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Howdy Y'all,

Again, I'm pretty sure aspects of this have been discussed in places threads before but I'd like to centralize some comments into one thread. If the Volt and other plug in vehicles become the wave of the future within the next 5 or 10 years how well will the existing grid infrastructure hold up? How much investment into the grid is required by transmission companies if say 10% of the households adopt plug in technology? What about 20%? I know that much of the charging would likely be done during the evening hours and overnight (which is currently considered off peak and low useage) but if significant numbers of plug ins are charging over night how much extra demand will that be?

Is there currently enough capacity or could the electrification of the automobile seriously affect the grid? I'm concerned that instead of oil shortages and lines at the pumps we'll have rolling blackout's and power outages if the electrification of the automobile takes place.

Will the electric companies be able to keep up supply if demand increases due to an influx of electric vehicles or will they always be playing catch up and only meeting minimal standards?

I know there are some smart people out here and some very opinionated people here so I'd like to hear some comments on any of these questions.
 

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As a board member of an electric coop I'll chime in on this subject.

You bring up a real valid point. One that is of some concern. The answer(s) are not easy and will vary from region to region. But in general the electric generation and transmission infrastructure of the United States is currently almost at it's limits during peak times. 20 years ago there was a huge investment in new generation and transmission. Since electricity deregulation duting the Clinton administration there has been very little investment in either generation or transmission. The industry knows that over the next 15 to 20 years there will be a 20 to 40 percent increase in capacity needed just to meet current projected demands. That's without plug-ins added to the equation.

Even with these problems, coops see plug-in's as a good idea and a good fit for the system. Currently demand peaks in the middle of the day and falls off dramatically at night. This means that they have to have generation sufficient to meet peak demand and that same generation goes unused or underutilized during the night. If plug-in's can charge primarily at night, that wouild help to smooth the curve, make better use of the generators at night, and bring in more cash flow to the utilities.

This is especially the case in parts of the nation where coal and nuclear are the prime fuel used to spin the generators because those source can take hours to bring on-line. In parts of the country where hydro is used, there is somewhat less of a positive benefit, except for the increased cash flow to the utility.
 

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There have been numerous studies showing that the grid could take up to 70% conversion to plug-in electric cars. That being said I don't think we should be thinking that way at all.

If we do successfully convert a good percentage of our fleet over to electric and by doing so eliminate our need for foreign oil can you see how much capital is available for infrastructure improvements? We are sending out almost $500 billion a year now. That's a lot solar panels, wind generators, pumped storage hydro plants, power lines. Agreed?

We as Americans have got to come to the conclusion that we need to seriously re-work our energy infrastructure. No band-aid is going to solve the problem. We need to create a national plan and get to work. It's not all doom and gloom. It will be decades of innovation, infrastructure building, hard labor, head scratching, in-fighting, cursing, etc. However, it needs to be done in a big way. If we all face it we can move forward. Pull that band-aid, let out a scream and let's move forward. I'm confident that not only can we do it but there are millions of people just champing at the bit waiting to get working on the Apollo Smart Grid project. Who dares to say we are unable to do it?
 

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The electrification of this country, and the rest of the world by using renewable sources of energy just has so much common sense. Now that "cheap" fossil fuels are on their way out, this is simply the next logical step for humans to take.

As soon as Nanosolar ramps up production, and stops selling their entire stock overseas, I am ready to put panels on my roof!

As far as the original question, I think that the current grid will be OK for quite a some time, as long as people are charging at night as pennor1 said above.
 

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Blah on renewable. Renewables will not provide base load and are not germane to the grid handling the increased load. They are going to be much more expensive and more difficult to produce energy than nearly every other currently used energy source on the planet.

You will see a few nuclear plants/expansions coming online from 2015-2020 (more expansions of current facilities than new plants). Unfortunately the environmentalists have absolutely killed the most abundant source of energy we have that would last us hundreds of years. It costs around 4 billion to build a coal plant. It costs around 25 billion to build a nuclear plant. But now instead of building coal plants, power companies are being forced to build natural gas plants. I shouldnt have to tell you how expensive and volatile natural gas has been. Coal has increased in recent years, but not to the degree of NG.

Most electric cars are going to be charged off peak hours. We wont have a problem handling off peak charging. There is plenty of spare capacity. However, many people start charging when they go to work, it 'could' present a problem at hour current level (10% shy of peak capacity), but I really dont think that is going to happen.
 

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CarZin, If you think nuclear power is a great alternative choice and wish to hold this position please watch the following YouTube video. It's the best overall analysis of the real world conditions of nuclear energy infrastructure I have ever seen. If you are wondering why there are not many new nuclear projects moving forward you might have to blame Amory Lovins:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JkrvSaL7-w


Your other comment that renewables cannot provide base power is off base (pun intended). They are incorrect comments used by alternative energy distractors to keep them off the market. It's not working and the projects are moving forward. As they prove themselves worthy and cost effective (not hard with the volatile global oil situation) you will see and hear more about them. In fact, there's now a signed project in Hawaii to convert 70 percent of the entire state's energy use (Currently oil is used to provide 95% of Hawaii's energy use) to alternative forms of energy by 2030. Hawaii may become the alternative energy research and development hub of the entire world. It has just about every form of alternative energy and will be a great place to test out new systems. It's like a Skinnerian energy box.

If renewable energy systems could not provide base load then using 70 percent of that type of energy source would be impossible. Right? Are you claiming it's impossible or financially devastating to do so? I claim that if they do not move forward with this plan Hawaii will become a huge financial burden to America. As the price of oil goes up a few things will happen. Firstly, travel to the state will go down drastically because plane flights will cost too much (good bye tourism revenues) and secondly, the high cost of doing any business in Hawaii will increase at a much higher rate than the rest of America (remember that Hawaii uses oil to provide around 95% of it's energy).

Folks, alternatives are currently providing base load and the percentage will continue to grow until we have complete renewable energy use. I can't predict the exact time frame but it's inevitable. How? Many renewable systems are simple, well proven (we already have significant amounts - not yet in terms of percentages because the US uses an embarrassing amount of energy), environmentally safe, and very efficient. What are these miracle systems? Solar, wind, hydro, and every other renewable connected to pumped storage hydro and other electrical and mechanical storage systems. What is pumped storage hydro?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped-storage_hydroelectricity

Many other electrical storage systems exist and are being aggressively researched and developed. In short, we can go renewable today and we can go at full speed. Besides, a mix of renewable, alternative technologies is a good idea. Some will have advantages over others and some even compliment each other. Solar and Wind energy is a good example. The sun provides the most energy during the day and wind is strongest at night (when your EVs are being charged). Simple, renewable, practical (www.nanosolar.com - check out their blog on municipal solar plants - brilliant) and cost effective. These systems will allow the US to be completely energy independent. We have more than enough renewable resources. You don't even have to wonder what if. It's happening today. The more the public knows about these technologies the more they will wonder why we are not moving faster. That's a good thing to wonder about and to then go ask your political leaders about.
 

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1) Price of oil has little to do with U.S. power costs. We fuel less than 5% of all U.S. power consumption by oil. Most is still industrial. if Hawaii is using oil, then at the current price of oil, they could do just about anything and save money. its isolated, and not the norm. Over 75% of U.S. power comes from nuclear and coal.

2) Renewables RARELY provide base load energy. The only real exceptions I can think to this is geothermal in iceland, and hydro plants. base load power must be ALWAYS be available. Excluding hydro, there is NO renewable power in the U.S. that is base load. The wind mills and solar we have reduce the amount of base load power is needed. It does not add to the base. I dont live in fantasy land. I dont want my power grid designed 'hoping' we'll be able to store offline renewable energy for reuse later. That technology is a long way from arriving. Put simply, it would be IMPOSSIBLE to use renewables as base today, if we could magically replace every plant overnight.

3) If we are 20% renewable by 2020 (I believe this is the current plan), then I will be amazed. The presentations I have spent hours listening to trying to explain how renewables, like wind, will reduce costs are full of bad assumptions. I HAVE seen renewable proponents try to say power will get cheaper with renewables because there will be less demand on NATURAL GAS (another major source of US energy), but this is not the same as oil. I think their arguments are generally garbage. Bottom line, renewables cost a lot for the power they put out.

4) Nuclear power is here to stay and grow. There is only one place in the world that builds nuclear cores (Japan Steel Works). They currently can make around 26 cores a year. In the last few years, the demand for cores has skyrocketed. They are DOUBLING their plants capacity within 2 years to deal with the orders. U.S. regulations are making nuclear plant construction less risky (one approval at the beginning for design and operation). Nuclear is safe, has been proven safe, and universities are starting to revive their engineering programs due to this demand.
 

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Amory Lovins Makes Me Laugh

CarZin, If you think nuclear power is a great alternative choice and wish to hold this position please watch the following YouTube video. It's the best overall analysis of the real world conditions of nuclear energy infrastructure I have ever seen. If you are wondering why there are not many new nuclear projects moving forward you might have to blame Amory Lovins:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JkrvSaL7-w
I will have to side with CarZin on this issue. Nuclear is the future. No one denies renewables will play a role in the overall energy picture, but not to the extent that some would hope.

I don't know who Amory Lovins is, or what his agenda is, but he clearly offers no solutions. People with real solutions get out and offer power for sale for less than the conventional plants. I don't know of any renewable power, other than existing hydro, that is less expensive than coal-fired power.

Here is a gentlemen with more history than Mr. Love-Inn, Dr. Patrick Moore.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Moore_(environmentalist)

He was one of the original members of Greenpeace, but has since parted company with the group because of their unrealistic approach to solving global warming. I heard him speak last November, and he is intelligent, articulate, and genuine. He realizes that global energy consumption will not decrease, it will increase. This is because third world nations will increase their standard of living over the next few decades (sort of what's happening in China and India), and increased energy consumption will result. Therefore, we need not only to replace the fossil fuels that are now being used, but also provide more energy for emerging nations.

The only practical answer to this is nuclear energy, and Dr. Moore has come to this realization.

Obviously, I am willing to see the renewable advocates prove their worth. But one executive from a major US Utility recently indicated that his windmills operate at only a 17% capacity factor (versus 90+% for most nuclear plants). In addition, the wind power can't be dispatched (its not always available). Sure pumped storage and other electrical storage technologies can help, but what happens on that third cloudy day when there is no wind? You think nuclear is expensive? Wait till you build 6 times the required wind capacity (to account for the 17% capacity factor), add the 3 or 4 day storage systems, and let's not forget about all the transmission lines to get power from all the scattered windmills to the load centers (cities).

It becomes obvious to most people in the power industry that nuclear is the long term answer.
 

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CarZin and BillR, I take your challenge and feel this debate is a worthy effort. Let's get to work. Shall we agree to keep the focus on one topic at a time so we don't bounce all over the place? If so I start with the biggest glaring misconception:

1) Who said that solar or wind cannot provide base load?

Is not the grid always on? We have over 11 GW of wind (said to now be comparable to coal in terms of cost) over .5 GW of solar (growing quickly). This is the equivalent of around 11 nuclear power plants or coal plants.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_use_in_the_United_States

The United states has over 22 GW of pumped storage hydro connected to the grid and you can check the following link to see just how much of this electrical storage is out there in the world. Amazing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped_storage

When we talk about the intermittent nature of alternative sources of energy we must also talk about the steady nature of nuclear. Nuclear power plants are not just turned up or turned down to meet the demands of the grid. They pump out an almost constant stream of energy from when they are ramped up to when they are powered down. If you ever seen a curve of the daily energy demands of a country you will see it’s not as flat as the energy curve nuclear power plants emit. What do they do? They either dump it into the ground or use the extra energy to fill up our country’s electrical storage capacity. Pumped storage hydro is a major player in that game.

People think we don't already have large amounts of electrical storage on the grid. We do. It's not fantasy land. It's reality. With this in mind and due to the fact that solar technology is now almost 3 times cheaper than it was only a year ago (www.nanosolar.com) why can't we add new capacity to our grid in the form of alternative energy sources with corresponding stored energy systems?

If the sun did not shine an average known amount around the world the earth would quickly freeze and just about everything would die. We know these values and can add just the right amount pumped storage hydro and other forms of electrical storage to make sure there’s enough even when big storms come. How long can lake Mead supply energy to the grid before the lake runs out? I plan on doing that calculation in the near future. Believe me, it’s a long time and I‘m not just talking days. Some dams take over 10 years to fill up! Please calculate how much potential energy can be stored in water and just how efficient the system is (PE = weight of water times the change in height http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potential_energy). Oh and powerline efficiency losses? Less that 10 percent going from one side or our country to the other (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_power_transmission). Incredible! Besides, we can always keep our old fossil fuel systems on-the-ready for emergency situations. Use renewables most of the time and in times of emergency fire up our coal, gas, and oil reserves.

A new nuclear or coal power plant takes well over 10 years to get up and running. A solar farm can be operational in 12 months and you can easily add capacity. A nuclear plant cannot generate one kWh before it’s complete. Imagine hundreds of new-technology solar manufacturing plants pumping out rolls and rolls of solar panels (yes - rolls - the new technology uses roll-to-roll non-clean room technology and costs only $1 a watt and will continue to drop as technology matures).

I'm am in no way suggesting we turn off our non-renewable power plants overnight. I am suggesting we add new capacity with renewable power plants and to make the renewable transition in a timetable that is reasonable and that gets us to the inevitable situation - pure renewable. Please give me a good argument as to why we cannot do this. I take the challenge to prove that not only can we do it, we already have started.
 

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Expect About a 10% Contribution from Renewables

Texas,

There is so much here, I don't know where to begin, but let me start simply by saying solar and wind cannot provide baseload because THEY ARE NOT RELIABLE!

On that hot, humid spell in the summer when the power system is taxed to provide capacity, there is typically very little wind. Even with pumped hydro storage, by the 3rd of 4th day, your storage runs out (and we're talking horrendous amounts of storage). So by definition, solar and wind cannot provide base power because you cannot depend upon it when you need it.

Notice from your link on pumped storage, that the overall efficiency of the system is 70 to 85%. Therefore, let's use an average of 78% efficiency. This means your renewable sources will need to generate 28% more energy to compensate for these losses in the storage system (I think there have been many discussions on the forum regarding conversion of energy from one form to another, and here it is electricity to potential energy and back to electricity).

Also, your link to US energy consumption includes a table of electricity production. Note that wind and solar represent only about 1.1% of the total capacity, and provide only about 0.8% of the energy. Since hydroelectric opportunities are mostly gone (some states are petitioning to remove dams to restore rivers to their natural state), wind and solar must increase by a factor of 125 from today's levels just to meet the current needs. But Wait!

With the low capacity factor and poor reliability of wind and solar, we now must provide enough storage to get us through 3 days with no energy input. And we know that due to storage inefficiency, we must generate another 28% for all storage electricity to get the required amount in return (and remember, not just capacity for a 4 hour burst at peak, but enough for a 3 day run). This would equate to an increase in existing pumped storage of about 6 MW to 1000 MW (to meet peak demands).

Also, don't forget that the electricification of the automobile is inevitable. If in the future, 200 million vehicles charge overnight (for 8 hours) and need 8 kWh for their batteries (a 40 mile range for a small vehicle like the Volt), then an additional 200 GW of capacity is needed for nighttime. Since solar won't be working during these hours, perhaps we need to invent lunar power (great when there is a full moon). If that doesn't work, we need even more capacity than today as our energy usage shifts from petroleum to electricity. Time again to increase all the capacities of the renewables and storage systems.

I'm not saying none of this can be accomplished, because we do receive enough energy from the sun every day to provide our energy requirements, its just a matter of cost. If Americans are willing to go from an average of 10 cents per kWh to over $1 per kWh, than this can probably happen (not to mention all the land area that will be taken by windmills, solar projects, pumped storage sites, etc.)

I don't know where you get this idea of pumping electricity into the ground, but I'd like to see your references on that bulls**t. Nuke plants operate balls to the wall 24/7 because fluctuations in operation, or shutdowns, compromise their core life expectancy (i.e. they need to refuel more often when they don't operate at continous full load). The fuel cost for electricity from nuclear power is only about 0.5 cents per kWh.

After nuclear, typically other plants like coal will provide the remainder of the base load (the load that is always in use, or the minimum load on a system, typically seen about 3 am). Typically, coal plants operate at a reduced output during the evening hours. Then, coal plants are ramped up to full load, and natural gas fired plants, hydro, and other plants are dispatched, as they can start and stop to meet the power demands as they change throughout the day.

Note that from your references, nuke plants only account for 9.82% of the US capacity, yet they provide 19.4% of the electrical energy.

Due to the competitive nature of electricity production (deregulation) the predictions are for renewables to produce about 10% of the electrical energy requirements in the future. If in fact companies can reduce the cost of solar/wind, increase its efficiency, increase its capacity, etc., it may provide more. However, the economics will be the key factor as we go further to de-regulate electricity and make its generation more competitive.
 

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I would argue that solar is more dependable than nuclear. Nuclear cores are brought down all the time because of problems and they can be out of commission for long periods of time. We know that the sun will shine with enough certainty that storage systems can be built to ensure base load capability. Again, if the sun did not shine as we predict, the earth would freeze.

Oh, I offered a video before about the financial reasons nuclear power no longer make sense. Now check out the other non-financial reasons. This is extremely factual and scared the heck out of me! After you watched both videos (the one I posted before) and still think nuclear is a good idea then you are either a nuclear scientist or crazy. lol. Why would you want to deal with all when the cost effective alternatives are here and proven. Regardless, no new reactors are likely to be approved anyway so the point is mute. Enjoy the great talk by Gordon Edwards!

http://www.youtube.com/user/RainbowBridgeTV
 

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California's grid system operator has released a report on the impact of renewable resources on California's grid. They discuss the cyclical nature of wind and solar, baseload impacts, dead summer days, etc. Very technical, very specific - this may help Texas and pennor1 in their dialog.
 

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I have to disagree on this one point that you just made. Please read the Reuters new item below:
http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSN3143208820080331
Maybe I sould have said no new nuclear plants. Regardless, I'll stand by my statement that:

"no new reactors are likely to be approved "


Remember, they have just applied. The approval process will take, as they stated, three to four years. If they are approved, which I doubt will happen, it will take nearly 10 years for the first kWh to be produced. Unlike adding a solar farm (able to start producing in around 12 months) the nuclear build-out is a long process. So, we are now talking around 2021 when the decision to trip that switch is made. I'm guessing they will never be switched on. They will however be fully paid for... By us!

Also, I'm wondering what extra incentives they were referring to. They already have the entire cost of the build-out paid for by taxpayer dollars (see first link I provided). Hummm, $13 Billion... That's a lot of extremely clean and safe solar panels. I'm not even including the yearly cost reductions that the solar technology will provide. For the life of me I just don't understand why (after learning all about both technologies - starting with the two links I provided but doing much more until you have both sides of the story) people think nuclear fission is a good path to take. If we ever get the clean running fusion reactors working then great. That will bring in a new age. I think we should be doing what the Germans are doing - slowly shutting down their reactors. Sure it's hard when the reactors are already built and paid for with taxpayer money but the long-term benefits are clear.
 

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Interesting thread.

As a real example, PG&E built the Helms pumped-storage facility in the southern Sierra range specifically to provide off-peak load to their Diablo Canyon nuke plant near San Luis Obispo.

Transmission line bottlenecks unfortunately only allowed 2/3 of Helms pump/turbine generators to be used.

Buried in the Cal ISO grid report I linked to earlier, it reports that California is now building a new HV transmission line to link the wind farms on the Tehachipi ridge to the Helms project and take advantage of the unused storage capacity.

One thing about nuclear, regardless of whether we build new plants or not - we need to re-think US nuclear fueling policy. I don't think we have many breeder reactors and I have heard we are currently using old Russian warhead materials to re-fuel our plants. We may just hit "Peak Uranium", too.
 

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it reports that California is now building a new HV transmission line to link the wind farms on the Tehachipi ridge to the Helms project and take advantage of the unused storage capacity.

Alas, the solution to all of the world's energy problems is right in front of us. Hello world! I know I know, too simple for interested parties. <sigh>
 

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BIllR wrote, "I don't know who Amory Lovins is, or what his agenda is, but he clearly offers no solutions."

And then BillR wrote, "Here is a gentlemen with more history than Mr. Love-Inn,..."

You don't know who he is or what he's about and you take a slap at him, anyway. Classy.
 

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I think all the main points have been touched on..

1.) Most of the plug-ins should be taking place at night time.
The grid is no where near capacity during these hours.
Also - if you get home from work at 4pm - and the grid is still being taxed - you can simply set your timer to start charging at say - midnight?

2.) Free electricity from the sun. Solar technology is here. It's free. If a significant portion of the motoring public saw fit to drive electric vehicles - and invest in a small backyard / rooftop unit - they could drive a vehicle with virtually no foot print. And it wouldn't cost you that much money.


As with all the benefits I mention - I will counter with the cons..

1.) The electric / utility companies will cry wolf. They will be shouting they they can't maintain this and that and they will need new, expensive, flux-capacitors :p

What does this mean to you? You can be sure your electric bill will be much higher. They WILL find a reason to charge you more for what you used to get cheaper. I can also picture the government introducing some sort of new "electric tax" to compensate for the loss in their gas tax.

2.) Solar energy. There will be resistance in being able to feed back into the grid. This would mean a loss of revenue to company - which means somehow or another, YOU will pay for it.

:)
 

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Of course we will be paying taxes. It's harder to change the way the government works than it will be to electrify all the world's cars and autos, cure cancer and achieve Middle East peace! I don't think anyone here believes the government is going to give up that. No way.

Death and taxes...

However, I would much rather be taxed on energy generated right here in America by infrastructure that was built by American hands, controlled by greedy Americans, and overpriced by tyrannical Americans. As long as the money stays in America our trade balance remains in check and all those rich Americans will probably spend most of their cash on McHouses and such creating more infrastructure and jobs. Let's all bask in the wealth of the few lucky Americans. Would you rather watch the few lucky Saudi Arabians enjoying their palaces? What good is that for us? Not much unless they decide, out the goodness of their hearts, to buy our products.

Although I will most likely be paying a hefty amount for electricity when I go on a long trip at home I will be filling my batteries as others have mentioned in this forum... With my already-paid-for solar panels. "Here comes the sun..."
 
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