Owner, Green Bay Packers
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: SW Michigan
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Energy storage is an obvious problem with most alternative energy sources. We all know the problems with battery storage. One of the nuclear power plants on the west coast of Michigan has an innovative idea that might lend itself to alternative energy as well.
The plant has an optimum operational range wherein it is most efficient. ideally one would like to run in that range continuously but the demands for power have peaks and valleys. What is done at this plant, along the lakeshore, is use the excess power to run pumps. Water in pumped many miles north to a huge man made lake where it is stored. When energy demands rise the flow is reversed and the water flows south where it turns turbines to generate additional power.
The obvious benefit is that you need a proportionally smaller power plant that you are able to run at peak efficiency continuously.
A note on conservation. It doesn't work. I should say that it doesn't work on other than a personal basis. It sounds great as a plan and yes, I'm one of those types who is always turning off the lights and see's no reason why a five foot sixteen year old girl needs more than 7 minutes in the shower once a day to complete her ablutions. (I thought five minutes appropriate but the energy czar was feeling particularly beneficent towards the daughter the day that regulation was drawn up.) I'd add, as a personal note, if you do not have a programmable thermostat on your furnace you're really missing out on some savings. They even come in versions that will lie. You can adjust the stat so that it will display 80 degrees when it's 75, so grandma "feels" warmer.
The history of energy consumption is that when products become more efficient, people use more of them. Fuel efficient cars in the 1970's through the 1980's are a case in point. There was a dip in miles driven in the seventies, along with increased car-pooling. Once energy efficient cars arrived, the miles driven not only went back up, it climbed even more rapidly. The same is true in water usage. As a water well driller I can tell you that the demand for residential water volume continues to climb each year. Low capacity toilets and water outlet restrictors have done nothing to decrease the overall water used. I've heard of a study done in an Iowa town where they installed energy efficient light bulbs in 50% of the towns houses and energy consumption actually went up. People spend the savings in increased usage whether it's water or energy. Homes are increasingly run with either the windows never opened or even no provision for opening the windows. Actual usage in homes that wouldn't have even had air-conditioning equipment 30 years ago is to run heat in the winter and transition into a/c immediately, with some homes running both systems within the same day. it's far more common than you'd think. That's why I say "conservation" doesn't work. What does?
Well, the market does. The only thing that will reduce energy consumption is cost. I live on the "Dutch" side of my street. My neighbor across the street must not share my cultural leanings. His a/c system runs all summer long. I do not have an a/c system, even though I work for a company that has a whole division devoted to heating and cooling. I could get a deal. I thought of installing a/c but I found that the trees I planted 15 years ago have taken me out of the market. I now enjoy enough shade that there are only a few days a year where I'd want a/c. I bought a window shaker unit some three years ago and have used it for one week, during one summer, since purchase. It's in the garage if Al Gore turns out to be right. The reason I did not take my company up on "the deal" is that I could envision my family using it when they were "uncomfortable", ie...if we had it we'd use it. I decided to save not only the capital cost but reap the energy savings as well. My neighbor built his house and what trees that weren't cut down during building he removed afterwards, for reasons that escape me. What will cause him to shut the a/c down and open a window? Cost, nothing less.
Everybody is in favor of energy conservation, particularly someone else's energy conservation. Mandating it though is a wrong headed policy. Let the market do it. As stated in an earlier post, you're not going to see much in the way of nukes or wind farms until the cost of energy rises to overcome public opposition. It'd be nice to think that we could centrally plan a wind farm or nuclear plant evey so many square miles but that's not how the market or the real world works. If certain areas are demonstrably superior for wind generation, wind generation will happen when the price of the energy supplied reaches a level where the acquisition of the land is such that the current owners cannot afford not to sell. Nothing else really works on a societal scale.
“Scientists are people who build the Brooklyn Bridge and then buy it.”
Wm. F. Buckley, Jr.