Friday, July 8, 2011

I just don't get it....

There's an article in Gizmag about a Concentrating Solar Thermal power station achieving 24 hour power supply. A lot of angst is expended on finding ways to ensure that renewable forms of energy can deliver base load power.
And I note a number of respected economists talking about demand side modification trying to reduce peak demand - presumably to boost off peak demand and even out the load on power generation.
Time was that nature's supply cycle induced rest in us - when the sun went down we socialised by the fire for a bit and then went to sleep.
Just because machines can work 24/7 to pay off capital investment doesn't mean that we must. Just because coal fired power stations take a long time to crank up and are better at providing constant power than variable supply (resulting from variable levels of activity) doesn't mean that this is the only way to run our civilization. I'm quite happy to sleep at night and be glad that my refrigerator and the hospital can run all night without me. Base load could be reduced dramatically if we didn't treat people like machines. Peak load can be handled a lot better by the various renewables and a smart grid - in the end you don't need to generate so much power if you only generate it when you really need it - a bit like my microwave oven - a short sharp burst that only does the job I want and doesn't waste anything actually reduces my electricity bill.
What would Australia's power needs look like if we produced and priced electricity according to the capacity of a renewables grid and the realities of the way people really work, play and run their culture? How much of our "always on" culture is because we want it and how much is it machine induced insomnia?
People like to party all night occasionally - fine - but take on the full cost and don't do it too often. It's more fun if it's a rarity done for fun rather than a compulsive whirl of events where you can never relax.
I don't get it... base load ... peak load.... what's driving all this? People or machines? If people know what is available they'll tailor their culture to get the most out of it. So stop worrying and learn to love...... well, they are smarter than that, right?