Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Any way the wind blows...

What if... we augmented our dependency on nuclear and fossil fuels with wind power.?

A friend recently suggested that we (Ontario) could switch some of our electrical supply to wind power. Denmark gets about 40% of it's electricity from Wind generators, most in the Black Sea. Currently Ontario has about 85 Mw of wind generation and plans to expand that to 1300Mw. That is equivalent to 2 CANDU 6 reactors.

I am all for green power and the newly installed wind farms in Ontario are a great step forward, but there is one major drawback. The power grid.

Our power grid covers all of North America. The grid has to be balanced, by that I mean power generation should match power demand. There are a few tricks like pumping water uphill and later using the same water to generate power again (hydroelectric). But all in all, the grid must be balanced.

When something goes wrong, like this morning at 6:20am, you get a "bump" the grid was unbalanced for a few seconds and either the bump was caused by... or the bump caused a fire in a transformer substation. End result was a few clocks started flashing "12:00" because we lost power for a few seconds.

Remember the blackout of August 14th 2003 when the Northeast lost power for a few days. An overload in the Ohio grid system kicked 265 power stations off line and put 50 million people in the dark, well it was the afternoon but you get my drift.

What does this have to do with wind power. Wind power is not regular, it unbalances the grid, the more wind power you have the more of a balancing act you have. Here at work one of the profs "in the know" said we could probably handle a 6% to 8% wind generation dip. When the wind falls off and the load needs to be balanced we get our power by increasing reactor or hydro output or by getting electricity from someone else on the grid... our neighbours to the south.

Denmark my get 40% of there power from the wind, but that has to balance someplace when there is no wind. They are fortunate that the winds in the North Sea are pretty predictable.

Wind power "the upside"

Local wind power is the way to go, and by local I mean off the grid, single use systems. I will use my cottage as an example.

Walk into Canadian Tire and you can purchase a 400W wind generating system for about $1200 with all the bits and pieces. If my cottage were to be wired (which I can do) so the lights were all on a separate circuit I could use this system to power all my lights, and some other low current draw devices. A battery would store the power when I am not using it and an inverter would convert it back to AC when I need it. The system can also be integrated with a solar panel to give you some juice on sunny days.

You can also dump the battery storage and tie into the grid (your breaker box) with a special inverter... but that will double the price. Thing is, the system payback time is like 20 years, assuming nothing breaks in that time. Personally I plan on building my own generator from a automotive alternator. It doesn't have to be efficient, just cheap.

Payback math

System $1,200 (non grid system)

I use the cottage 50 days a year, so lets assume 500 watts/hr I am there (this is way high)
...so 1200Kwh a year, or $54 a year in Hydro savings (.045 per Kwh). I still have to buy hydro because a system like this will not run the air conditioner, fridge, pump, or water heater. None the less...

The system pays for itself in 22 years... maybe.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Here's a cool idea

What if... we all bought new fridges?

Sure, it sounds expensive but you are actually saving money.

The energy use of refrigerators and freezers has improved dramatically in the past 20 years, but they are still among the largest energy consumers in the home. A typical new refrigerator today uses less than 500 kWh per year, a running cost of about $25.00 a year, again assuming $0.045/Kwh. A typical model sold in 1973 used more than three times as much 1500Kwh/year or $75.00. The typical unit today is larger, has better controls, and increased efficiency achieved through improved compressors and motors.

I got most of these figures by doing some simple research on some conservation sites, so both the research and me being simple, the math is simple. A new basic fridge cost $600...ish, you save $50 a year in hydro, fridge pays for itself in 12 years.

Sounds like a long time, but think of it this way. You have a brand new fridge, and it is paying for itself when compared to your old fridge. If you didn't get a shiney new fridge you would still have an old ugly avocado green fridge for the cost of $50 more a year... see my logic. The new fridge is cheaper... sort of???

The return will be quicker if they increase our Hydro rates... and you know that will happen. I have not included electrical delivery costs because all things being equal, you would have to pay that regardless.

CANDU 6 rant. (Cost 3 billion dollars, 700 Mwh)

Lets do a yearly average this time. If we replaced every fridge in Ontario homes with new ones, at 4.5 million households in Ontario, we could save about 4500 Mwh every year or roughly 500Kw every hour of every day.

That's a consumer cost of $22,500 every hour.

If every Ontario household got a $500 credit towards a new fridge, it would cost 2.25 billion dollars. If would be recovered in 100,000 hours, or about 12 years.

Same cost and return as if we bought it, coincidence... I think not!

I have messed with the numbers, but the return is not as great as replacing all your bulbs with CFB's. You use about the same amount of power yearly to run a fridge as you do for normal house lighting. But it cost a lot less to replace house lights ($20) than a fridge ($500).

My point is... conservation is still cheaper than building a new reactor.

BTW... I am pro Nuclear, there is no other choice except conservation.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Unclear Nuclear

What if... the idiots at City Hall did some research about atomic, solar, and wind power before they opened their mouths? Is that asking to much of our elected officials?


The other day on the radio I heard one of our City Councillors state that he felt we should not replace one of our coal fired power plants with a nuclear plant. Instead we should replace it with wind generators or a solar farm. Nuclear is not an option because we all know how dangerous they are. Just look at Chernobyl.

What! Chernobyl? Are you kidding?

Let me see, the reactor had no containment building, unlike the CANDU’s (one of the safest reactors in the world). It happened during the dark times of the communist regime, remember when the wall fell, and all hell was breaking loose in the eastern block countries. And it happened in 1986, which is over 20 years ago. And since then there have been … errr, … uhhh, … none, zero, no accidents.

Now I am not saying it wasn’t bad because it was horrific, over 140,000 deaths. Most of those are cancer related over the past 20 years. Initially, I believe there were 30 deaths and then most of the workers involved with the containment efforts died.

But you can’t judge an entire energy system based on one careless accident.

If so, you could draw several conclusions on other technologies. Let’s follow that logic for a second. Nuclear power plants have killed 140,000 in 20 years. So that’s 7000 per year. Yes I know I am a cold hearted !#$%&.

The car, which almost everyone owns in this country, kills an estimated 1.2 million people worldwide each year (wiki), that’s 2 people every minute. That’s 24 million people in 20 years. So the car kills 17142% more people than atomic power plants. I don’t think we are going to be trading in our cars for bicycles in the near future.

It's like a plane crash. It is tragic that so many die at once. You feel terrible and some may say flying is not safe. But the truth is you are more likely to die getting hit by a car crossing the street than you are to die in a plane crash.

Chernobyl was tragic, it shouldn’t have happened, but it did. The same can be said for a car accident. But neither is cause to suspend use of the technology.

BTW… did you know that Worldwide about 50 nuclear weapons have… ahh… been lost. Most in plane crashes or dumped in the ocean. Some have even been dropped… unarmed,…by mistake.

More on the solar, wind power option later. They have there place on the grid, but are not currently a viable replacement for present power systems.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

A Bright idea

What if... you replaced every bulb in your house with compact fluorescent bulbs?

I probably should have done this first, but I wanted to save the best for last. Put simply... change every single bulb in your house to fluorescent. Why you ask... come on ask!... It saves you money.

Lets assume all the same figures from the previous post... see I am making you read.

Incandescent bulb (60 watts)

  • purchase price cost $0.50
  • lifespan 750 hours (3 months)
  • yearly power consumption 175,200 watts ($7.88)
  • 3.5 year cost, bulbs $7.00 + power $27.58 = $34.58

Compact Fluorescent (13 watts, same as 60 watt Incandescent)

  • purchase price cost $2.00
  • lifespan 10,000 hours (3.5 years)
  • yearly power consumption 37,960 watts ($1.71)
  • 3.5 year cost, bulb $2.00 + power $5.98 = $7.98

In short, over the life of the CFB you will save about $25.00 per bulb. The payback time for the original purchase is less then 1 year. I have picked up CFB at the Dollar store which makes the payback about 3 months.

Again there is a lot of guesstimation, but the fact is they will save you money. The newer bulbs are cheaper and provide a pleasing light... as in colour temperature. You can usually pick up a 6 pack on sale for $10.00 at CTC.

A few problems... they don't like the cold, and they don't dim. But you can always use halogen or another efficient bulb there.

CANDU 6 rant. (Cost 3 billion dollars, 700 Mwh)

If we replaced every bulb in our homes with CFB's, let's say 3 CFB's on per household, with 4.5 million households in Ontario, we could save 634 Mw every hour the lights are on. That is about the output of 1 Candu 6 Nuclear Reactor. BTW... I am pro Nuclear, there is no other choice except conservation.

Right now (as of this minute) Ontario is using 18,284 Mw per hour.

The New Math

If Ontario Hydro bought every household a 6 pack of bulbs at $10 a pack it would cost $45 Million dollars. The interest (5%) on 3 billion dollars (Candu 6 cost) is 12.5 million per month. So... in 4 months Hydro would recover their investment by not building an additional reactor. Just by converting everyone to CFB's Hydro could defer the cost of at least one Candu 6.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Light of a lifetime

What if... you only had to buy a light bulb once?

In short, you buy a light bulb, screw it into the socket and never ever replace it.

Science Fiction, nope it is here today... still a little pricey but nonetheless still a good deal. No rant just yet (but wait), just a look at how these bulbs measure up.

Let's start with the basic cost vs. lifetime argument. Lets assume a 60 watt equivalent rating and 8 hours per day 365 days a year till death due us part, okay lets call it 5 years. Cost of electricity is still $0.045 per Kwh (Kilowatt hour).

Incandescent bulb (60 watts)
  • purchase price cost $0.50

  • lifespan 750 hours (3 months)

  • yearly power consumption 175200 watts ($7.88)

  • 5 year cost, bulbs $10.00 + power $39.40 = $49.40

  • 20 year cost, bulbs $40.00 + power $157.60 = $197.60

LED light (2.5 watts)

  • purchase price $34.00

  • lifespan 60,000 hours (20 years)

  • yearly power consumption 7300 watts ($0.33)

  • 5 year cost, bulb $34.00 + power $1.65 = $35.65

  • 20 year cost, bulb $34.00 + power $6.60 = $40.60

The break even point is really more like 4 years.

Error analysis... all these numbers are averages, you may have more or less lighting, and may leave them on longer or shorter. You also have to shell out $35 bucks for a bulb versus $2 for a 4 pack. The latter seems cheaper, but not in the long run.

The LED's bulbs themselves are currently not made by any big name compaines, ummm can't imagine why... OH COME ON... there is no profit in making a bulb that you only buy once. Incandescent Bulb Companies make a small fortune selling people the same bulb over and over again. Most LED bulb companies are small guys trying to make a buck. The compact Flourescent bulb market is picking up steam and in a few years I imagine the LED market will follow suit. The price for LED's will drop and replace the Compacts as the light source of choice.

CANDU 6 rant. (Cost 3 billion dollars, 700 Mwh)

If we replaced one bulb for every person in Ontario we would be saving 691 Mwh every hour the lights are on. That is the output of 1 Candu 6 Nuclear Reactor. BTW... I am pro Nuclear, there is no other choice except conservation.

Right now (as of this minute) Ontario is using 18,178 Mw per hour.