Staying Up To Date‎ > ‎Energy Use‎ > ‎

05. America Plugged In


2017-02-16. Tesla plugs big batteries into PG&E’s electric grid. By David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle.

2017-01-14. A Big Test for Big Batteries. By Diane Cardwell and Clifford Krauss, The New York Times.

2016-07-02. Diablo Canyon closure shows California’s power grid is changing fast. By David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle.

2016-01-14. Berkeley Lab Launches New Projects for Grid Modernization. By Jon Weiner, UC Berkeley News Center.

2015-04-18. Solar Power Battle Puts Hawaii at Forefront of Worldwide Changes. By Diane Cardwell, The New York Times.

2014-07-23. Texas Is Wired for Wind Power, and More Farms Plug In. Excerpt: PANHANDLE, Tex. ...turning wind into electricity is one thing; moving the energy to a profitable market is another. For years, the wind industry has been hampered by such a severe lack of transmission lines that when the wind is strong, a local power surplus forces some machines to be shut down. Now, Texas is out to change that by conducting a vast experiment that might hold lessons for the rest of the United States. This year, a sprawling network of new high-voltage power lines was completed, tying the panhandle area and West Texas to the millions of customers around Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and Houston. ...The project, its supporters say, is essential if states are ever to wean their reliance on fossil fuels and meet new federally mandated rules to reduce carbon emissions. ...By any standard, the scale is enormous. Anywhere else, a big transmission project is a few hundred miles long and costs a few hundred million dollars; this is a network of 3,600 miles built at a cost of $7 billion, which is more money than the whole country has spent on transmission in some recent years. ...in Texas, ...lawmakers have ordered an “if-you-build-it, they-will-come” approach. And it is working. “We’ve built it and they’re marching this way,” said Warren Lasher, the director of system planning at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the grid operator, citing plans for new wind farms. Encouraged by the new power lines and by federal tax credits that were available only to projects that broke ground by the end of last year, developers had started work on 7,000 megawatts of capacity by the end of 2013. ...The new lines are meant to handle up to 18,000 megawatts — millions of households.  ...The Panhandle 1 and Panhandle 2 wind farms cover two-thirds of the width of Carson County.... http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/24/business/energy-environment/texas-is-wired-for-wind-power-and-more-farms-plug-in.html. By Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times.

2013-12-23. Catching Rays in California, and Storing Them. Excerpt:  ...Solar power is growing so fast in California — with installations by customers increasing tenfold since 2006 — that it is turning the state’s power system upside down.  In a twist that is being closely watched by power companies around the country, California utilities will install massive banks of batteries and other devices to store the power surplus created by solar panels in the afternoon, when the sun’s rays are strong. The batteries are then to begin discharging power into California’s electric grid in the early evening, around sunset, when the solar generation of energy dies down but demand rises as millions of people get home and turn on air-conditioners, televisions and other electricity gobblers.  The new system is the opposite of an idea utilities have considered for years: Use batteries to store power at night from traditional sources, like natural gas and coal, and run them down in the peak heat of late afternoon. ...At the end of October, the [California Public Utilities Commission] ordered the utility companies it regulates to install some form of energy storage equipment — exactly what was not specified — in the first mandate of its kind in the country. A critical purpose of the storage is to allow generators, which in California run largely on natural gas, to keep operating in the late afternoon, when the output from solar panels eliminates the need for their electricity.... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/24/business/energy-environment/catching-some-rays-in-california-and-storing-them.html. Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times.

2013-12-20.  A Solar Boom So Successful, It's Been Halted. Excerpt: Photovoltaics proved so successful in Hawaii that the local utility, HECO, has instituted policies to block further expansion. ...Hawaiian Electric Co., or HECO, in September told solar contractors on Oahu that the island's solar boom is creating problems. On many circuits, the utility said, there's so much solar energy that it poses a threat to the system and a safety issue. Studies are needed on whether grid upgrades are necessary. If they are, residents adding solar must foot the bill. And starting immediately, contractors and residents would need permission to connect most small rooftop systems to the grid. ... The new struggle on Hawaii foreshadows what the rest of the country could face as solar moves closer to the mainstream, several involved in the debate said. ...Utilities in states with growing levels of solar have argued that fixed fees and other changes are needed because customers with net metering bill credits don't pay their fair share of transmission and distribution charges. The Golden State's Legislature has ordered the California Public Utilities Commission to retool NEM by 2015. The new program will need to be "based on electrical system costs and benefits to nonparticipating ratepayers."  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-boom-so-successfull-its-been-halted. Ann C. Mulkern, Scientific American Climate Wire.

2013-08-15.  Intermittent Nature of Green Power Is Challenge for Utilities. Excerpt: ...Last year, wind power was the most prevalent source of new energy capacity — 43 percent of overall generation installed — while its price neared an all-time low, according to a recent report for the Department of Energy by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. ...although the wind industry has been growing for decades, it is still relatively new at operating large-scale wind farms, so it is often only once a farm is up and running that some of the problems emerge, developers say. ...A number of factors can trigger curtailments in wind output, including reducing the danger to bats or birds flying around the spinning blades. But more commonly, regional grid managers, who must match demand and supply instantaneously, call for a reduction in wind power when more energy is produced than the system can safely transport, they say. .... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/15/business/energy-environment/intermittent-nature-of-green-power-is-challenge-for-utilities.html. Diane Cardwell, New York Times.

2013-08-01.  New Tools for Keeping the Lights On. Excerpt:  RENSSELAER, N.Y. — After the lights went out for 50 million people from the Northeast to the Midwest on Aug. 14, 2003, investigators found readings from two obscure instruments that would have given them an hour’s warning — plenty of time to solve the problem if the devices had been wired to provide a stream of critical data.  Now, a decade after the largest blackout in American history, engineers are installing and linking 1,000 of those instruments, called phasor measurement units, to try to prevent another catastrophic power failure. When the work is done, the engineers say, they will have a diagnostic tool that makes the old system seem like taking a patient’s pulse compared with running a continuous electrocardiogram. .... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/01/business/new-tools-for-keeping-the-lights-on.html. Matthew L. Wald, New York Times.

2013-07-27.  On Rooftops, a Rival for Utilities.   Excerpt:  For years, power companies have watched warily as solar panels have sprouted across the nation’s rooftops.  ...utility companies are moving to roll back government incentives aimed at promoting solar energy and other renewable sources of power. ...In Arizona, for example, the country’s second-largest solar market, the state’s largest utility is pressuring the Arizona Corporation Commission, which sets utility rates, to reconsider a generous residential credit and impose new fees on customers, months after the agency eliminated a commercial solar incentive. In North Carolina, Duke Energy is pushing to institute a new set of charges for solar customers as well. Nowhere, though, is the battle more heated than in California, home to the nation’s largest solar market and some of the most aggressive subsidies. ...At the heart of the fight is a credit system called net metering, which pays residential and commercial customers for excess renewable energy they sell back to utilities. ...Some keep the credit in line with the wholesale prices that utilities pay large power producers, which can be a few cents a kilowatt-hour. But in California, those payments are among the most generous because they are tied to the daytime retail rates customers pay for electricity, which include utility costs for maintaining the grid. ... “If the costs to maintain the grid are not being borne by some customers, then other customers have to bear a bigger and bigger portion,” said Steve Malnight, a vice president at Pacific Gas and Electric. “As those costs get shifted, that leads to higher and higher rates for customers who don’t take advantage of solar.”....  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/27/business/energy-environment/utilities-confront-fresh-threat-do-it-yourself-power.html. Diane Cardwell, New York Times.

2013-07-16.  Battery Seen as Way to Cut Heat-Related Power Losses.  Excerpt:  As scorching weather envelops the Northeast and the Midwest, electric utilities are scrambling to keep the power on while air-conditioners strain utilities’ capacity. ...several utilities...have signed up to fine-tune and test what they hope could lead to an answer — a battery half the size of a refrigerator from Eos Energy Storage, the company said Tuesday. If the testing goes well, the batteries hold the promise of providing storage that until now has been unaffordable on a large scale. ...Part of the appeal is economic: utilities could buy power from centralized plants during off-peak hours, when it is cheaper, and use it to feed the grid at peak hours when it is typically more expensive. ... Eos...battery relies on zinc, a relatively plentiful and cheap element. The company projects that its cost will be $160 a kilowatt-hour, and that it would provide electricity cheaper than a new gas power plant built to help fulfill periods of high demand, Eos executives said. Other battery technologies can range from $400 to about $1,000 a kilowatt-hour. “They’ve got a cost factor that makes it economically viable to use their batteries,” said Troy DeVries, director of research and development at Con Edison. He added that the batteries did not contain toxic chemicals, making them more appealing for use in a congested city like New York.... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/17/business/energy-environment/battery-seen-as-way-to-cut-heat-related-power-losses.html. Diane Cardwell, New York Times.

2013-May.  Getting a grip on the electrical grid. Excerpt: ...today’s electrical grids ...have become the focus of heated societal discussions [that] range from the analysis of large-scale blackouts to controls for renewable-energy integration and smart utilization of appliances.  ... physics largely determined the early evolution of electrical power systems. Nikola Tesla’s alternating-current designs were favored over Thomas Edison’s direct current.... In the US, the evolution culminated in several major grids..., the largest being the Eastern Interconnection, with approximately 40 000 nodes connected by some 50 000 transmission lines. ... grids are changing in significant ways—incorporating, for instance, time-intermittent wind and photovoltaic power in large-scale transmission grids and in consumer-scale distribution grids. ...Because transmission-grid dynamics have been dominated by large centralized generators in the past, distribution-grid dynamics have traditionally been ignored. Grid operators can no longer afford to do that. New consumer devices—for instance, electric clothes dryers that disconnect to reduce real power consumption when the grid frequency falls below a preset threshold, and smart photovoltaic inverters that can quickly respond to local voltage deviations by injecting or consuming reactive power—will produce dynamics with the potential to significantly affect the transmission grid. ...Large-scale electrical energy storage devices will potentially simplify grid operations by relaxing the need for instantaneous power delivery. Energy storage devices are expensive, though. What’s more, new algorithms are needed to optimally place and operate them to ensure the grid’s reliability. (See http://science.energy.gov/~/media/bes/pdf/reports/files/ees_rpt_print.pdf.) .... http://www.physicstoday.org/resource/1/phtoad/v66/i5/p42_s1. Scott Backhaus and Michael Chertkov, Physics Today, May 2013 issue, page 42.

2012 May 27. A Tiny Florida Outpost Divides Over Getting on the Power Grid. By Lizette Alvarez, The NY Times. Excerpt: No Name Key island has been riven by two warring camps of residents who have pleaded, sued, offended and, ultimately, turned their backs on each other in a fight over power, the kind that gets piped in by an electric company. At the heart of the 15-year battle is whether, after a lifetime of deriving electricity from solar power or generators or both, No Name Key should move into the last century and install power lines. This now looks increasingly inevitable. Barring one last-ditch court injunction, the island and its 43 houses could have public electricity for the first time by the end of August. As with so many protracted conflicts, this one is rooted in intangibles. What is the island’s identity? Should environmental purists prevail over pragmatists? Is it wrong to force conformity on homeowners?….

2010 October 12. Offshore Wind Power Line Wins Praise, and Backing. By Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times. Excerpt: ...Google and a New York financial firm have each agreed to invest heavily in a proposed $5 billion transmission backbone for future offshore wind farms along the Atlantic Seaboard that could ultimately transform the region’s electrical map....
...The system’s backbone cable, with a capacity of 6,000 megawatts, equal to the output of five large nuclear reactors, would run in shallow trenches on the seabed in federal waters 15 to 20 miles offshore, from northern New Jersey to Norfolk, Va. The notion would be to harvest energy from turbines in an area where the wind is strong but the hulking towers would barely be visible....

2010 June 22. Would a Push to Curb Carbon Really Reduce U.S. Dependence on Oil? By Anne C. Mulkern, The NY Times. Excerpt: ...Legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions largely targets electric utilities. Although it would affect oil refiners, economists said, proposed policies would trigger only minor fuel price increases, too small to alter how much people drive, whether they buy airline tickets or what kind of vehicles they purchase.
…Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in a June 7 Senate floor statement said the oil spill disaster "underscores our need for a new energy policy."
…"That means immediately refocusing our efforts on clean and renewable energy -- like the sun, the wind and geothermal energy -- improving energy efficiency and using more biofuels," Reid said, adding: "We need better options than oil, and we needed them yesterday."
…"You don't have a lot of options for reducing oil use significantly unless you're going to raise the price," said Alan Krupnick, co-director of Resources for the Future's Center on Energy Economics and Policy.
…The report says that the bill would cut imports "33 to 40 percent below current levels and 9 to 19 percent" below levels expected by 2030 without the bill. The analysis shows, however, that the Kerry-Lieberman bill would trim total U.S. petroleum consumption less than 6 percent by 2030 compared to without the bill in that year.
…Krupnick believes a tax on oil would be one of the most efficient ways to force down petroleum use. It would affect all of the oil products, he said.
…"If you raise the price of oil, that affects how much you drive," Krupnick said. "It affects the type of car you buy. It affects technological innovation. People see there is a profit to be made on how to save the use of oil."

2009 June 10. Building an Interstate Highway System for Energy. By Peter Fairley, Discover Magazine. Excerpt: President Obama plans to spend billions building it. General Electric is already running slick ads touting the technology behind it. And Greenpeace declares that it is a great idea. But what exactly is a “smart grid”? According to one big-picture description, it is much of what today’s power grid is not, and more of what it must become if the United States is to replace carbon-belching, coal-fired power with renewable energy generated from sun and wind.
Today’s power grids are designed for local delivery, linking customers in a given city or region to power plants relatively nearby. But local grids are ill-suited to distributing energy from the alternative sources of tomorrow. North America’s strongest winds, most intense sunlight, and hottest geothermal springs are largely concentrated in remote regions hundreds or thousands of miles from the big cities that need electricity most. “Half of the population in the United States lives within 100 miles of the coasts, but most of the wind resources lie between North Dakota and West Texas,” says Michael Heyeck, senior vice president for transmission at the utility giant American Electric Power....
Power engineers are already sketching the outlines of the next-generation electrical grid that will keep our homes and factories humming with clean—but fluctuating—renewable energy. The idea is to expand the grid from the top down by adding thousands of miles of robust new transmission lines, while enhancing communication from the bottom up with electronics enabling millions of homes and businesses to optimize their energy use....

2008 August 26. THE ENERGY CHALLENGE: Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid’s Limits. By MATTHEW L. WALD, The New York Times. Excerpt: When the builders of the Maple Ridge Wind farm spent $320 million to put nearly 200 wind turbines in upstate New York, the idea was to get paid for producing electricity. But at times, regional electric lines have been so congested that Maple Ridge has been forced to shut down even with a brisk wind blowing.
That is a symptom of a broad national problem. Expansive dreams about renewable energy...are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.
...The grid today, according to experts, is a system conceived 100 years ago to let utilities prop each other up, reducing blackouts and sharing power in small regions. It resembles a network of streets, avenues and country roads.
...While the United States today gets barely 1 percent of its electricity from wind turbines, many experts are starting to think that figure could hit 20 percent.
Achieving that would require moving large amounts of power over long distances, from the windy, lightly populated plains in the middle of the country to the coasts where many people live....
...The basic problem is that many transmission lines, and the connections between them, are simply too small for the amount of power companies would like to squeeze through them. The difficulty is most acute for long-distance transmission, but shows up at times even over distances of a few hundred miles.
...Wind advocates say that just two of the windiest states, North Dakota and South Dakota, could in principle generate half the nation’s electricity from turbines. But the way the national grid is configured, half the country would have to move to the Dakotas in order to use the power.
“We still have a third-world grid,” Mr. Richardson said, repeating a comment he has made several times. “With the federal government not investing, not setting good regulatory mechanisms, and basically taking a back seat on everything except drilling and fossil fuels, the grid has not been modernized, especially for wind energy.”

January 2008. Souping Up Superconductors. by Kathleen M. Wong. Excerpt: Imagine a world where electricity was virtually free and the means to store it limitless. Alessandra Lanzara, a Berkeley professor of physics, sees a way to reach this goal: by restringing the power grid with high temperature superconductors. "There is a lot of waste getting electricity from its production site to your home. This is because materials that carry a current have resistivity; their conduction isn't perfect," Lanzara says. Superconductors, on the other hand, can transmit a current without loss when chilled below a critical temperature. Power lines made of superconductors, Lanzara argues, could retain the energy now lost to waste, drastically increasing the amount available for use and decreasing its cost. Superconductors can also hold a current indefinitely without any loss of power, making them ideal for storing intermittent energy from sources like the sun. There is a catch, however-the expense of keeping power lines cold largely offsets any gains in energy efficiency. The first superconductor, discovered in 1911, operated at a phenomenally cold -269 degrees Celsius. Since then, scientists have hit upon so-called high temperature superconductors. Made of ceramics mixed with other elements such as copper and oxygen, these materials must still be chilled to below -140 degrees Celsius to conduct electricity freely. ...A superconductor's remarkable properties derive from the flow of electrons within it. Lanzara observes this movement in superconductors using a technique called photoemission spectroscopy. Using light, she excites electrons to emerge from her sample. By mapping the angles and velocities of exiting electrons, Lanzara can deduce how they were moving inside each material. Under normal conditions, electrons are negatively charged and should repel one another. But when a metallic superconductor drops below a critical temperature, its electrons suddenly begin traveling in pairs. The movement of these particles is akin to two bowling balls rolling across a mattress. The first electron deforms the energetic space through which electrons travel. This makes a second electron following close behind likely to follow the same path. In traditional superconductors, the mattress effect can be identified by the atomic vibrations, or phonons, it triggers.
"The big question is whether this mattress effect is still at work in
the new ceramic superconductors," Lanzara says.....

26 June 2007. U.S. Is Creating 3 Centers For Research on Biofuels. The New York Times. By Matthew L. Wald.Excerpt: Energy Department is creating three bioenergy research centers to find new ways to turn plants into fuel; three centers, which department describes as three start-up companies with $125 million each in capital, will be in Oak Ridge, Tenn, Madison, Wis, and near Berkeley, Calif; they will involve numerous universities, national laboratories and private companies; goal of centers is to bring new technologies to market within five years; new approach supports Pres Bush's goal of reducing gasoline consumption by 20 percent in 10 years; centers will focus on finding naturally occurring microbes that can break down lignin, component of plants and trees, to give access to material inside, called cellulose…

2006

24 August 2006. Preliminary Draft Energy Corridor Map Comments Available. http://corridoreis.anl.gov/news/index.cfm
Energy Corridors may accommodate multiple pipelines (such as for oil, gas, or hydrogen), electricity transmission lines, and related infrastructure, such as access and maintenance roads, compressors, pumping stations, and other structures. See also http://corridoreis.anl.gov/guide/basics/index.cfm


2005

May 2005. Physics Today Letters. Ideas Generated for Transforming the Electric Infrastructure. Clark Gellings and Kurt Yeager, in their article "Transforming the Electric Infrastructure" (PHYSICS TODAY, December 2004, page 45), propose "distributed energy resources" as part of the solution to transforming and modernizing the electric power infrastructure. They recommend "small generation and storage devices distributed throughout" the system, but suggest only "fuel cells and batteries" and offer no details of how the cells and batteries could be created economically or how they would be integrated. Much more appropriate devices already exist and are currently proliferating-namely, hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius. Although nominally designed as transportation, hybrid vehicles normally perform that function for only an hour or so per day. The rest of the time they are small standby generator plants. With their capacious batteries, they could supply tens of kilowatts of instantaneous power to cover peak demands for electricity. The continuous power output of hybrids is several kilowatts, commensurate with the power required not just to drive down the highway but also to run a house.
...We're all accustomed to the necessity of installing an uninterruptible power source for each computer. Maybe it's time to consider installing a UPS for the house as well.
Richard Factor (rcf@eventide.com), Eventide Inc., Little Ferry, New Jersey

________________________________________
...Now, however, the relatively tiny 250-kW molten-carbonate fuel cell is more efficient than even the largest central station, particularly when transmission and distribution losses are taken into account and the high price of natural gas relative to coal makes gas no longer as useful for generating base-load energy. ...With mass production, fuel cells' hardware cost will drop dramatically, perhaps 20% with each doubling of production, and the full fuel-cell energy cost-including the costs of both fuel and hardware-will become competitive with that of central-station power from the grid. Moreover, apart from their cost advantages, fuel cells can provide highly reliable power. They can cut toxic pollution emissions by some 99% and greenhouse gases by a lower percentage, and can do away with the transmission lines snaking through wilderness or through Connecticut suburbs. ...I think that distributed generation with fuel cells will likely be the direction that our power supply will take for the future. Reference 1. For more information, see W. E. Brand, three-part article in EV World. See part 1 at http://evworld.com/view.cfm?section=article&storyid=587, part 2 at =594, and part 3 at =595. Wallace E. Brand (webrand{at}earthlink.net) Alexandria, Virginia
________________________________________
Gellings and Yeager reply: We thank Wallace Brand and Richard Factor for providing additional insights about the electric infrastructure. ...The solution to our electric energy needs may include fuel cells-but realistically it will also require increasing the utilization efficiency of electricity and use of advanced nuclear reactors, cleaner combined-cycle coal combustion, and renewable energy resources. Adapting hybrid vehicles to become plug-in hybrid vehicles is an exciting potential way to reduce overall energy needs even further, reduce emissions, and provide the lowest vehicle life-cycle costs to consumers. Several such vehicle configurations are being demonstrated in the US and Europe. Clark Gellings (cgelling{at}epri.com), Kurt Yeager, Electric Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, California


2004

Dec 2004. Transforming the Electric Infrastructure. Clark W. Gellings and Kurt E. Yeager. If the electric power grid is to meet 21st-century demands, society will need to invest in extensive modernization -- Physics Today Article.

 
Aug 15. 2002 BERKELEY, CA. Magnesium diboride (MgB2) becomes superconducting at 39 degrees Kelvin, one of the highest known transition temperatures (Tc) of any superconductor. What's more, its puzzling characteristics include more than one superconducting energy gap, a state of affairs anticipated in theory but never before seen experimentally.

Magnesium diboride, MgB2


Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields -- Studies
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the Department of Energy (DOE) program:Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF) Research and Public Information Dissemination (RAPID)
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)
Electromagnetic Fields and the Risk of Cancer: Report of an Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation
Electromagnetic Fields and Neurodegenerative Disease: Report of an Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation
California Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF) Program
An Evaluation of the Possible Risks From Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMFs) From Power Lines, Internal Wiring, Electrical Occupations and Appliances
California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Web Site for Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF)
Superconductors



 

This page has articles from 2002–present

Non-chronological links:

Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields