Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Blackout (Part I)

This blog can also be viewed at (paragragh form) There has been a lot of talk about the United States moving to a smart power grid to transport energy to households and businesses across the country. The nation’s power grid is equivalent to the human body’s nervous system. The grid is a maze of thousands of miles of power lines throughout the country. The Obama administration is throwing billions of taxpayer dollars at various projects to modernize the grid by making it “smart”. But what exactly is a smart grid and is the cost to update our power grid worth it? And will it make our energy costs lower or will it raise our costs? These are the questions that need to be explored. Yes, without question, updates are needed to modernize our power grid, but many of the proposed updates are not needed or being done in the most proficient manner. First and foremost, the power grid must be updated handle more power for future population expansion. Secondly, the grid must be designed so it is protected from any natural disasters or terrorist attacks. This should be the initial focus. The command station for the Northeast grid is already protected from potential disasters because it is located deep under the earth’s surface. To protect our grid, it is important to bury the most critical power lines in our grid system. This will protect power lines from any foreseen disasters. It will not only protect the power lines from a terrorist attack, it will protect them from icy conditions where sagging power lines short out in trees. Overloaded power lines will also sag and can therefore, short in trees causing a blackout. The final upgrade should include changing critical power lines from handling alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC). Direct current has less power loss across the grid system. This is an easy way to save megawatts of energy in the power grid. Once the power grid is updated to handle more power, only then can new power plants be built to supply the additional power to the grid. To many, a smart grid is one updated to handle renewable energies. This should be the case, if and only if, it is cost efficient. The problem with renewable energies is that they are weather dependent. The best solar and wind power stations produce energy well under 50% of the time. And what’s worse, there is no efficient way to store renewable power. It would take a lithium battery the size of a football field to store power for a small community. The ingenious (sarcasm) plan of the smart power grid is to store power in the batteries of electric cars. Once batteries of electric cars are fully charged, any excess energy can be sold back to the energy company. This only works if millions of people have electric cars. But face it; electric cars are expensive and inefficient (they travel at best 80 to 100 miles before recharging). Thus, either nuclear energy, natural gas, or a carbon emitting energy power plant is needed to back up wind and solar energy plants since they are inefficient. Hydropower is the most efficient of the renewable energies, since many hydropower plants have a means to store power. Efficient hydropower plants pump water back up the reservoir at night when energy is cheaper. Thus, the water reflows through the damn when energy is most needed during peak business hours. Obviously, this methodology is not a completely efficient means to store power, but it is far better than the solar and wind power plants. My Book: Is America Dying? (, Barnes and Noble)

1 comment:

  1. "Secondly, the grid must be designed so it is protected from any natural disasters or terrorist attacks. This should be the initial focus."

    Could not agree more, Patrick if I tried. Your post is fascinating as always.