[nSLUG] Measured wattage of atom system

George N. White III gnwiii at gmail.com
Fri Sep 19 09:10:03 ADT 2008

On Tue, Sep 16, 2008 at 4:40 PM, D G Teed <donald.teed at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Tue, Sep 16, 2008 at 3:47 PM, Daniel Morrison <draker at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Option 1) we won't know unless we try.  With such a sparsely populated
>> country, I wouldn't be surprised if Canada were able to produce all its
>> electricity from renewable sources (I'm including hydro electricity in this).
>> Don't forget also that the next generation of PV solar cells might be either
>> dirt cheap, or highly (75%) efficient.  If we're lucky, the generation after
>> that will be _both_ cheap and efficient.
> What I last learned about solar panels is the raw materials to make
> them do not exist in quantities to power high quanities of homes.
> This was said on Quirks and Quarks a few years ago.
>> Option 2) The 20th century will be remember as the time of plenty.  We WILL be
>> returning to usage patterns closer to those at early part of this century (per
>> capita)... no choice about it (except for the elite few).
>>> Electricity is going to power cars,
>>> home heating,
>> Man, I hope not.  Electricity is a high-grade energy; using it for heat is a
>> poor choice.

Even using fossil fuels, a zero-emission stationary power plant is feasible, and
distribution is already low-emission.   Canada already produces lots of hydro
power, but the transmission lines run North to South.  It has been
much cheaper to
sell power to the USA and buy coal to make power in NS than for NS to get
power from Quebec.

> Have you tried drying your clothes on the line in winter?  How about
> walking from Chester to Wolfville as some people did years back?
> Or if you can afford a horse and the space to keep one or two,
> are you up for the daily commute on an animal?  If you want to bring
> back trains, we need an energy source other than coal.  I can't see
> us going back to how we used to do things.  There will be power mowers,
> laundry machines, chain saws, electric well water pumps, lights,
> plus stuff that never existed before, demanding more electrical power.

My father in law ran projects to automate controls for fossil fuel plants.
After he retired, during one the energy crises, he was hired to help design
coal-fired locomotives.  The project ended because oil got cheaper, but
what they learned:

You can keep emissions low using high quality coal and on-board scrubbers
(extra weight is an advantage for locomotives, so you can carry a complicated
power plant).  Steam boilers (as in the original coal-fired locomotives) allow
you to store energy for the peak demand starting from rest while combustion
runs at a reasonably steady rate with is easier to do cleanly.

> You can't put the genie back in the bottle, unless perhaps it is preceeded
> by a great amount of social and infrastructure breakdown and chaos.

If we don't want another "dark age", we (society) need to clamp down hard
on the nonsense and make our large organizations (think NS Power)
function much more effectively than they do at present.  We will need to
see the big companies hire a lot more engineering/technical people instead
of MBAs and lawyers.

> The one thing I can see changing is the global nature of the economy.
> It could mean the end of the bargain "loonie" stores and the return
> of things built right in your home town, more local foods, less trawler
> dragging.  It might be a sort of blessing.
> I don't think solar, tide and wind power are bad.  I wish they
> could do it all, but I'm afraid the picture many have is based on
> the status quo where we merely displace the coal generating stations.
> I think the media and political types gathering around windmills
> and the like are political stances and nice talk about a
> positive view of our future, but they are not grounded in a realistic
> estimation of our energy needs.  This is partly because talk
> about nuclear freaks people out.  Well, it will be much easier to
> sell when gas is $10/litre!

And if people feel they can trust government and regulatory agencies.
A big part of the anti-nuclear attitude comes from lack of trust/
confidence.  Utilities in N.America are historically badly managed.
The current financial crisis just adds to public lack of trust in
government, regulatory agencies, and large corporations.

> BTW, I wonder why they plant just one windmill at various locations.
> It is almost like a sort of sign post that tells everyone "don't try this
> at home - you can't afford one of these", while in reality smaller
> scale wind power solutions are available.

George N. White III <aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca>
Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia

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