Energy! Electric! No, not the hard rockin band. But, truly, energy and electricity.
One of the most disturbing and frustrating conversations I get into is the topic of converting to a green, carbonless, renewable,….. whatever, grid. It is disturbing to me because some people are being intentionally misled. It is frustrating to me because otherwise bright people refuse to look into the intentional deception. I though I’d help by preparing people to anticipate the usual talking points of a green, carbonless, renewable, ….. whatever, advocate.
About the deception? No one tells these people that we can’t store AC power. And, no one tells them the implications of such.
The most overriding, important, inescapable issue to discuss when speaking of converting to green, carbonless, renewable, ….. whatever, is the fact that AC power cannot be stored!
Discussions almost always show that the proponents don’t know why this is important. Why is it important? Well, wind blows on its own schedule. The sun shines on a schedule of sorts, but isn’t reliable in most places due to clouds. AC power is a use it or lose it proposition. When generated, it must be sent down the line or its gone.
Now, about this time in a conversation such as this, some moron will pipe up about conversion, inversion, and batteries. And, this is true. We can convert AC power to DC and then store it in a battery and then invert it back to AC……. in theory. There is no such battery as to facilitate a generation plant of any size. Moreover, there is significant energy loss during the processes of inverting and converting. While I won’t say it isn’t feasible to build such a battery. The size of it would have to be monstrous! As would the converters and inverters! It isn’t practically feasible.
Still, even knowing all of this some people insist we should pursue renewable energy. Mainly because they believe it to be “free” energy, that once in place, there’s nothing but energy being produced and little or no overhead. Well, no. Maintenance is a killer for the whirly gigs. I won’t go into the details of the story, but established wind farms are bought and sold and left to ruin when people understand the difficulties of maintaining such monstrosities. I picked this up from Stan, a commentator at Small dead animals. Go here for an excellent article about ghosts of windmill farms and the like.
The question is often asked, “but won’t it help, anyway?” The thought is the more the merrier, right? Wrong. If we are to utilize wind and solar and the like, we must keep a back up plant spinning and ready to go in case the demand exceeds the generation capacity of the the plants. Demand isn’t hard to predict. But we don’t know how much we have to provide by traditional means because of the unreliability of the renewables.
So, the needless required redundancy is established, but we haven’t fully explored the needless required redundancy. Transmission line is expensive. Maintenance is required. With the redundancy, the failure points are doubled. The cost is doubled, the maintenance is doubled.
If and when this far in the conversation, the next question will be, “why don’t they just build the generation plants next to each other?” Because we can’t! Unlike Japan, nuclear sites here go in places least likely to have catastrophic events. Coal plants are supplied by rail. Gas plants have similar logistic requirements. Obviously, solar and wind generation plants are necessarily location specific. So, it isn’t just plant redundancy, it is infrastructure redundancy.
Usually, when having this discussion with a green, carbonless, renewable, ….. whatever advocate, by now they’ve plugged their ears and have screamed, “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” But, on that rare occasion that conversation has continued, some pinhead will bring up HVDC. For the uninitiated, that’s High Voltage Direct Current. This is where DC power is sent down a transmission line. The use for this is very specific. High voltage is necessary because DC in normal voltage doesn’t travel very far. To reiterate conversion and inversion costs are extreme. It use is primarily for moving energy from one AC power grid to another AC power grid that is operating with different synchronization. But, that’s about it. It is used to move electricity underwater and great distances. It would be of little or no value to nations such as the U.S. because we can adequately generate electricity in a regional manner.
Once the conversation has gone this far, either a complete mental breakdown has occurred with the green, carbonless, renewable, ….. whatever advocate, or a complete abject refusal to address reality occurs.
Please note, the previous only addresses large commercial generation and transmission issues. Usually, some dolt will pipe up about solar and wind being viable for personal uses and then brings up the “sell back to the grid” scheme. To properly respond to this, all one has to do is point to an early post of mine discussing Dr. Hansen’s brief moment of clarity. Hansen goes into good detail about how it fails, but the money quote from Dr. Hansen is this…… But suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.” ——- Dr. James Hansen
After that, you can direct them here for a vision of their ideas about efficiency. Even after all of that, you won’t convince the hard core believers. But, what you will do is cause other that have observed/listened to the conversation to think. Remember, it all flows from the fact that we can’t store AC power.
Thoughts and/or questions are encouraged.