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Well put Frank, belying your "non-expert" status.

  1.  One of the ways lobbying power comes to the "weak" is bottom up; in this case, because of the tremendous economic advantage to windy localities, there is a natural power base beginning with local governments.  In the past two years i have seen numbers of state and local governments visiting EU conclaves to encourage European firms to invest in their locales.  Pennsylvania has made huge deals to secure Gamesa facilities in their states, and Iowa, Texas, Oregon and Minnesota have made concerted efforts to lure EU companies.  Even non-windy Arkansas managed to lure a Vestas (or was it LM?) blade facility, because of available, relatively low cost workers, and ease of shipping to different wind regions.  Many states are playing catch-up.

  2.  The pressure on the federal gov is intense already.  This week the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which controls the grid and power plants) allowed California's PUC to establish their program of grid infrastructure build out aimed at alleviating the logjam on wind projects backed up because of no grid access.  This alone will build out some 5,000 MWs of wind in california in the next five years or so.

  3.  The number of jobs created during these past few boom years is not going unnoticed; and the industry does have wide bi-partisan support because politicians seem to think that jobs are a good thing (if they don't form damn unions and ask for reasonable wages).  In fact, the only opposition in congress (i hate to give it the dignity of its rightful name, so at least no capital letter) are those already bought by the vested energy companies.

  4. The quality of electricity issue is taken care of by upgrading the decrepit grid with current technology, nothin new or different.  Smart Grids are designed to address all the issues you bring up, without a separate infrastructure.  You just use the wires to also transmit data back and forth, including turn-down or turn-off instruction; or from the other direction, turn-on, 'cuz nows the cheap time to recharge.

  5.  Redundancy costs?  Any time the marginal gas plants already there don't run, they are avoiding the likely staggering fuel costs of the future.  That's a value, bolstered by their ability to be turned on when needed.

  6.  When the grid is a mix of AC and DC, transmission losses diminish.  There is a corelation between where the wind blows and where people and industry aren't, so that ain't gonna change.  Getting the power to where it's needed will cost something, but all the studies show it's profitable.  In fact, that's exactly why ERCOT just enabled a huge increase in Texas transmission facilities to interconnect with the small non-Texas part of the US.

  7.  Intermittency:  You're basically right, but the issue must be addressed from a different angle.  Until there is grid penetration of windpower nearing 20% of capacity, given the existing plants already online, experience over years in Europe shows there is no issue.  Intermittency only becomes a problem over a threshold point, but a problem with many solutions that are not expensive.  But that's only considering wind as stand-alone.  When you build in the other technologies, particularly solar electric, the issue virtually disappears.  Add storage technologies like compressed air, and vavavoom.

I'll save hydrogen for another topic, as i didn't have time to write what i just did.  Or did i?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Jul 18th, 2008 at 03:08:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, it's not quite that simple. Intermittency WILL remain an issue. Solar is only good for daytime and not a great intermittency solution. Besides, it tends to be absent when you need it most: on cold winter nights (yes, I know USA dwellers are crazy enough to actually get a peak need in summer days because they are infatuated to air conditioning. I am stipulating that in an energy-scarce world, most of that waste is going to be removed).

So the solutions are not that easy. Some overcapacity with priority uses will surely be part of the solution.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Fri Jul 18th, 2008 at 04:21:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]

 Some overcapacity with priority uses will surely be part of the solution.

It IS the solution. What's wrong with it?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Jul 19th, 2008 at 11:59:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Agreed on all your points except perhaps:
Crazy Horse:
Redundancy costs?  Any time the marginal gas plants already there don't run, they are avoiding the likely staggering fuel costs of the future.  That's a value, bolstered by their ability to be turned on when needed.

My point here is that (say) the costs of running a gas fired power station are 50% fixed, 50% variable (i.e. proportionate to the about of electricity produced - due mainly to the cost of the input fuel).

The Unit cost of electricity from such a plant operating at 10% capacity (i.e. only at times of extreme peak demand/low average wind speeds) is (50+50/10)/10 = 5.5 per 1% unit capacity

If that same plant is operating at 50% capacity the equivalent unit costs is (50+50/2)/50 = 1.5 per 1% unit capacity - in other words almost 4 times cheaper.  Thus there is a marginal cost to maintaining more redundancy because of greater intermittency in the system.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 19th, 2008 at 04:49:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Peaker" gas-fired power plants are already profitable while being used only 2-5% of the time. The reason for that is that they function only during price peaks, where peaks can be 50-100 times higher than normal prices for short periods. So they make enough money from very kWh, and overall emit very little carbon, while providing a vital service to the grid.

Thus you can easily maintain redundancy at a very low overall cost.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Jul 19th, 2008 at 12:02:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're actually reinforcing my point that the higher the level of redundancy, the higher the UNIT cost of a peaker station - especially if they require 50-100 times higher than normal prices to maintain profitability.  (In terms of carbon emissions they are, as you say, relatively insignificant).

This is in any case very much a secondary point.  The greater point made above is that the wider the dispersal of windfarms and the larger the grid they are connected to, the less overall redundancy is required to provide a stable supply/demand platform.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 19th, 2008 at 04:43:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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