Tag Archives: electricity

Friday Linkage 4/14/2017

Presidents, by the very nature of being one who seeks the presidency, are creatures with massive egos.  However, the current president—who was the loser in terms of the popular vote lest we forget our recent history—has to be one of the most egocentric human beings to ever inhabit the office.  If you take a moment to listen to his interviews or read his tweets, which may lead to a little bit of vomit coming into your mouth, you see someone driven by the need to be the center of everything.  Humility is not something that this man brings to the office.  Ugh…how many more days of this do we have?

Oh right, it’s only 3 years 9 months and 7 days until the next president takes office.  But who is counting?

On to the links…

The Latest Test for the White House? Pulling off its Easter Egg Roll—Not even capable of pulling off the annual Easter Egg Roll.  Sad.

Land Transfer Advocates Steer their Focus to Monuments—This issue demands constant vigilance by advocates of public lands, which thankfully has allied some strange bedfellows in hunters, watermen, skiers, hikers, etc. over the past few months.  Nonetheless, clowns like Orrin Hatch and Jason Chaffetz—seriously, is there something in Utah’s water—are going to push the boundaries until they appease their masters.

EPA Ending Program to Prepare for Climate Change—Scott Pruitt will go down in history as one of the villains of the Anthropocene.  When the history is written by our children and grandchildren he will be remembered as a corporate shill more interested in lining the pockets of his Koch-backed overlords than preserving the environment for the people of the United States.

The De-Electrification of the U.S. Economy—I would not go quite as far as the author suggests, but there are promising trends in the decoupling of electricity consumption and economic activity.

More Subsidies than You Think Influence the Cost of Electricity—Our electricity generation and distribution system is a mess.  Subsidies are one reason why because the price we pay—assuming we even know what the price is per kilowatt hour—is distorted by a plethora of subsidies.

California’s Rising Solar Generation Coincides With Negative Wholesale Electricity Prices—Check out these two charts:


Distributed solar is huge—or is it yuge?—in California.

Washington State’s New 8 Megawatt-Hour Flow Battery is the Largest of its Kind—A big problem with renewables is variability and alignment with demand.  Take solar.  It’s production peaks right before the big demand peak from people coming home from work.  It’s the so-called duck curve.  Flow batteries are promising as a technology to deploy grid level energy storage for managing this mismatch.

Kentucky Coal Mining Museum Installs Solar—It’s not April Fool’s Day.  It’s just reality.

Appalachia’s New Trail: Finding Life after Coal—Appalachia, which is an odd way to define a fairly diverse region, has struggled economically since its settlement.  It is not conducive to industry and it has been used a pawn in politics for almost as long as there have been political parties in the U.S.  It’s residents have been abused by corporations claiming to act in their interests and governments forget about the region except every four years.

When Solar Panels Became Job Killers—China’s policies have created an economic situation where the price of solar panels has been driven artificially low.  This has led to a lot of non-Chinese companies being unable to compete with cheap Chinese solar panels.

SolarCity Will Begin Accepting SolarRoof Orders This Month—I really want some of these on my roof.

Making American Hydropower Great Again—Nobody is suggesting building new dams, but retrofitting older dams with new technology could lead to an increase in the available hydropower in the United States.  Hydro is clean, base load power that we need to help even out the differences between peak production and peak demand.

The Best Way to Restore Environments in the Face of Climate Change—Restoration ecology is going to be a major theme of the next few decades as we look to repair the damage that we have caused.  Best practices need to be figured out and shared as broadly as possible.

Rising Salt Levels Threaten Twin Cities Lakes by 2050—There is so much salt runoff from winter road salt that urban lakes will likely by devoid of fish because of rising salinity within our lifetimes.  As if we have not screwed up the planet enough.

New Sharing Depot Opening Reflects Success of Toronto’s Library of Things Movement—I want this to be the future.  Do I really need to own half or more of the tools I use once or twice year?  No.  Why does every house in a suburban neighborhood own their own lawn mower that gets used for an hour or so each weekend?  What a waste.  Sharing is caring, folks.

Friday Linkage 7/10/2015

Man, it feels like fall around here right now. It is just about perfect for a summer in Iowa. Global warming be damned.

On to the links…

All of the World’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions in one Awesome Interactive Pie Chart—This pie chart is pretty freaking amazing.

Free the Snake: Restoring America’s Greatest Salmon River—If you have watched the documentary DamNation you need to watch this short about the Snake River.

Marijuana Growing Spikes Denver Electricity Demand—This might be the one downside to marijuana legalization in Denver. It’s not really sustainable to grow something inside under artificial lights. Maybe a new generation of growers using greenhouses instead of grow rooms can change the paradigm.

How The Oil Industry Got Two Regulators Fired For Doing Their Jobs—If you think that the government can actually regulate oil and gas companies you need to realize the power that these companies wield.

How Solar Power Is Learning To Share: The Rapid Growth Of Community Solar Gardens—Community solar is kicking ass. It will probably become a talking point for right wingers because the word community is too close to communism for their brains to handle. Too bad people like it a lot. Kind of like Obamacare.

White House Plans Rooftop Solar Panel Initiative for Inner-City Neighborhoods—Solar is generally something enjoyed and employed by the relatively well-off. Solar leasing changes this to a degree, but a lot of people are left out of the benefits. Here is an effort to change that dynamic.

Solar In New York State Grew 300% From 2011-2014—Think about that growth rate for a moment. Anything that grows that fast is amazing.

Billionaire On Way To Building Largest Wind Farm In North America… And It’s Not Warren Buffett—Philip Anschutz is a name you will be familiar with if you spend any time in Colorado or Wyoming. The billionaire is now building a pair of windfarms with the capacity to generate some 3,000 megawatts of clean power. The irony is that the facilities are located in Carbon County, Wyoming.

Kenya’s New Wind Farm Will Provide Nearly One Fifth Of The Country’s Power—Granted, Kenya’s electricity demands are nothing like the U.S. or other developed Western countries, but one-fifth of a nation’s power coming from the wind is pretty sweet.

Belize Going 100% Renewables As Part Of 10 Island Challenge—How come Belize can make this kind of commitment and we in the U.S. cannot make the same kind of effort?

Alaska’s on Fire and It May Make Climate Change Even Worse—Great. Alaska is on fire and the carbon release is going to make climate change worse. Awesome.

Walmart Website Riddled with Deceptive Made in USA Claims—Walmart lies. Big surprise.

Urban Farmers: Community Food Growing around the World – In Pictures—Urban farms, like community solar, are hot right now. But these gardeners have nothing on the urban farming of Cuba. I have seen these operations in person and some are truly impressive.

Friday Linkage 7/19/2013

The heat was just brutal this week.  Storms look to be on the horizon for Friday and the heat looks like it is going to “break” over the weekend.

On to the links…

The Anti-Science Climate Denier Caucus Infogaphic—Follow the money:


Keystone XL would Raise Gas Prices—So, how many lies and falsehoods are people willing to accept when it comes to the story surrounding Keystone XL?  This pipeline is like the gift that keeps on giving in terms of underhanded and devious play on the part of its backers.

Ideas to Bolster Power Grid Run Up Against the System’s Many Owners—Our electricity grid is a shambles because it is fractured along so many lines with so many competing interests at play.  A truly modern grid, however, is probably a pipe dream because of that dynamic.

Next Generation Wind Turbines With Storage Are Cheap, Reliable And Brilliant—Well, if our grid is going to remain dumb and outdated at least the wind turbines that are connected to the grid can be smart.  Each advancement in renewable energy brings the day closer when we will wonder why we even bothered with coal in the first place.

Xcel Energy to Boost Wind Power in Upper Midwest by 33 Percent—Lost in the headline is the statement that the utility believes the introduction of more wind power generation will save consumers in excess of $180M over the lives of the projects.  So, it’s not just a “green” play anymore.  It’s the smart money play as well.

Is Solar Cheaper than Grid Electricity? Yes and No—Here’s the thing, getting down to what is the “true” price of any electricity, regardless of generation method, is damn near impossible because of subsidies and externalities.  At the end of the day, the moral of the story, is that solar is getting cheaper every day.

Wind At Parity With New Coal In India, Solar To Join By 2018—I remember listening to someone say that the price of solar and wind in the U.S. was almost irrelevant because it was the China or India price that mattered.  Guess what?  The renewables are already at the India price.

China Plans a Major Solar Buying Spree—Speaking of China.  It looks the Chinese government is going to try and erase the glut in solar panel supplies by massively expanding its capability to generate power from the sun.  Dig it.

In Los Angeles, Developer are Building Small Homes on Tiny Lots—I read this whole article thinking, “It’s called supply and demand.  Why are we surprised?”  People do not want to spend the better part of several hours in a car to get the simplest tasks done anymore.  Developers will have to accommodate that desire if they want to sell houses.  End of story.

$10 LED Bulbs

Do you remember when Republican candidates for president were all up in arms about the efforts to phase out the use of incandescent bulbs because the technology is outmoded and inefficient?  Yeah, I kind of forgot about that when Mitt Romney failed to get more than 47% of the popular vote.

LED light bulbs for residential use have come a long way.  It was only a couple of years ago when poor performing models costing more than $50 were the norm.  Now the market is full of well performing bulbs that cost much less.  The race seems to be on to have this technology replace both the mythologized incandescent and the somewhat reviled CFL.

In this week’s Menard’s flyer, there was a sale on a medium or Edison base LED light bulb intended to replace a 60 watt incandescent.  The bulb only cost $10 and there was no rebate or other gimmick to get that price.  How could I pass this opportunity up?

Meridian Bulb


I had never heard of Meridian Electric, but for $10 it seemed like a chance that was worth taking.

The bulb conforms to many of the design conventions of modern LED bulbs:

Bare Bulb

That is to say it looks a lot like a regular incandescent bulb in terms of shape with the heat sink replicating the gentle curve toward the screw in base.  It’s unlike the Phillips LED that I have had in my kitchen for some time now.

The bulb’s output is hardly omni-directional.  It does output a nice light in an approximate half sphere, so this is better suited to an application where the direction of light does not need to reach back toward the base.  In a light fixture with frosted glass enclosures meant to look like candles it appeared as if there was no light in the bottom two thirds of the glass enclosure, which looked kind of silly.

Nonetheless, for $10 this bulb makes it easy to replace the incandescents and CFLs in your house as each fails.

So, You Say You Want a Revolution?

Although the pilot episode for NBC’s new series Revolution has been online for some time I waited until it was broadcast so that I could watch it in high definition.  Is it ironic that I wanted to watch a show about the absence of technology in the highest quality possible?  I digress…

Putting aside for a moment that physics of what happened—all electricity ceases to be apparently, but mechanical processes continue except for some home brewed computer in a dusty attic—I have one question for the show runners: Where do I find a Lululemon after the apocalypse?

The show is supposed to be set fifteen years after the apparent disappearance of all electricity—no word on lightning—and people are looking fabulous.  Maybe there is an Ulta somewhere as well.  No, really, how does a guy’s AC/DC cotton t-shirt manage to survive for fifteen years without becoming a rotten shell?  If I wear a t-shirt in hot weather or working and it is lucky to make it a year or more, but these kids have skinny jeans, fitted tank tops, and cropped jackets.  Never mind the unbuckled or laced boots…you would not want the reality of turning an ankle get in the way of looking rakish.

Needless to say, I am disappointed by another tepid network television attempt at reimagining what human civilization would be like if we had a fundamental change forced upon us.  I am okay with jumping into things fifteen years down the road—spare me the horror of the first few nights, although at least someone understood to eat all of the ice cream the night of the event because it would be gone soon—and I understand that the first episode needs to have enough “juice” to get people interested so that will come back for episode two.  However, do we really need to turn this into Action and Adventure Post Apocalypse midway through the first episode?  For all of the changes that are supposed to have taken place people are still acting pretty stupid and still managing to find ways to kill each other pretty easily.

I have a lot of quibbles with the show the least of which is people inhabiting a semi-flooded downtown Chicago.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but standing water is a breeding ground for disease which is something that the area had a problem with until the swamps were drained.  You might want to have people live where the water runs clear and the ground does not squish when you walk.

Another thing, one of the characters—a former executive at Google—is still relatively fat.  If people had to go from being typical Americans in the 21st century to 21st century Americans living with 18th century technology I have to imagine that people would have gotten thin pretty fast.  Take a deficit in cheap calories and subtract a lot of hard work nets you people who do not have to worry about a high BMI.

This series is likely to degenerate into a quest to “turn the lights back on” and fail to explore the premise of what would happen if someone turned off the power.  It’s a shame because that sounds like fertile ground for a lot of plots.

At least S.M. Stirling does not need to feel too bad about this series because it is doubtful that it will be around long enough for people to start making comparison to his Emberverse series.

Electricity Rates on the Rise

The infographic from One Block Off the Grid  highlights why I worry about my household’s electricity usage.  Granted, as I pointed out in an earlier post, my household, on average, uses a lot less electricity than even the lowest state’s per household amount.  However, resiliency, in my opinion, is about reducing my exposure to the almost guaranteed increase in the cost of electricity that is to come in the future.

Another reason to be concerned about your household’s electricity use is the growth in natural gas as a generation fuel and the continued use of coal.

Coal’s problems are well established.  No matter how cleanly it is burned, coal is a dirty fuel.  From mining through to combustion the list of problems is long.  Whether it is mountain top removal or bad practices at mining companies or mercury or soot or some other pollutant, coal is a bad actor when it comes to energy.  It’s cheap and the U.S. has a lot of coal, but that does mean we should be burning the stuff.

Natural gas seems like the better choice.  It’s cleaner than coal on almost all fronts—although its clear superiority has been challenged as of late.  However, hydraulic fracturing or fracking has come to the forefront as a concern.  The U.S. is entering a so-called “golden age of natural gas” as fracking has opened up huge deposits of gas as viable operations across the country.  The growth in gas production is starting to rearrange the entire energy infrastructure as coal is replaced en masse for energy generation and the petrochemical industry gears up to take advantage of this new found bounty.

But the environmental concerns are legion.  The process of fracking is suspected in the poisoning of sub-surface water and the wastewater from the operations sits in polluted lagoons waiting to cause a problem.  Don’t think vast pools of wastewater are a problem?  Just ask people affected by the coal ash disaster in Tennessee or residents near manure lagoons after a flash flood.  It’s as nasty as it sounds.

But, if everyone used less electricity—that oh so dreaded concept of efficiency—there would be less need for any kind of electrical generation.  Furthermore, the percentage of the total generation regime that renewables accounts for could increase because polluting sources like coal and natural gas plants could be taken off line or reserved for peak load moments.

Distributed generation, e.g. photovoltaic systems on residential rooftops, figures into this equation greatly because it places electricity generation near the loads.  In some regions solar PV dovetails nicely with peak demand because the prime solar generation hours coincide with the hottest times of the day and, therefore, with peak demand for things like refrigeration or air conditioning.

Then again, this all just sounds like hippie utopian thinking.  Damn Ecotopia! 

Thinking About Home Electricity Consumption

When my monthly bill from my electricity provider came in the mail I started wondering about my household’s electricity usage in comparison to national averages.  I do not really know why I started thinking about this topic now, but it sparked some investigative desire in my brain.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2010 the average residential utility customer used 11,496 kWh for the entire year or 958 kWh per month.  Tennessee had the highest rate at 16,716 kWh per month and Maine had the lowest at 6,252 kWh per month.

So, at the low end—Maine in this example—the average household electricity usage per month is 521 kWh per month.  How does my household compare?

According to my monthly electric bill the rolling 12 month average for my home is 434 kWh.  Huh?  How is it possible that I have a lower monthly electricity usage than the lowest state average?  I always thought that we were trying to be judicious about electricity usage—turning off lights when possible, etc.—but this almost feels comical.

This number may seem artificially low for a household of over 3,000 square feet and four people, albeit with two children under the age of 5.  Consider this for a moment; both the range and clothes dryer are electric.  Therefore, I have not deferred some of the energy cost of these appliances to natural gas and depressed my average monthly electricity usage.  We have a large refrigerator and a chest freezer in the basement for the long term frozen food storage.  There are two LCD televisions with DIRECTV receivers—a notorious user of standby power—in the house as well.

Furthermore, I live in Iowa which sees some very extreme temperatures.  In the winter, electricity usage rises because the furnace blower is being used to keep warm air circulating through the home.  Granted, I keep the home at an average of 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.  In the summer, the temperatures easily reach into the 90s and the humidity can be brutal so air conditioning gets used a lot more than other areas.

We have taken care of the easy things—replacing incandescent bulbs with CFL or LED bulbs, drying only full loads of clothes, running the dishwasher only when it is full, etc.—so now I am going to have to look harder for energy savings.  Going forward, I am looking to reduce the average monthly usage figure to something below 400 kWh per month.  Therefore, I need to find an annual savings of approximately 408 kWh—34 kWh for 12 months—to reach my new goal.

The first step in this process is going after the vampire loads throughout the house.