Kyoto – A Perspective (Part 45)

Posted on Sun 06/29/2008 by



So then, let’s have a look and see if we actually can try and find a way to cut back on the use of power from coal fired plants.

One of the problems you have with electricity is that it cannot be transmitted over vast distances, because the voltage diminishes and there is no way to bring it back up to the required level. It just has to be a constantly regulated set level, and cannot, just cannot vary from that level. to that end, you need power plants all over the place to supply the grid for that area. Even though the grid might stretch across the Continent, local plants supply power for the grid in that area, so the idea that you can cover a couple of thousand square miles of desert in Death Valley with trillions of mirrors to run the Country is not only impossible, and totally out of the question, it’s what makes electrical engineers burst out laughing. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE.

There are twelve States in the Midwest where, even though the population of some might be quite high, they are still a lot less populated than some of those larger and more populous States. The Electric power in those States is calculated pretty fine, so if you were to take out one large coal fired power plant in each of those States, that would mean taking those States into deficit, and the remaining plants just could not take up the slack, even connected to a large grid as they are. Also, they are out there in those ‘wide open spaces’ where, because it is such a vast size in actual area, then those coal fired plants are sparsely situated, so the emissions would be spread out over virtually half the US area and nowhere near as concentrated as they would be in the North East or on the West Coast in California. Those emissions would be quite an incidental and even secondary thing really, because in those States, that amount of power just could not be removed from the grid. It would result in complete breakdown of the whole system, and who would be the one to select who would have access to electrical power and who would be doing without, and in reality if anybody was to do without, then it most probably come from the residential sector, so commercial and industrial workplaces could still support actually having people at work, and if that sector was cut back, chaos would undoubtedly ensue.

The same would apply for those five States in the North East with tiny populations and small areas as well, not in the case of emissions, but the actual fact those States are most probably net importers of electrical power from those surrounding larger States.
So, here I have effectively taken 17 States out of the 50 mainland States, leaving 33 States. We now can see that those 50 coal fired power plants need to be decommissioned from those States.

The most important two things that need to be taken into account are baseload power, and the fact that baseload power is needed for the commercial and industrial sectors.

The two main arms of Government, the Federal and State Governments, need to take the lead here and to lead by example. Because their facilities are from the commercial and industrial sector, and they have control over huge budgets, then they are the ones that need to stand up and show the way.
As I said in a previous post, Combined Heating and Power (CHP) is an excellent replacement instead of running the facility straight off the power grid. The original outlay might seem to be large, but considering all things, it is not really all that big an imposition. Why I say that is that after a period of time, it will have paid for itself, because, generating your own power, you’re not connected to the grid, and paying the power provider for that power. All you will be paying for is the fuel element.

Had you watched the video I linked to in an earlier post regarding CHP, you would see that a major city in the UK, Bath, is already running with CHP, and currently, there is planning in train to slowly convert London to the same thing, and if it’s a feasible thing for London to be doing, then the same would also apply for major cities within the US. As with London, this is not something that can be accomplished overnight, but in the time limits talked about, this actually is something that can be achieved.
The Federal and State Governments can slowly convert their facilities to CHP, effectively removing those facilities from the grid. Working in concert with engineers, scientists and mathematicians, after a set number of State facilities, Federal facilities, or both, within that State have implemented CHP and removed themselves from the grid, then coal fired plants can start to be decommissioned. I’m not talking wholesale plant closures here, just one at a time for that State over the period it takes for those facilities to be converted to CHP.

Baseload plants will still need to kept on line for that residential sector and the existing commercial and industrial workplaces where it might be problematic, but the residential sector only consumes just more than one third of the total, so you’re looking at commercial and industrial enterprises here in the main. Then, every time a new commercial enterprise or an industrial complex is planned, it should be mandated that they produce all their own electricity requirements from CHP. Again, it becomes revenue neutral after a period of time, and that enterprise, be it commercial or industrial increases their bottom line because they are not paying an electric company for grid power.

When you think of it really, it sounds like it is too simple to believe, and some of you would say I have a sanguine outlook on it, but considering the alternatives, it actually IS a surprising solution.

For those States where there is a fairly good year round period of sunny weather with no snow, then those States could implement the usage of solar panels, but in this case not on a large scale, but on the residential scale, and why I actually say that is because of this. When that large investment is made by householders to make that large investment of close to 50K to put the panels on their roofs, and to have the inverter to convert the solar DC to household AC, that power generated during the day is fed back into the grid, so this will add to grid power during the day for those commercial and industrial workplaces. The State Governments could also come to the party here as well, making the fitment of these panels attractive by offering rebates for the original outlay, As well as being revenue neutral for the householder, power is actually fed back onto the grid. At nightfall, then those households come back onto the grid, because the panels will not be producing power, but those industrial and commercial workplaces are now consuming less electricity because the workforce has in the main gone home. Texas is already leading the Country in implementing large scale solar power, so those large Southern States can actually implement solar power to top up the daytime usage. Now you can see just how finely tuned the electricity supply really is, and just how much more intricately it can be worked with. This gives you some idea how mathematicians, engineers, scientists, power authorities, arms of governments at all levels, town planners, and policy makers need to begin working in concert if this problem is to be remedied, and fixed it can be.

To go even further, I’m actually encouraged that nuclear power plants are actually being talked about again. The cost and the lead time are both huge and long, but if you’re looking at a lead time of 2020, then these newer nuclear plants can still be brought back into the equation. You only need to look how safe they actually are, and even though that might sound like unproven empty rhetoric, they actually are safe, and the NRC in the US is the most stringent authority on the Planet. These plants have so many inherent safeguards, that the only thing holding them back is the mistaken opinion equating Nuclear power with nuclear weapons, and enriching for power with enriching for weaponry, two diametrically opposite things.

You will also need to consider hydro electric plants as well. Australia has the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme with a number of dams and hydro plants supplying a percentage of the power for three States. This was a scheme started after the Second World War. If Australia as a minnow could do something like this, surely it could be done on a much larger scale in the US, or even smaller schemes. Your Mountains are three times the height of ours and have a huge snow covering, and this snow melt could supply the water to drive the hydro plants, be it run of river hydro, or pumped storage hydro where the water is used over and over.

Both these two types of power have their enormously loud detractors, and here is another situation where politicians need to take a stand. In concert with those engineers scientists and mathematicians, a real campaign has to be instigated showing that the renewable processes that those environmentalists so avidly pursue, those of solar and wind energy, are impractical, expensive, not easily constructed, and have very little going for them when it comes to large scale use. They can be pursued for small scale peak power applications, but not as a seriously considered replacement for baseload power.

Both hydro and nuclear power need to be brought to the table as serious options. I’m not talking wholesale construction of these two processes, because in concert with the industrial, commercial and government sectors coming on line with CHP, and those smaller peaking power plants being used to take up the residential slack, then the number of those nuclear and hydro plants will be small indeed. The positions just need to be strategically placed. California would seem out of the question for both Nuclear and Hydro because of the susceptibility to earthquakes.
The Rockies would be a good place to find an area where a scheme could be instigated to construct a series of dams and a large hydro scheme. One or even two large nuclear plants similar to what already exists at Palo Verde in Arizona might be feasible in two locations close to the Eastern Sea Board.

Environmentalists would scream blue murder, but resolve needs to be employed here. The idea of filling the Deserts and places like Death Valley with trillions of mirrors is just out of the question. Realistically it might be able to supply huge amounts of power, but transmission to end user consumers is impossible because moving that amount of power over any distance is impossible, and there is no solution for that. Wind units could be constructed across vast areas, but again, this is also not feasible, would also be enormously expensive, and take up vast spaces. The theory of Carbon Capture and Storage is also a fallacy pursued by environmentalists who would prefer to believe wild theory rather than proven fact. CCS will be feted as ‘Clean Coal’, but it is a theory that is highly problematical, and you will hear endless reports about it in the coming future, but it will never be implemented on the large scale spoken of so confidently at the moment. Just watch as time after time you hear of delays and people saying just how close we are to a solution. The time will be needed to try and prove the theory, but the earliest it can be done will be thirty years away, and results will be needed long before that can be implemented, if at all.
No, you need to start right now, and ALL options need to be canvassed.
CHP is one that can be implemented a lot more quickly because the scale is so much smaller.

However, all of this is just academic. Remember that I mentioned the sting in the tail, well two stings really. In the next Post I’ll talk about those stings.