Friday, April 13, 2007

WORLD series: Electricity

Next target in my series on if I was the king of the US, electricity.

This country (US) is the greatest consumer of energy on the planet. As supreme ruler, I'd make it our goal to be in second place, third would be even better.

Let's start with our existing power plants. Production of new fossil fuel burning power plants would cease immediately, and the production of wind power would need to be ramped up geometrically even though it is already there somewhat anyway. I'd speed up the decommissioning of older less efficient polluting plants and I'd tighten the pollution restrictions on current ones. I don't want heavy metals and acid rain floating around my constituent's atmosphere.

I wouldn't really want to add too many new hydro-electric dams or lakes because of land loss and environmental issues, but I'd mandate that all lakes be retrofitted with hydro electric capabilities. Sure, there are many lakes that are not large enough for significant production, but any lake that lets water out somewhere can be fitted with a generator to make power. I grew up down river from a lake built specifically for flood control and had no generator. This dam is well over a hundred feet tall, and millions of gallons of water rushed out of there every day. That to me is just wasted energy, like having the window open in the middle of winter. The more hydro-electric dams we have, the more we are able to allow wind power proliferation on the grid because hydro-electric power can be produced with seconds of demand and well compliments wind power.

There are currently a number of pumped storage facilities in the United States as well as elsewhere. A pumped storage facility is basically a reversible hydro-electric generator that can pump water back into a lake when there is an energy surplus. Wind power can at times produce a very large excess of energy that must be taken care of. A pumped storage facility can do this by acting like a very large battery. So, with this in mind, I'd order that all lakes that empty into other lakes be converted into pumped storage. For instance, in North West Arkansas, there is lake called Beaver Lake and it empties into other lakes down stream. These could be retrofitted to provide a pretty substantial pumped storage system that could provide backup for a future wind farm located in the class 4 wind areas of Western Arkansas.

And of wind farms, they'd be expanded obviously. I really like the offshore oil derrick style wind turbine platforms that are being proposed. They require no foundation and can be moved if necessary. We just need to figure out how to make ones big enough to support a high power turbine like the RePower 5M.

Now this plan to vastly increase RE generation is not strictly applied to utilities. I'd require all new construction to be capable of generating 2 times it's peak power demand via on site methods. For instance, if a building is capable of consuming 50,000 watts, it must include in construction 100,000 watts of peak power production capability via solar panels, wind turbines, and/or micro-hydro generators. Exceptions would include the following. If a building were built earth sheltered, that is underground, they'd only be required to provide for 100% of their peak usage and would not be required to do so on site, any other construction not able to meet the requirement on site would need to provide for 300% of their peak power consumption somewhere off site. All this is to relieve the strain on the utilities generating capacity. For instance, on a hot sunny day in the middle of summer, buildings with their AC on full should still be able to produce just a little bit of power to sell to the utility. This would also by far decrease the problems associated with power outages because companies and homes could easily choose to install a system with battery backup so they'd have power in case of an outage.

Now for a point of outrage among some conservatives, I'd end the production of incandescent light bulbs for general usage. I know, fluorescent bulbs have mercury in them, but the mercury saved by not burning coal does outweigh all the mercury that could be released if a fluorescent bulb is not recycled properly. Incandescent bulbs would only be allowed for special uses like heat lamps, where heat and light are required. Incandescent bulbs would also be removed from cars and replaced with LED's and LED's would receive much greater usage in the near future because in a few years when LED's have come along a bit more, I'd outlaw fluorescents.

A great idea my wife had was to make streetlights motion sensing, that way, they'd only be used when necessary, and using LED's, they'd save loads of publicly payed for power, freeing up that money to be used somewhere else. There are also some great ideas out there that use a vertical axis wind turbine and a small solar panel on streetlights making them their own power source.

These are just the first sweeping changes, I bet there'd be more, I may have to come back to this subject later.


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