Friday, July 18, 2008

The Pickens Plan

The Pickens Plan is a good effort at forwarding the national debate on energy. But the Brick Oven Plan is much better.

Windpower is flawed in that when the wind stops blowing, the power stops flowing. With hydroelectric power, if the river periodically stops flowing, its not a big deal because the energy is stored behind the dam, and can be released as necessary. But there is no current method to ‘store’ the amounts of electricity that is being proposed. Battery technology is mature technology, and advances on the scale that would be necessary are unlikely.

Pickens is probably counting on averaging out wind over the wind belt, to reduce the conventional power plant backup requirement, which probably stands at 90% today. I can’t see it being reduced below 67% though.

The Pickens Plan does not address transportation fuel, only electrical power to cities.

The Brick Oven Plan is better because:

1. Nuclear power plants do not require backup conventional power stations.
2. The electrification of our nation’s railways divorces a significant percentage of transportation needs from liquid fuels.
3. Taking Iran’s oil will nearly triple our proven reserves anyway.

We just need a government with the stones to say yes to the Brick Oven Plan. Even if only to items #1 and #2. The Pickens Plan, while seemingly well-intentioned, will not address our problems.

I hope Pickens’ intention is not to get new government subsidies for an investment he has already made, to increase his rate of return. I hope his purpose is patriotism.

13 comments:

George said...

Bill, while I agree with and enthusiastically support (and link to) most of your ideas, as a resident of the Northwest, home of most of the hydropower in the USA, I'm here to tell you that hydro is NOT a panacea.

First, rainfall varies, and so does the reservoir behind each dam. Power loads vary. Finally, the environuts have inserted themselves into this mix by insisting that a significant percentage of all that water behind all those dams be reserved for boosting the waterflow downstream for the little fishies.

Even France, the world's leader in smart power planning, has realized that they must have nuclear to make up for all of that hydro, in the event of restrictions on it's availability.

Actually, nationwide applications of windpower WOULD work, since the wind is always blowing somewhere.

My guess is that wind could eventually replace all the hydro allotment.

Bill said...

Thanks for the comment George. While I’d consider myself somewhat of an authority on nuclear power plants (the government gave me a set of keys to one), I am an amateur with respect to wind and hydro.

My intent with the hydro comment was to note that some flexibility existed in the flows-in vs. electricity-out department in hydroelectric power that is non-existent in wind power. The dam stores potential energy for later conversion to electrical energy. A windmill, as we both know, has no storage.

If we lived in a primitive society (give it a few years, who knows), wind would be fine because the economy would not be affected by power outages of a few hours or days on a regular basis. Until we devolve to that point however, I think we’d need the majority of wind power to be backed up by conventional or nuclear plants.

From what I hear, which isn’t reliable, the wind farms we see going up wouldn’t be feasible without heavy, heavy subsidies.

In any case, enjoy the water.

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