Thursday, May 03, 2012

A Power Grid Control Center

This room may look unfamiliar, but it is one of the most 
important places in your life. Without it, you could not count on your house being warm and bright, your food staying safe in the fridge, or your ability to charge your iPad or cell phone. Behind the modern world is a vast wired network transmitting electricity to consumers. We call it the grid... _Discover

Grid Control Center ERC Texas
Balancing power production and power consumption is a difficult, never-ending task, made all the more difficult by green ideologues who have worked their way into positions of power and policy influence. Here is the way one author breaks down the job of a grid control center:
1. A River Runs Through It

Power plants generate electricity, but they do not create anything from scratch. Instead, generators take electrons, which normally orbit the nucleus of an atom, and force them to move independently through the grid’s closed path. When too many electrons build up or their numbers in the system (monitored here) fall too low, you get a total loss of power: a blackout.

2. Needed: Grid Renovation
Before we can add more renewable energy to the Texas grid, represented above, we must renovate its aging infrastructure. One suggested boost is a giant storage battery to make up any shortfalls in power. Another is improving the distribution system so electricity can flow not just to but from consumers, wherever it is needed most.

3. Hands on Deck 

Human controllers at right and above can override computers if power is at risk. When generators fail, as they did last winter in Texas, controllers lean on “demand-response customers”—large electricity users, like factories, that are paid to be on call, ready to use a little less or even shut everything off at a moment’s notice.

4. Renewable Risk

Our current...grid evolved to work with steady [reliable] energy sources like natural gas and coal. [Unreliable] Wind and solar energy, which vary with outside conditions like weather (indicated here) and time of day, are so variable they can destabilize the current grid if they make up more than 20 to 30 percent of the supply.

5. Balance of Power

To avoid blackouts, supply and demand must be almost perfectly balanced, a task given to controllers monitoring the screens. First they make daily forecasts of the next day’s electric demand and supply down to every five minutes. Then if they turn out to be slightly off, controllers tweak the balance by activating backup generators or asking some consumers to use less. _Discover

Depending on unreliable renewables such as big wind or big solar for more than about 10% of a grid's supply is begging for trouble. Not only does it make the work of grid controllers much more difficult, but it also drives up costs of compensatory backup systems -- and forces costs of maintenance for those long-suffering backup systems through the roof.

To state that green ideologues have neither the knowledge nor the wisdom to make power grid policy would be to understate the obvious by orders of magnitude. But when voters elect incompetent clown ideologues such as the current US president -- who appoints incompetent ideologues to important policy-making and regulatory positions in the EPA, DOI, DOE, DOJ, etc -- it is clear that majority rule suffers from at least a few weaknesses.

Inevitably, the people suffer.

Hope for the best. Plan for the worst.


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