Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Energy Electranet

One of Al Gore’s recommendations to Congress in his recent speech there on Global Warming was to “Create an “ELECTRANET” — a smart electricity grid that allows individuals and businesses to feed power back in at prevailing market rates.”

With such a smart energy distribution grid, all Americans will have an opportunity to help develop and experiment with new sources of non-polluting energy and to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Here are Gore's words in Newsweek:

Taking a page from the early development of ARPANET, which ultimately became the Internet, we will rely on new kinds of distribution networks for electricity and liquid fuels. We will be less dependent on large, centralized coal-generating plants and massive oil refineries. Societies of the future will rely on small, diversified and renewable sources of energy, ranging from windmills and solar photovoltaics to second-generation ethanol- and biodiesel-production facilities. Widely dispersed throughout the countryside, these streamlined facilities will make the industrialized world more secure and less dependent on unstable and threatening oil-producing nations.

As soon as Gore mentions the Internet, many poke fun at him for "inventing" it. Gore never said he "invented" it; but I think he did more than anyone else in government to encourage its development. And the Internet is bringing huge economic results. Why? Because it is a decentralizing medium that allows all sorts of individuals all over the place to mix their ideas with others to come up with helpful innovations.

The same may be expected from an Electranet. Like the Internet, the Electranet will be a decentralizing medium. Like the Internet, the Electranet will allow people anywhere to contribute - not with information but with energy. Like the Internet, the Electranet will allow all of us to use our brains to help develop new and sustainable energy sources that will remove our dependence on fossil fuels.

Some of us would be installing solar panels on the roofs of our homes or buildings. Others would be working with windmills. Still others with fuel cells of various types. Many others with ideas we have not heard about yet.

This is not "pie in the sky." California is already in the vanguard:

Last year Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law the Million Solar Roofs bill, written by Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Culver City. Beyond building a million solar roofs in the next decade, the law also increases the credit that customers can get for generating their own solar energy.

And the energy would be bought by the utilities.

All of this will be accomplished with a "smart" grid, which California is working on. But Gore's Electranet requires a "smart" grid covering the entire nation. The sooner we develop one, the sooner we will be able to put the country at work to experiment with new sources of energy, and the sooner America can be an energy independent nation.

Posted by Paul Siegel at April 3, 2007 7:00 PM
Comments
Comment #214891

There’s no way to keep energy generation from being centralized. Small towns and rural areas might be able to generate enough energy to sustain themselves with things like solar panels and windmills, if they have enough of them, but there’s no way that our metropolitan areas are going to sustain themselves with local windmills and solar panels.

Such a thing would work on existing power grids and we wouldn’t need a lot of new infrastructure. So that part of it’s good. There’s nothing wrong with doing this, on some scale, but it’s no magic bullet.

The problem is that the absolutely massive scale that such measures would require to even make a dent in our energy needs would create huge environmental problems of their own.

What we really need to do is bring nuclear power into the 21st century instead of the 1970s, modernize reactors to make them safer and cleaner, and utilize advances in reprocessing technology to all but eliminate the problem of nuclear waste disposal.

The solution to all of our energy problems is staring us in the face. The means for safe, clean and limitless power is there but too many people have this superstitious fear of nuclear energy and we’ve literally done nothing in this area for decades now.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at April 3, 2007 9:19 PM
Comment #214917

LO,

We’ve got to start somewhere, we have no other choices, really. Frankly, I’m more concerned about the impact of the oligarchs of energy production here, as well as OPEC, than about global warming. I think this is a good idea. It will require installation of more load handling devices to control the flow of energy. Cities and industrial areas will need outside power generation. Many industrial plants already do this.

Last year I worked on a cogeneration plant for Dow Chemical, it used natural gas turbines. It was actually built and operated by Calpine (an interesting company) that went bankrupt, in part because of high Natural gas prices while locked into low price contracts.

While I worked there I was amazed by the amount of energy they waste by continually burning off flares (for safety) Some of these flares had 100 foot high flames that you could feel the heat from at a distance of several hundred yards. Beyond making me nervous about why they were having to burn off these flares so frequently at this plastics plant,(we sometimes had to evacuate to safety positions, though we never actually evacuated) I wondered about Dow’s carbon footprint. It also happens to be in Ron Paul’s district.

Posted by: gergle at April 3, 2007 10:34 PM
Comment #214922

Calpine. I use to go into their building to use the tunnels to get to the Wells Fargo Tower. Nice looking building.

I think at the very least, we need to mandate the modernization of the infrastructure. It’s a source of waste, and a weakpoint for both terrorist attacks and (much more commonly) needless blackouts.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 3, 2007 10:50 PM
Comment #214931

Stephen,

I hadn’t thought of them in a while, they were delisted from the NYSE in 2005, so I guess it’s been 2 years.

They originated in California as a geothermal energy company, primarily. They still exist…but in a much smaller form. The group I worked with were a lot of intelligent and interesting people (the construction group). The founder and CEO was booted. He tried to grow his way out of the cash flow problems and failed. He continued to build Gas Turbine plants when a lot were idle or at reduced capacity.

I had to drive to Freeport from NW Houston every day for a year, while that sounds grueling, once you get past the Beltway it was a nice drive…sort of a daily meditation. The worst part was at the end when they were heat treating welds and I had to work nights..that sucked.

Posted by: gergle at April 3, 2007 11:21 PM
Comment #214946

Al Gore has a great idea. Incredible the venom he is taking from the right.

Anyway a solar panel on each rooftop will go a long way.

The ideal thing would be a system that would allow home owners or small subdivisions to create, capture and store their own energy independent of large companies. Likewise for the automotive purposes. Wouldn’t it be great if we could catch our own solar or wind power and store it as hydrogen or in some sort of capacitors and then use it to run our cars?

The ultimate goal of true Americans should be to break their dependency on multinational oil companies, foreign oil and large single source power companies.

I just don’t understand these independent minded conservatives who are so comfortable having only one form of transportation to rely on and are fine with being so dependent on Multinational corporations for all their energy needs. Choices would be better. Independence better yet.


Posted by: muirgeo at April 4, 2007 2:17 AM
Comment #214947

That’s a proposal I first read about in Jeremy Rifkin’s book, “The Hydrogen Economy”. Good stuff.

Posted by: American Pundit at April 4, 2007 2:29 AM
Comment #214986
The ideal thing would be a system that would allow home owners or small subdivisions to create, capture and store their own energy independent of large companies. Likewise for the automotive purposes. Wouldn’t it be great if we could catch our own solar or wind power and store it as hydrogen or in some sort of capacitors and then use it to run our cars?

That would be wonderful. Let me know when it is technically possible and I’ll be the first person on board. (I’m actually trying to do it now, but the lack of good battery technology, adequate solar technology and the cost of what is available is making it nerve-racking).

Posted by: Rhinehold at April 4, 2007 11:53 AM
Comment #215037

Rhinehold-
The answer to the question of whether subdivisions could generate some of their own power is pretty much an absolute yes. Could they offset their electricity needs by much? That’s the question.

If we’re talking right now, they could do some, but hydrogen technology is going to have to make it’s way more into at least the early adopter stage before the electrolysis strategy will yield big results.

If we’re talking the future, they’re getting better at engineering the solar panels to raise their efficiency and lowering their costs. It might be something to look forward.

The nice pie in the sky idea they have is to combine liquid hydrogen pipelines with superconducting power lines. The beauty of such an approach is that the cryogenically chilled hydrogen would act as the coolant for the superconducting cables. You’d get a hydrogen pipeline and a lossless method of transporting electricity all in one package…

…if you could get it to work. Such is technology!

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 4, 2007 3:46 PM
Comment #215088

The nice pie in the sky idea they have is to combine liquid hydrogen pipelines with superconducting power lines.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty

You DEFINITELY want to know where they lay those lines before you go digging in your garden.

Reminds me of a joke;

A Guy is falling from the sky trying to get his paracute to open. As he struggles with it he
sees a small dot coming up at him from the ground..its getting bigger and bigger. Eventually he realizes its a person coming up at him. As the person is approaching him he ask; do you know anything about these parachutes. As the person passes him he says, ” NO…Do you know anything about these gas stoves?” (liquid hydrogen pipelines)

Posted by: muirgeo at April 4, 2007 9:23 PM
Comment #215092

EU Greenhouse emissions on the rise. Whoops, they really did sign Kyoto….and they really do want the US to destroy it’s economy with Kyoto so they can pick up our jobs.

But whoops, Euope can’t follow Kyoto but they are really good at making agreements to cut greenhouse gases….then not following them.

Posted by: stephen L at April 4, 2007 9:45 PM
Comment #215093

what’s worse watching the hypocrites in Europe NOT follow Kyoto and smear us for saying we can’t follow it either or watching Liberals smear us for not following the European example…..of signing but not following.

Posted by: StephenL at April 4, 2007 9:52 PM
Comment #215133

What’s worse is having a leader who has no foresight to show the world the way by creating a government lead program to find alternatives. That would result in solutions ( new batteries, capacitor storage devices, new technologies (cheaper solar, wind, tidal and wave technologies)and new efficiencies), a technological boom and us being seen as the leaders of the free world that we once were.

What’s worse is having a leader who has caved in everyway to his masters squandering our treasury to secure their position as Kings of energy making us more dependent then ever while bring the world to the brink in the process and killing hundreds of thousands needlessly.

Posted by: muirgeo at April 5, 2007 7:41 AM
Comment #215319

“What’s worse is having a leader who has no foresight to show the world the way by creating a government lead program to find alternatives. That would result in solutions ( new batteries, capacitor storage devices, new technologies (cheaper solar, wind, tidal and wave technologies)and new efficiencies), a technological boom and us being seen as the leaders of the free world that we once were.”

That’s the job of big business, not government,but you on the left can’t have that. The CEO might make too much money.

Posted by: tomd at April 6, 2007 8:38 AM
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