, a research and consulting firm based in Denmark. “If you save water, you save energy, and vice-versa.”

Experts call this the “water-energy nexus.” It takes huge quantities of water to produce electricity from a plant powered by nuclear energy or fossil fuels, and it also takes lots of energy to pump and process the water that irrigates fields and supplies cities.

via How Energy Drains Water Supplies – NYTimes.com.

New York Denies Indian Point Plant a Water Permit – NYTimes.com

31 Aug

The battle is joined. It’s New York State vs. the Federal Government.

… the strongly worded letter from the Department of Environmental Conservation, issued late Friday, said flatly that Indian Point’s cooling systems, even if modified in a less expensive way proposed by Entergy, “do not and will not comply” with New York’s water quality standards.

It said the power plant’s water-intake system kills nearly a billion aquatic organisms a year, including the shortnose sturgeon, an endangered species. The letter also said that radioactive material had polluted the Hudson after leaking into the groundwater.

via New York Denies Indian Point Plant a Water Permit – NYTimes.com.

Amory Lovins on Lessons from Fukushima

21 Mar

Writing at RMI Outlet, the blog for the Rocky Mountain Institute, Amory Lovins draws lessons from Fukishima, noting that the US has 6 plants identical to those and 17 very similar to them. And he notes that that pouring money money in the nuclear swamp will “reduce and retard climate protection.” Thus:

Each dollar spent on a new reactor buys about 2-10 times less carbon savings, 20-40 times slower, than spending that dollar on the cheaper, faster, safer solutions that make nuclear power unnecessary and uneconomic: efficient use of electricity, making heat and power together in factories or buildings (“cogeneration”), and renewable energy. The last two made 18% of the world’s 2009 electricity (while nuclear made 13%, reversing their 2000 shares)–and made over 90% of the 2007-08 increase in global electricity production.Those smarter choices are sweeping the global energy market. Half the world’s new generating capacity in 2008 and 2009 was renewable. In 2010, renewables, excluding big hydro dams, won $151 billion of private investment and added over 50 billion watts (70% the total capacity of all 23 Fukushima-style U.S. reactors) while nuclear got zero private investment and kept losing capacity. Supposedly unreliable windpower made 43-52% of four German states’ total 2010 electricity. Non-nuclear Denmark, 21% windpowered, plans to get entirely off fossil fuels. Hawai’i plans 70% renewables by 2025.

He further notes that:

Japan, for its size, is even richer than America in benign, ample, but long-neglected energy choices. Perhaps this tragedy will call Japan to global leadership into a post-nuclear world. And before America suffers its own Fukushima, it too should ask, not whether unfinanceably costly new reactors are safe, but why build any more, and why keep running unsafe ones. China has suspended reactor approvals. Germany just shut down the oldest 41% of its nuclear capacity for study. America’s nuclear lobby says it can’t happen here, so pile on lavish new subsidies.

Adaptation, Resilience and Distributed Power

12 Mar

In the course of a discussion about the earthquake in Japan, Adrew Revkin and David Roberts talk about the to start adapting to coming changes and, in particular, they talk about the need for a distributed power grid and bottom-up efforts. Video at Bloggingheads.tv.