I admit, it was first thing in the morning and I wanted something that didn’t require too much concentration… So I did a turn past the “news” channels on the TV, found them all doing the “Trump vs. Hillary” show, and moved on. Along the way, went past CSPAN. It was nearer the last half than the first, but they had 4 folks at a table (with moderator / questioner) talking about the “Clean Power Plan” and what was likely to happen to it given the Supremes have declined for now to review it, and there’s an election, and … and…
I’m not going to hash over what they said. First off, I can’t remember half of it ( I ran out of coffee yesterday, HORRORS!, so maybe after getting groceries…) as it was legal / regulatory / insider mumbo-jumbo… but the gist of it was that the EPA wanted everyone to use unicorn farts and fairy wings to make electricity (solar and wind and ‘renewables’) and NOT coal under any circumstance and NOT convert existing coal plants to natural gas…
This was done via breaking things up into 3 “blocks”, and having all sorts of rules about them. As near as I could make out, the Supremes had blocked blocks 2 and 3, or at least done something causing some discussion of how much Block 1 could be expanded… but that’s not the thing that stuck in my craw…
No… what galled me was that there was this entire room full of reporters and hangers on and interested parties and the folks on the stage and the interviewer AND: Every single one of them seemed just fine with a process that runs through the regulatory jungle of the EPA, has a minimum 1 year of “comment period and review” before even the whiff of a “rule change” could be voted on, and then would be subject to years of litigation, likely up to the Supremes, all to decide what fuel to burn, coal with scrubbing or CCS vs. Natural Gas.
Oh My God!
That, IMHO, ought to be an operational decision made day by day by the plant operator based entirely on the relative cost of coal and natural gas. Not some horrible bureaucratic nightmare with $Millions of litigation costs and a half decade cycle time.
Not once did ANYONE question the whole basis of the proceeding, the whole reason they were arguing about it. Where, on God’s Earth, was there any consideration of Operations Research, of Cost Optimization, of Linear Programming Optimization, of all those 1000 and one things actual makers of things do every single day to assure efficient and effective production? Missing In Action.
Replaced by a few hundred legislators writing vague legal doctrine law that gets over interpreted by a rabid Bureaucratic Agency into a promulgated train of incomprehensible and incompatible mandates that are then sent off to Litigation Land for a few years. By then, any hope of having the answer be germane to the plant operation or relative fuel advantages, availability, and prices will be long gone. Washed away in a global mandate to set the amount of “Carbon” (by which is meant Carbon DIOXIDE) in the air. A fools errand at best.
Legislators and Lawyers make very very lousy engineers. Bureaucrats and Judges make worse Plant Managers. (IMHO, largely because they ended up in those jobs having failed, or never having enough ability to try, at calculus, computer programming, physics, chemistry, and any of the hard sciences. Notable exception being the odd M.D. and similar who ends up being elected, then outvoted, or hired as an ‘expert witness’ and used largely for window dressing).
It is my considered opinion, having seen this sham of a show, that the best thing that could be done with the Regulatory Apparatus of Government is largely to just scrap it and start over. Folks comfortable with 1/2 decade processes that run through years of litigation to decide what fuel to “allow” from plant to plant or year to year are just daft and need to be on a bread line for a while to “clear the mind”.
No wonder electricity in California has risen from 9 ¢ / kW-hr to 19 ¢ / kW-hr in my memory and is headed for 50 ¢ as the base tariff and with $1 / kW-hr already on the cards for some areas as a time of day tariff. With an idiotic process like that making the cost basis decisions, no wonder it has gone up by a factor of 2 to 5 and is headed for a full 10 x spike.
I note in passing my “Smith’s Rule Of Diesel Electric Cost”: The price of the fuel, in $/gallon-US, divided by 10, is roughly the price in ¢/kW-hr of the produced electricity. With “off road Diesel” at about $2.00/gallon, I can make electricity at 20 ¢ / kW-hr with a small Diesel generator. In other words, the present tariff in California is marginal, but any bump, it’s worth it to me to ‘cut the cord’. (Or, more accurately, leave it installed for some things and emergencies, but move large parts of use off of it.) For anyone in the $1/kW-hr TOD tariff zones (summer peak A/C need in the Central Valley, for example) it would be worth it (a lot) to use a portable Diesel to power your A/C.
I have it easy. My car is a Diesel. I can just put a ‘battery box’ and inverter in place and clip it onto the car battery and set it to high idle for charging, if I want. Very little marginal capital cost. One more rate hike ought to do it… My major electric use is my AEK All Electric Kitchen, and while I’d started some movement onto non-electric cooking, I can easily do a lot more. (Why they want me burning kerosene in an urban area instead of using clean electricity from clean coal is left as an exercise for the student… but not the ‘regulators’ as it is beyond their ken…)
Since then I’ve also added a nice Propane BBQ / Grill to the patio mix. Now I can use anything from propane to gasoline (Coleman stove) to kerosene and even to chunks of dead trees for my cooking needs. ALL of those put various price caps on my electricity consumption. (My favorite being the wood, as there’s lots of it available for free). Now I’m blessed with a climate where this year, for example, we needed to run the A/C exactly none at all. Winter we use gas heat, so it’s about 2 HP? for the blower motor, maybe.
The point? I can run away from these idiots to a large degree. At least 1/2 of my electricity consumption. Of course, it will dramatically increase my production of real pollution and increases the risk of a fire on the patio and increases my annoyance at them (especially when it’s coid outside in January…)
But I will be able to make linear programming cost optimizing decisions with a loop / cycle time of about 2 minutes… unlike their decade+ lag.
That’s only ONE of the problems with attempting to run things in detail from Central Authority. (Ignoring the hideously inefficiency and horrid costs involved). The old USSR learned this when they let pig feed be costly and chose to set the price of bread low “for the people”. The result was farmers feeding bread to their pigs… (Who were then put in prison for doing what was economically rational but embarrassing to the idiots who were setting the prices… and thus making a greater shortage of pork products…)
So that kind of Institutional Lunacy seems to be where the EPA is headed (has already reached?) and the power grid is the target. OK, Note To Self: “Finish building stand alone electric system.” I’d started it under Governor Gray “Out” Davis when California attempted a “3rd Way Managed Market” that lead to the rise of Enron, horrific power costs, rolling blackouts and brownouts, and our only recall of a Gov. as we flushed his butt. I stopped work on it when the new Governor and legislature tossed that crap and we got stable (if somewhat expensive compared to the rest of the nation) power back. Looks like “Gray Thinking” has reached D.C. and gone nationwide, so time to dust it off again.
The basic system is an overgrown form of this one:
Charger, Battery, Inverter, load.
A battery box is just a big box with good ventilation. Add whatever amount of battery is needed for load leveling / peak demand. Add a large inverter ( I bought a 1 kW job at the time, still New In Box, but 2 kW likely better for most folks) and you wire all this stuff up. I’d intended the original for “emergency use” so expected to do that via drop cords to loads in the house. For permanent use, you would want to get an official approved emergency cut over switch installed. (Transfer switches and all are common now with the advent of lots of roof solar). Which brings us to chargers. I’d planned to just float the thing on a car charger (again, emergency blackout use). Instead, as a home power system, you want non-grid charging.
Likely easiest to do is a small “solar installation” with stand alone capability and battery backup. Then you just add your small “emergency Diesel” to the mix, not bothering to mention it will be the more common use…
IF you are where natural gas is available, Honda makes a nice “Cogeneration” plant (in the DIY power link above), and I’d proceed straight to something like that. Where I am, it is very cost effective to use natural gas instead of Diesel… So for a ‘quick fix’, the battery box and inverter can be a nice thing, but for a real commitment, I’d go with the natural gas cogen setup.
FWIW, I run a fairly efficient house. Other than the spikes of the AEK (about 2 to 8 kW for 10 minutes up to an hour depending on what is being cooked) and the Saturday Wash, we run about 1 kW on average. ( I measured it… yes, I have a meter of my own ;-) So a 1 kW generation capacity is all I really need. ( I’d leave the big current sucking short use things on ‘the grid’ and just cook on gas or kerosene when convenient, suck the grid when not.) It isn’t hard to get a 1 kW level of production, or a 12 kW Diesel run for 2 hours a day…
Seems I’m into “cord cutting” lately… Time to go watch the morning news … on my Tablet… over tea made on my camping stove…