Archive for the Grid Lock Category

Hope Springs: Can a Fuel Cell Save Us?

Posted in Grid Lock with tags , on February 24, 2010 by talewis

It was the morning of the third day of the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg. As his army maneuvered into place for what history would remember as Pickett’s Charge, General Robert E. Lee turned to his most trusted subordinate, General James Longstreet, and said, “This could be the day.” He could see victory for the besieged Confederacy, just a few hundred yards away, up the deceptively gentle rise of Seminary Ridge, just beyond the bristling blue line of Federal muskets, bayonets and cannon that waited there.

Today, in the 11th hour of the American Republic as it confronts the absolute limits of its supplies of energy from fossil fuels, with no preparations made for the inevitable and catastrophic encounter with those limits, I will say to you that today could be the day. Today, we just might set a new course toward a better future. For someone who has spent several years writing about the inevitability of an impending crash of the industrial age, this stirring of hope is quite unfamiliar. I had better explain. Continue reading

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Circuits Breaking

Posted in Grid Lock with tags , on November 12, 2009 by talewis

Among the industrial systems being strained to and beyond their limits by the tensions between growing demand and limited supplies is the electrical network of every industrialized country. Brazil is just the latest to experience the consequences of breaking circuit breakers. Continue reading

Renewable is not Sustainable if it’s Industrial

Posted in Grid Lock with tags , on October 22, 2009 by talewis
Renewable is not Sustainable
The electricity industry has embraced the cause of renewable energy sources, primarily wind and sun, so that it can pour gallons of greenwash over its installations and run TV commercials about how it’s helping to save the planet. But the industrialization of renewable energy sources is little  more sustainable than are fossil-fuel-burning plants.
For example: dozens and dozens of multi-billion-dollar solar projects haven been proposed for the desert southwest, where, of course, there is lots of sunshine. But most of the proposals involve using the concentrated heat from the sun to run boilers. A typical proposal, for Amargosa Valley, Nevada, would require 1.3 billion gallons of water per year. Water, as you may know, is not plentiful in deserts.
[“Alternative Energy Projects Stumble on a Need for Water” — The New York Times.]
(It is not widely recognized how thirsty the electricity generating industry is. Providing power to the typical American home requires three times as much water as the household consumes for all other purposes.)
There are many other difficulties attending desert solar plants. You need water, as well, for the hundreds of people needed to build and maintain the plants. You need to build huge transmission lines through thousands of back yards to get the power thus produced to market.
As with solar, the industrial approach to wind energy is to erect giant wind turbines where there is lots of wind and transmit it to market via the grid. First, nothing that requires the manufacture of enormous machines and the erection of huge installations can be regarded as sustainable. Second, the highly variable output of wind turbines poses some extremely difficult problems for the managers of the grid.
What would be both renewable and sustainable when it comes to energy? The answer is simple, though not easy. We have to start, right now, to produce the energy we need where we need it. We need, in other words, to de-industrialize electricity, if we are going to keep on having any.
[For much more on this see also Chapter Six, “Grid Lock,” of my book Brace for Impact now available.]

The electricity industry has embraced the cause of renewable energy sources, primarily wind and sun, so that it can pour gallons of greenwash over its installations and run TV commercials about how it’s helping to save the planet. But the industrialization of renewable energy sources is little  more sustainable than are fossil-fuel-burning plants. Continue reading

Hope Flickers

Posted in Grid Lock with tags , on September 17, 2009 by talewis

It’s the kind of national inititative, the kind of muscular, frontal assault on one of the most dangerous problems of our time, that could actually give reason for hope.

It’s a massive program announced this week to install in the coming year 100,000 gas-fired household electric power plants in homes (where they will also heat the water) across the country. Continue reading

Shorting Out

Posted in Grid Lock with tags on August 17, 2009 by talewis

Now Russia, as well as South Africa, is on the list of industrial countries whose electric grid is on the verge of collapse (as explained in detail in Brace for Impact Chapter Six: Grid Lock). An exploding transformer at a major Siberian hydro-electric plant has taken out three of ten turbines and has moved the whole region closer to the edge of blackout.

[See “Accident at Russian hydroelectric plant kills 8.” — The Associated Press]

Read past the account of the accident to get the real news. Continue reading

Tower of Power

Posted in Grid Lock with tags on June 25, 2009 by talewis

There it is, in Chicago of all places, the Big Idea that could have saved us, in plain view for everybody to see and not talk about.

After a $350 million renovation the Sears Tower, at 110 stories the tallest skyscraper in the hemisphere, will produce 80 per cent of its own electricity. [Sears Tower to be Revamped to Produce Most of Its Own ElecricityThe New York Times.] That’s a big project, but it’s not the Big Idea. Continue reading

Toward a Greener Wash

Posted in Grid Lock on May 19, 2009 by talewis

The electricity industry has discovered a new way to coat itself with greenwash: suddenly every proposal to build a new transmission line is motivated by a newfound desire to bring renewable energy to the people. Because they care, these utility companies. Continue reading