Biomass - local power generation (crossposted from euy2k) : LUSENET : Deregulation / Restructuring Discussion: - Energy Utilities in the 21st Century : One Thread

Here's an interesting discussion that has been taking place in the euy2k forum. I've crossposted it here because of the relevance to the topic of deregulation / restructuring. - Rick

I am hoping this catches some interest here. That is, what have we learned as a result of Y2K? One painfull reality we have all come to grips with is the interconnectedness of everything and the potential domino effects we are always vulnerable to. I offer that even more focus towards locally sustainable practices will reduce this vulnerability. As regards the power industry, more green technology can and is being employed. By it's very nature, Biofuels for power generation localize much of the proccess. This effect extends to the local farmers and communities. A revers domino effect is created, and it seems that it actually creates more security for the people these systems serve. Much progress has been made, but apathy and the old school hang on to old ideas that have served to get our industrial society where it is, it is time we went to the next level. What say you all? Are you in favor of encouraging more development for biofuels to be used in power generation? Do you like the idea of more localized power generation, using plants and farms instead of coal and natural gas? Or hydro? What experience do you have in any of these areas? Is this even a proper topic for this forum? Y2K sure did raise my awareness about these things.

-- Tim Castleman (, September 30, 1999


Here is a link to a DOE site where they have done a lot of work so far

-- Tim Castleman (, September 30, 1999.

Wow! This caught my interest. A friend of mine from Ontario called me a couple of weeks ago. She had recently attended a seminar promoting the use of biofuels in power plants and ceasing usage of coal (she didn't mention natural gas). The reason she called me with this information is the fact that she is aware that one of our biggest industries where I live is the coal mines. She gave me the names of two companies that are behind this but I lost the paper I scribbled the info down on, however, one of the companies has environmental interests. Apparently, the campaign is being launched in November sometime. I'll have to call her back and get the info again - perhaps someone on this board has some insight into what's going on.

-- Val (, September 30, 1999.

It is alarming and frustrating that Y2K comes about at around the same time that distribution of electrical generation finally seems practical on a large scale. Improvements in microturbine efficiency make this a viable alternative for on site factory power production. More important, renewable energy sources continue to make gains. Solar cells contine to show incremental improvements in efficiency leading to decreased cost of production per watt. While still a large initial investment, when averaged out over expected life spans of 10 to 20 years or more these might prove cost effective especially if incorporated into building materials such as roofing shingles as is now possible. Wind turbines are reliable and useful for some climates. Small scale hydroelectric generation is less expensive, biomass, fuel cells, geothermal all show promise. Perhaps as important, relatively inexpensive devices are now available for conversion of d/c power to more usable a/c power and/or for relatively straightforward resale of that a/c power to the electric grid. Not that any of this solves the current problem. Facing Y2K I''m inclined to never say never, but I imagine that 5 million generating sources of vastly different modalities would be less suseptible to the "common mode" type failure we are now worried about. Wouldn't make so much pollution either. This might also be a good discussion for Yourdan's, what is it, Humpty forum.

-- PD (< /a>), September 30, 1999.

Wow - great thread - I'm going to cross post this over to the deregulation forum. I think it's a great topic for the new forum.

I agree that decentralizing some of the current electric generation infrastructure makes sense, at least on a personal / local level. Y2k, while not necessarily an impetus for doing just that, has certainly highlighted this potential "weak link" in the electricity food chain. However, there's a lot to consider, and I think it's a lot more complex than simply uncoupling large, centralized generating facilities from the grid, and hooking up thousands of microturbines and local small scale generators instead. It's called "economies of scale".

Thats one of the primary reasons that the North American electric system has evolved such as it has. Think about it. Back at the turn of the century, all generation was local. Distribution systems were as localized as a wired up neighborhood. But when electrification of the country started happening on a large scale, it simply made economic sense to employ larger units that could bear the burden of an entire geographic territory. Because of these economies, virtually every home and business in the country was electrified by the second quarter of this century.

What you're suggesting is probably becoming more practical. Technologies are evolving for smaller scale generation on an economically practical basis. And I expect the trend of replacing aging large non-green generating stations with smaller "distributed generation" units is going to continue.

Keep this in mind though - one of the themes of all the Y2k discussion on this forum has been the reliability of the regional grids and local distribution systems. Does decentralizing generation, and replacing, say a single 750MWe coal fired plant with two hundred 4MWe biomass units *decrease* overall system reliability because of increased interconnections and the geographic scattering of potential failure points? (1 -vs- 200) Does this not *increase* overall vulnerability of the transmission network itself? (I'm just kind of free associating for the moment...I think I know the answer to this one...)

(As an aside, for hot water purposes, I'm used to the standard 40 gallon, glass lined, gas fired water heater to heat my water. In my office, however, we have a 3 gallon "spot" heater mounted underneath the restroom sink to provide hot water. It turns on when you open the hot water spigot, and it's the epitome of "demand side management" for hot water on a local scale. Saves resources; certainly saves me money. Same concept that Tim's championing for electricity, I suppose.)

-- Rick Cowles (, Se

-- Tim Castleman (, September 30, 1999

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