Tag Archives: infrastructure

Demand Destruction from Home

Demand destruction is what coal mining companies, utilities, and anyone who benefits from a centrally controlled power grid dreads.  Why?  Demand destruction represents an existential threat to the entire business model of these entities.

Consider the state of Iowa’s electricity generation mix and my recently installed solar photovoltaic system.  Iowa’s electricity generation mix breaks down like this for April of 2017:

Iowa Energy Chart.gif

In Iowa non-hydroelectric renewables usually equals wind given the relatively low penetration of solar photovoltaic generation.  Another caveat is that the wind tends to blow strongly in the spring and demand for electricity has not spiked with the onset of the summer air conditioning season.

Now consider the impact of a solar photovoltaic system, mine or someone else’s.  When that demand leaves the grid, so to speak, what generation sources do you think will be curtailed?  In order I think it would be coal, nuclear, natural gas, and finally wind.  Why?  Wind turbines do not have a recurring fuel cost, so the cost to retire them does not include a perpetuity of fuel cost baked in which can be a significant driver for an asset with a long life.

In other terms, do you keep generating power by paying to burn a fuel or just harvest the wind for free?  In business school the number one lesson I learned in marketing was to not compete with free.  You will lose every time.

So, as demand disappears from the grid as a result of distributed residential solar the traditional fossil fuel sources are forced to compete with installed and cheap wind power for a dwindling number of customers.  I exaggerate to some degree to get the point across, but in Iowa this may not be such a moot point given the plans for wind power development in the next three years.

Depending upon how you measure it Iowa has more than 6,900 megawatts of wind power providing anywhere from 35% to 40% of the state’s electricity.  This is great news in and of itself, but the state’s two major utilities—MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy—have announced investments for an additional 3,000 megawatts or more by 2020.  Just with these additions—barring any additional activity by other energy players—would bring Iowa nearly 10,000 megawatts of wind power and give the state the capacity to produce more than 50% of its electricity from the wind.  This is without a significant portion of the state’s electricity demand being displaced by distributed residential solar or energy efficiency.

As you can see from the chart that when the wind blows heavily, which it tends to do in the spring, wind is already the largest source of electricity generation in the state.  That trend was true for February, March, and April of 2017. This is only going to grow in the future.

Our homes can be the drivers of change for a cleaner and greener world.

Friday Linkage 2/27/2015

February is almost in the books, but with about five inches of snow on the ground and more forecast over the next few days we should have good skiing into March. Just enough outdoor adventure to bridge until spring break.

On to the links…

Majority Of Republican Primary Voters Want To Violate The First Amendment—For people who tap little pocket copies of the Constitution every time they talk about President Obama, these clowns are pretty ignorant of the basic tenants of the document that they claim to hold so dear. Let me help them:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I do not think that the original intent of that amendment is very hard to interpret.  Even if your brain has been addled by countless hours of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Noted Climate Contrarian in Hot Water—Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, a noted climate change denier, has been completely “outed” as a shill for the fossil fuel industry as details of the big bucks funneled his way have come to light. Granted, truth and objectivity have never been traits the extreme right wing has looked for in its pundits.

Himalayan Ice Shows Chemicals Ban is Working—Stopping the distribution of these chemicals is a good thing. Science, the bugaboo of the right wing, works.

Wind Produced 10 Percent of Texas Electricity in 2014—Wow, 10% of Texas’—yes, Texas—electricity came from wind. Now, it’s a far cry from Iowa’s over 27% wind power percentage but we will cut them a little slack.

Wind Power Hits Record High In China’s Coal Hub—Usually when I comment about China it’s about dirty air or failed expectations, but this is good news. Shanxi is a polluted mess, but maybe things can be turned around with enough effort to deploy renewables.

India’s Air Pollution Is Cutting 3 Years Off The Lives Of Its Residents—Here is what is going to drive change in countries like India and China with regard to pollution. People will no longer accept ridiculous pollution as a prerequisite of development.

Diesel Braces For An Avalanche Of Solar Water Pumps—Solar is just awesome.

An Innovative Congestion Charge That Could Help Fix Our Crumbling Infrastructure—U.S. infrastructure is screwed right now. It’s in bad shape and national politicians have no plans to address the situation. At the state level things look a little better—heck, Iowa just passed a gas tax increase to address the shortfall in road repair revenue—but solutions are needed to bring in more revenue.

Despite Low Gas Prices, Car Buyers Still Want Higher-MPG Vehicles—People understand that today’s low gas prices will likely be gone by summer, but a vehicle is a choice you have to live with for years. No one should buy an SUV expecting sub-$2 gas for anything longer than a week or two.

Proterra’s New Electric Bus can go 180 Miles Between Charges—I do not know what the average daily mileage is for a city bus, but this is an interesting development.

Cow Manure to Ethanol Plant Switches On in California’s San Joaquin Valley—Why not? I would totally fill the tank with some ethanol from cow shit.

Is the Junk-Food Era Drawing to a Close?—The government is finally coming around to the evils of added sugar and people are voting with their wallets.

Pol: Spy On Food Stamp Users to Make Sure They’re Acting Poor Enough—Glenn Grothman is just the worst. The absolute worst this side of Steve King. Steve King is really the worst.

Could Hops Help Fight Cancer?—Maybe that dry-hopped IPA is more than just a palate wrecker on a Friday night. Maybe it’s medicine. Dig it.

Chickens Help Small Brewery Dispose of Used Grain—I have imbibed at Lion Bridge more than once, so I have helped to feed these chickens.

Friday Linkage 6/20/2014

Kind of an odd week. I was busy, kids activities on three of five weekdays, but I cannot really point to anything else that sucked up my time. Yet, I am sitting here on Friday wondering where the time went. Interesting.

On to the links…

Obama To Dramatically Increase Pacific Ocean Marine Sanctuary—Hell yes. The U.S. may be maligned for many things, but our system of national parks and monuments is second to none. This one move will more than double the area protected oceans across the globe. At times liberals and progressives are frustrated with President Obama because he appears to be cool to their concerns. However, when the final accounting of history is done I believe that his presidency will be looked upon favorably by the left.

Power Plant Limits Prompt War Of Stats As States Prepare To Take On Clean Up—Like Obamacare before it, the new power plant regulations set down by the EPA at the president’s direction are going to get a lot of attention from publicity seeking Republican officials in red states. Count on it.

Obama’s New Emission Rules: Will They Survive Challenges?—The irony to any legal challenge will be that the Supreme Court set the stage for the regulations by saying that the EPA had the authority to regulate CO2 as a pollutant. In some ways the legal challenge has already been made and it failed.

Coal’s Share of Energy Market at Highest Level since 1970—Here is why the emissions rules are important. Without any action nations will continue to burn coal willy nilly until the planet is fried.

Despite Heat, Low Electricity Prices In Texas Show How Wind Is Good For Consumers—Wind generation peaked with the heat and offset the increased demand for electricity. Huh, seems like a pretty compelling case for expanding wind power.

Texas Utility Doubles Large-Scale Solar, Says It Will Be Coal-Free By 2016—Solar has to be hitting its stride when even Texas is getting in on the game. Granted, going coal free is not the same as going carbon neutral as a lot of the coal capacity is being taken up by natural gas. Baby steps.

Germany Breaks 3 Solar Power Records in 2 Weeks—Just reading about how much solar is deployed in Germany makes me wonder what the U.S. would be like if Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, and California deployed solar to the same degree.

5 Unexpected Countries that are Leading the Way on Renewable Energy—Sometimes we forget that there are a lot of other countries out there making a lot of progress on renewable energy that might not get the attention of the U.S. or Germany or Japan.

Cable TV Boxes Become 2nd Biggest Energy Users in Many Homes—As if we needed another reason to cancel our television subscriptions and call it a day. Just sitting there all day long these shelf trolls are sucking down electricity at a rate that rivals any other electronic device in our home save for the refrigerator.

From Untended Farmland, Reserve Tries to Recreate Wilderness from Long Ago—With so much of our landscape affected by humans it is time to restore some of that landscape to a more natural state. I always think of the idea of the “Buffalo Commons” when I read about efforts like this in Europe.

The Whole City of Florence can Fit in One Atlanta Cloverleaf—If you want to be amazed by the amount of sprawl in America just look at this comparison. Damn.

What’s Up With That: Building Bigger Roads Actually Makes Traffic Worse—So, our solution to traffic congestion for the last sixty years or so has been to build more and wider roads, Guess what? Those roads are just going to be as clogged as the roads that preceded them. WTF.

The Green Lawn: American Staple or Water Waster?—Let me save you the trouble of the argument…it’s a waste. Lawns suck up water, chemicals, fertilizer, gas to mow, and not to mention our time to create an artificial green carpet. Ugh.

Greenpeace Loses $5.2 Million On Rogue Employee Trading—A total WTF moment. Why is Greenpeace messing around in currency trading? I am glad my dollars were not donated to these folks.

Can One Of The World’s Most Ubiquitous Products Clean Up Its Act?—Palm oil is ubiquitous. The production of palm oil is also an environmental disaster. I think the question is less how we clean up palm oil and more how do we use less palm oil.

‘Pink Slime’ Is Making A Comeback. Do You Have A Beef With That?—You just knew that the makers of pink slime…err, lean, finely textured beef were just waiting for the furor to die down and prices to go up so that they could shovel some more of this slop into our food supply.

How Food Companies Trick You Into Thinking You’re Buying Something Healthy—The moral of the story is that if it is in a package it is probably doing something misleading. If you start off with that assumption you will be a lot healthier in the long run.

These Popular Plastic Bottles May Be Messing With Your Hormones—Great, so BPA was bad but the replacement may be just as bad. I should just stick to stainless steel and glass. Safer that way.

12 Sea Turtle Facts That Prove How Cool They Are—People just love sea turtles. Nothing gets a group of snorkelers excited quite like a sea turtle swimming amongst them. You can spend an hour easily watching these graceful swimmers laze about the water.

Friday Linkage 3/28/2014

Getting back to work after more than a week of vacation is hard. Total first world problem, but it is almost impossible to get back into the groove. Having a house full of sick travelers does not help either. Is there anything worse than coming home on a plane full of people hacking and wheezing knowing that you will be doing the same thing in a few days? I know, total first world problem again.
On to the links…
Solar Power Is Now Just As Cheap As Conventional Electricity In Italy And Germany—Grid parity is a big deal because it means that it costs no more to deploy renewables versus traditional fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, or nuclear—yes, I lump nuclear in with fossil fuels because fissile material is mined and fusion is a pipe dream.
Soon The Ocean Will Be Generating Power Near Seattle—Tidal power is slightly less of a pipe dream than fusion and right below large scale offshore wind in terms of primetime readiness. It seems like advocates have been telling us for decades that tidal power can be a major player, but the projects never seem to materialize or reach their potential.
Hog Wild: Factory Farms are Poisoning Iowa’s Drinking Water—The hog industry totally has the government in Iowa bought and paid for because the problems of CAFOs outweigh whatever economic gain they might provide. Ugh!
Are We Becoming China’s Factory Farm?—It looks like our agricultural industry is focused on satisfying the growing appetites of Chinese consumers rather than protecting the welfare of our own citizens. Great.
Coal Ash Ponds: How Power Companies Get a ‘Bypass’ on Regulations Against Pollution—Like manure lagoons from CAFOs, coal power plants have been able to skirt regulations for years. After several spills and contaminations I hope the tide is turning toward some form of real control.
Does Comfrey Really Improve Soil?—Confrey is one of those miracle plants of the sustainable garden world that seems to take care of many problems. A lot of organic and/or sustainable gardeners use comfrey leaves to make a fertilizer tea or use it to supercharge compost piles or improve the soil. Here is some evidence that it may actually be improving the soil. I am thinking about conducting a similar experiment myself.
Taxpayer Dollars Teach that Evolution is ‘wicked and vain’—Every time I am amazed by the ignorance of climate deniers and Republicans in general I need to remember that the same people who form the rabid base of that political ideology are the same ones still fighting for creationism. Yep, Jesus rode a dinosaur like a cowboy.
Let Food be Thy Medicine—I am glad to see that the medical community is finally waking up to the positive powers that diet can have on people’s health. It’s not rocket science, but there is often a disconnect between the doctor’s office and the kitchen when in reality there are very real linkages.
How to Make Microwave Popcorn in a Plain Paper Bag—I love popcorn, but I often find myself craving it at work which means microwave popcorn is the only answer because there is no stove and my Whirlypop stays home. With this method I could be nuking a bag of Tiny But Mighty for an afternoon snack at my desk.
Beneath Cities, a Decaying Tangle of Gas Pipes—The explosion that leveled a building in Harlem brought attention to the rat’s nest of cables and pipes that sit just below the surface of our cities. Infrastructure is amazing to me in that it works at all when you consider the complexity, operating environment, system stress, and age.
Turn a Cordless Drill into a Solar Drill—I love solar for so many reasons. I also love checking out solar projects that are easy. Check this one out.
Super-Cheap Paper Microscope Could Save Millions of Lives—This just seems amazing.

Friday Linkage 11/8/2013

I cannot believe that Initiative 522 failed to gain approval in Washington.  If passed, Initiative 522 would have required foods containing GMO ingredients to be labeled as such.  It would have been the first such state to require the labeling.  Interestingly, almost all of the money funneled into the campaign on both sides of the issue came from out of state.  Hmmm…

On to the links…

The Stunning Collapse Of Infrastructure Spending In One Chart—I think the chart speaks for itself:

infrachart-11113

I think that everyone needs to send this to their members of Congress and ask, “Why?”  I am going to start sending the message every day.

The Climate Impact Of Canada’s Tar Sands Is Growing—Here is why opposing the Keystone XL pipeline is so important.  It’s not just about the singular issue of the pipeline.  Rather, it’s about opposing the dirty oil from the tar sands more generally.  That stuff is just nasty.

Methane: A Key to Dealing With Carbon Pollution?—Methane is a bad actor.  No one can deny the fact.  Regulating methane may be an indirect way to regulate carbon emissions because the two are wedded in some ways.

5 Reasons Solar Is Already Beating Fossil Fuels—I would only need one…it’s awesome.

In Heated Arizona Solar Battle, Top Regulators Tied To ALEC—Like the Koch Brothers, if you read about someone fighting solar or wind power usually ALEC shows up.  These clowns do not like anything that might be cleaner than coal or less damaging than fracking.  Clown shoes.

Johnson County’s Field of Beams—Sometimes we think of solar energy as something that happens in Arizona or Colorado, but it is happening on a pretty large scale right here in Eastern Iowa.

Poland Wedded to Coal, Spurns Europe on Clean Energy—No matter how much clean energy that western countries deploy, it must be remembered that unless countries that still deploy inordinate amounts of coal are brought along the effort is somewhat for naught.  I am not advocating for doing nothing, but we need to deploy the technology in all places to displace dirty fuels.

Oil Company Predicts Gas Powered Cars will be Nearly Gone by 2070—By 2070?  Given the trend in miles driven and the ownership demographics I would guess that that the bulk of gas powered cars might be gone before that date.  Granted, the long tail of eliminating the platform will take longer.

Texas Oyster Reef Restoration Project Begins in Gulf of Mexico—I am increasingly fascinated by oyster reefs, especially the artificial variety put in place to help restore ecosystems damaged by a variety of factors.  This seems like something that we should be deploying on a larger scale to help heal the scars of our coastal waterways.

3-D Printed Reef Brings Back Sea Life in Persian Gulf—This is a sweet application of 3-D printing to create complex objects for reef restoration.  Again, why are we not deploying this kind of technology on a massive scale?

These Fish are Eating the Plastic You Throw in the Ocean—Humans suck.  We truly suck.  Our plastic pollution epidemic is truly horrible in so many ways that it is hard to find the appropriate adjective to accurately describe our stupidity.

Obama’s 5 Biggest Sellouts to the Meat Industry—The meat industry is not less a many tentacled beast now than what it was like in the days of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.  It’s just a lot less visible to people now because the production of meat is such a rural affair.

Why Are Pig Farmers Still Using Growth Promoting Drugs?—It appears that improved hygienic practices—e.g. better farming and livestock management—have reduced or eliminated the need for prophylactic antibiotic treatment of hogs.  Yet, many farmers still dose their animals.  Why?

It Turns Out Kopi Luwak is Not Just Weird, it’s Cruel—Before anyone thinks about having a cup of Kopi luwak—yep, the cat poop coffee—consider how cruel the process actually is.  This is not some farmer collecting random beans in the morning sun.  It’s an industrial animal cruelty operation.  On top of the fact that it is just gross.

Why Does Cooking at Home Fight Hunger?—I have long thought that if everyone dedicated themselves to cooking a couple more meals per week at home—not just reheating, but actually cooking—that a lot of problems would solve themselves.  So many things that I hold dear come together in the kitchen in a visible and powerful way.

This is What the Earth will Look Like if All the Ice Melts—Get ready for some nice coastal property in Arkansas.  Ugh.

What a Republican Really Means

The infrastructure in the United States is crumbling.  In fact, it has been crumbling for the better part of my adult life and nothing every really seems to get done to fix the problem.  Why?  Primarily because it is very expensive, even though the repair would create jobs and the improved infrastructure would yield economic benefits, and Republicans have a new found aversion to government spending, as long as the spending is not for weapons which they love.

In Iowa there was a moment when it looked the legislature and governor might coalesce around a solution.  The gas tax, which primarily funds the road construction account, has not been raised since 1989.  Now Governor Terry Branstad (R-Clueless) has said that alternatives need to be considered because he will not support an increase to the gas tax.

The normal talking points that do not make sense are included about the public not supporting an increase in the gas tax—sure, in isolation no one supports a tax increase but given that something needs to be done which tax will be the least disliked?—and other tropes like the price of gasoline being too high, yada, yada, yada.

What Governor Braindead really meant to say is that he is considering running for office again—the horror!—and he is too chicken shit to support raising any taxes—even if it pays for needed infrastructure work—because he wants to spend another four years collecting a check for being the governor and a pension check at the same time.

Nothing like double dipping on the government tit while telling everyone how personal responsibility is the pathway to salvation.  Or the baby Jesus.  I get really confused when I hear this guy talk.

I realize it’s a translation issue, but now you know what this particular Republican really means when he says that Iowa needs to consider alternatives to raising the gas tax.

Friday Linkage 5/17/2013

 

Friday Linkage became Monday Linkage because I suck at life right now.

I have been really slow on getting posts up to the site.  I could blame going to Minneapolis for a funeral, being sick for a chunk of the week, a brutal work schedule, and a pending garage sale…but that would be whining. I do not want to sound like a conservative talk show host.

On to the links…

2014 is Looking to be a 7,000 Megawatt Year for Windpower Capacity and Innovation—Bring it on!  The more windpower the better.

Utilities versus Rooftop Solar: What the Fight is Really About—What do utilities fear?  Competition and a loss of control over the means of production.  If that sounds like a return to some Marxist dogma of the 1960s it should because utilities are dinosaurs in terms of business model.

Four Charts On How America Can Do Much More To Tackle Climate Change—  Basically, we have the tools in the toolbox to do a lot more about devastating climate change yet we lack the political willpower to actually address the problem instead spending millions of dollars and countless hours on pointless repeals of Obamacare and investigations into non-existent scandals.

Young Americans Lead Trend to Less Driving—So, how do we follow up the trend of driving less with infrastructure developments that support it?  Our politicians are too stupid and hidebound to think about anything other than highways and roads.

A Powerful Use for Spoiled Food—Why is there not a digester at every major facility that handles spoiled food or other material that could be turned into energy?  This seems like one of those win-wins that we do not get to hear about very often.

Manure Foam Menace Still Haunting Livestock Operations—It sounds like something out of a midnight horror movie…exploding poop foam!  But, it’s not joke.  I love how the industry people are looking to heap antibiotics onto the problem rather than asking the question about the sanity of their broken business model.

First Major Hemp Crop in 60 Years Planted in Colorado—An overlooked effect of the referendum to legalize marijuana in the state of Colorado was that it opened the door for industrial hemp to be planted.  I do not think that hemp is the miracle plant that the hackey sack playing stoner in college tried to convince you it was, but it can be part of the portfolio of solutions.

Who Would Kill a Monk Seal?—I am a big fan of monk seals and other aquatic life, so it strikes me as strange why someone, native Hawaiian or otherwise, would kill a monk seal?   This seems like a case of mistaken guilt like the sea lions being harassed to preserve salmon runs.  The fish are not in decline because of natural predators, okay?

Study of Rare Hops Loving Butterfly gets Boost from Brewer—Beer is good for so much more than just drinking.  It helps the planet, man!

Farm Equipment that Runs on Oats—I am always reminded of post-apocalyptic fiction when I read about people using draft horses.  There is something bucolic and serene about draft animals for the person who is not working as a teamster on a daily basis.

You Absolutely Should not Get Backyard Chickens—This is the exact sentiment that has prevented me from getting backyard chickens even though it has been legal in my town for a couple of years and I have the perfect place for a chicken coop.  Sorry, I know that I would get too attached to the birds and would not be able to end their lives at an economic time.  Then again, if a hen were to provide years of eggs for little more than feed and water could I not offer that bird a comfortable retirement in return?

More Bike Lanes Boost Business—One day, maybe we will actually get to “Copenhagen-ize” our transport infrastructure and be able to bike freely across cities.  It’s a dream.

Why Federal Efforts to Ensure Clean Tap Water Fail to Reach Faucets Nationwide—The infrastructure in the U.S. is so messed up right now, I think this is just one story that could be repeated time and time again in locations nationwide.  How we can allow this situation to endure is beyond me?  Oh right, partisan politics…

Three Friends Make an Attempt to Live Below the Line—Almost since the invention of blogs, people have been documenting their attempts to live on food stamps or a $1 per day.  It’s not totally original, but these efforts do require some attention because of what it says about the inequity in our world and the razor thin margin that so many people live on.

Tasty, and Subversive, Too—World watch out.  Guerrilla gardeners are grafting bearing branches to your ornamental fruit trees.  The world quivers at the thought of some plums falling from the sky!

Life in America: 1983 versus 2013 Infographic—Some of the economic numbers blow my mind.  The median price of a home?  The estimated GDP?  Wow!  Check it out for yourself:

America1983ThenNowInfograph