18 March 2010

Thoughts about Our Electrical Future

OlyBlog: thoughts about electricity, sustainability and living harmoniously... http://olyblog.net/our-electrical-future
This is the same as is posted at OlyBlog:
I read an article by John Dodge in yesterday's Olympian. It was about an expansion of the 550 megawatt Satsop gas powered electrical generating station. It's an interesting article for sure. It made me think.
The article includes a statement by local economist Jim Lazar. The statement by Lazar was about the important role of gas plants, like the one at Satsop, in a sustainable energy future. Gas plants could fill an important niche in filling in gaps where less harmful sources of electricity, like wind-power, become inconsistent or unreliable.
I wonder if there might be other technologies that could be available to fill in gaps - even before resorting to these giant gas turbines. For example, I think of a technology I saw one time on the discovery channel many years ago.
The program was about fuel-efficient automobiles. The design in question was a hybrid/electric car that was powered by an ultra-efficient high rpm gas turbine generator. In the design, when the vehicle is operation the turbine runs full-time at a high rpm, around 18,000 rpm for example. The turbine would generate enough electricity to power 4 independent electric motors, one attached to each wheel. This design was rated at 200 miles/gallon for a full-size passenger sedan.
The coolest part of the design was a kinetic energy storage device in the form of a 300 pound gyro, that would be capable of spinning on its own momentum for up to six weeks while the vehicle is parked. It's essentially a kinetic (and hence non-toxic) battery. The gyro would be charged (spun up) with surplus energy from the turbine while the vehicle is in operation, and it could be used to provide extra energy for acceleration, and for starting the turbine.
I think about a technology like this operating in homes. Instead of a 300 pound gyro, what if homes were outfitted with 3,000 pound gyros (or whatever size would make sense) that could be charged during times of electrical availability and drawn upon during times when the electrical grid is short on energy.
If there is the capacity and technology to send people to the Moon, to send spaceships to the outer reaches of the solar system and beyond, to practice full spectrum military dominance over much of the globe, and also to destroy, completely--with nuclear weapons, the conditions necessary for life to exist here on this planet, then there must also be the technology to live in a way that is not intrusive nor destructive, but is instead benign, benevolent, and in harmony with all life on this planet...
Seems to me like it is a good time to put on a thinking cap and begin to envision all of the different potentials that might exist for infrastructural changes for the purpose of transforming to a way of life that is truly sustainable, stable, life-serving and mutually beneficial for all people.
I am still hoping for the day when nuclear fusion becomes inexpensive and available at regional and/or local levels.
Here's a link to the article by John Dodge in yesterday's edition of The Olympian: Plant seeks energy boost
Additional related comments:
I also question whether or not occasional and regular gaps in electrical supply would be all that bad for society in general...
Sure there are some applications of technology, in hospitals and such, that depend on technology to save lives and to administer to peoples' basic needs.
But other than what are now thought of as essential functions, I think regular interruptions of those activities that are dependent upon electricity might actually be good for society.
As habitual living patterns desensitize, so oppositely do regular interruptions, interruptions to those aspects of life which are often times taken for granted and/or not well understood, help to increase levels of consciousness and understanding.
Do we really need full time electricity? Maybe not. But if yes, then would it not make sense to lessen our dependence on such a full-time supply? Maybe not. But, if yes again, then in what ways can we change the way we live so that we are not, or not as, dependent on a constant supply of electricity? For example here, I am thinking here in terms of things like food storage (refrigeration,) indoor heating, transportation needs, etc....

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