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mcv said 5 months ago:

If it's incredibly hot, doesn't that also mean it's incredibly sunny? Sounds like solar would be the perfect solution here. In Australia, energy prices sometimes go negative because of the abundance of solar energy[0]. Admittedly not during the hottest days when everybody turns up the AC, but using solar to supply that energy still seems like the most logical approach.

Of course alternating between extremely high and negative prices due to the volatility in supply and demand should create plenty of opportunity for businesses that make money simply storing energy and evening out the fluctuation.

[0] https://reneweconomy.com.au/wind-solar-push-south-australia-...

_delirium said 5 months ago:

One problem is that solar's peak is too early in the day to match peak demand in most of the US (including Texas). Texas's electricity usage typically peaks around 4-6pm in the summer, while photovoltaic output peaks around 12-2pm. There is some storage, but you would need a lot more to line those curves up. A cost-effective way to shift the solar peak to about 4 hours later would definitely help on a lot of days.

For the curious, you can browse the demand curves day-by-day here: https://www.eia.gov/realtime_grid/#/summary/demand?end=20190...

SEJeff said 5 months ago:

This is where stationary storage (via batteries) makes a lot more sense. In Australia, the same problem exists, but they have an giant ozone hole so even more UV hits the surface. Tesla deployed what (at the time) was the biggest battery storage project in the world. They built a 100MW/129MWh battery setup with their Powerpacks. In another part of Australia, they're deploying a "virtual power plant" by equipping up to 50,000 homes with individual home battery backups via Tesla's Powerwall product. The grid operator will be able to tap into each of these batteries to redirect power to the grid or shift load off of the grid whenever they see necessary. This is resulting in massively improved prices for electricity in South Australia where they had a lot of rolling blackouts (due to the heat) last summer.

The newly released Tesla Megapack https://www.tesla.com/megapack seems like a slam dunk for this sort of thing. You store that crazy amount of sunshine that is excess in batteries and use them that evening or the following morning. The economics of this approach are becoming more and more realistic due to better technology and better manufacturing.

humanrebar said 5 months ago:

The problem in urban Texas is that all the asphalt and concrete acts as a stationary heat battery. Counteracting that is a huge part of the problem.

They could use batteries and air conditioning to do so, but it's likely the return on investment would be higher figuring out how to provide more shade even in non residential areas.

the8472 said 5 months ago:

Would it make sense to mix some TiO2 or other whiteners into the asphalt and concrete to increase their albedo?

Edit: Looks like LA is doing something like that https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/climate-weather/blogs/how-...

bobthepanda said 5 months ago:

I‘m imagining that Texas has far wider roads than Europe. Would it be possible to plant street trees or other tall native vegetation to provide shade?

shliachtx said 5 months ago:

Houston does just that. Streets in Houston are lined with live oak, providing shade to much of the street.

cylinder said 5 months ago:

Have you been outside the loop? There is no culture of shade protection in Texas the way there is in other not places like Australia or mideast. Massive concrete car parks with no shade structures in sight. No solar panels on the roofs of big box stores. It's pathetic.

SketchySeaBeast said 5 months ago:

It's a shame we can't convert that heat to electricity in some efficient way.

acidburnNSA said 5 months ago:

Oh we can convert high grade heat to electricity with amazing efficiency. Problem is, this is super low-grade (low temperature) heat. Darn you, thermodynamics.

imglorp said 5 months ago:

PV solar roadways are a total bust, but I do wonder about liquid loops under the asphalt. If you need a source of cold to create a temperature gradient vs the road, you could always pull from geothermal next to the roadway collector.

celticninja said 5 months ago:

Provide shade by putting up solar panels above the roads.

todd8 said 5 months ago:

Does Australia really have a giant ozone hole? It doesn't seem so according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology[1]. Also see [2].

[1] http://www.bom.gov.au/uv/faq.shtml

[2] https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/06/30/australia-never...

perl4ever said 5 months ago:

I don't think [2] sounds like a reliable source. It presents a "hole" as a binary thing, which didn't extend to Australia. But even over Antarctica, it was a level of depletion, not literally a hole. There may be a point to be made about the numbers, but the whole article seems to be predicated on the assumption that either there is a hole or there isn't without defining it.

LifeLiverTransp said 5 months ago:

Actually, what makes even more sense, is to have a non-conversion storage.. aka.. just pre-freeze a large amount of coolant at solar peak and store that for the next day.

PietdeVries said 5 months ago:

You can shift the solar peak at least by one hour when importing electricity from California is possible... In Europe there are a lot of international power cables that help redistribute power across the region and that seems to work quite well (fingers crossed).

scolson said 5 months ago:

The Texas power grid is isolated and cannot routinely import power. It can in very temporary and emergency situations, but they do not as a matter of course to avoid federal oversight.

So while the US Western grid can time shift one hour in the way you describe, Texas is isolated.



patentatt said 5 months ago:

Yup, because ... Texas. In the entire country there are 3 roughly independent systems: East, West, and Texas. Maybe they’ll reconsider given these incredibly high prices?

scolson said 5 months ago:

There have been instances where the power spot price has gone negative, too. They have not had major outages. I don't see why they would reconsider.

_delirium said 5 months ago:

There's definitely an opinion in Texas that ERCOT is more reliable than the other two US grid managers, so it's popular to remain independent for that reason as well (besides the political reasons). Both the Eastern [1] and Western [2] Interconnections have had major grid-management incidents that took down large portions of the grid in cascading failures, and some analysts think further incidents are likely [3], while the Texas grid has never gone down.

There is some support for expanding the capacity of the asynchronous DC interconnects, though, which would let Texas import & export more electricity to the other two grids without tying itself to them directly. It already does a modest amount of that, but the current DC links don't have very high capacity.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northeast_blackout_of_2003

[2] https://www.nwcouncil.org/reports/columbia-river-history/bla...

[3] https://www.vox.com/2014/4/14/5604992/us-power-grid-vulnerab...

cannonedhamster said 5 months ago:

Yeah Texas just has rolling blackouts every other month. Totally reliable and not considered an outage how?

teraflop said 5 months ago:

As far as I'm aware, there have been no rolling blackouts in Texas since the last major incident in winter 2011. Got a source?

bradknowles said 5 months ago:

No, but blackouts after storms are pretty common. Sometimes lasting for days.

IMO, that’s a big part of the reason why backup generators are so very popular here in Texas.

Certainly, that’s the reason I have seriously considered installing a 10-15KW natural gas powered backup generator. It wouldn’t be grid-tied or even grid-interactive in any way, but it wouldn’t take me long to go downstairs and throw the transfer switch.

mjn said 5 months ago:

What part of TX do you live in? My parents have lived in suburban Houston for 20 years, and their power has basically never gone out for more than short blips, not even during tropical storms or hurricanes. The power lines in their neighborhood are buried though. I imagine if you're getting frequent outages you must have above-ground lines that get downed by trees? That can be an issue, but doesn't have a whole lot to do with the state-level grid, just whether a given subdivision or city has chosen to spend the money to bury the last-mile lines or not.

briandear said 5 months ago:

California has far more rolling blackouts. When I lived in Texas, the only power outages I ever saw were during hurricanes or some random local event like a transformer going out.

todd8 said 5 months ago:

Texas may be somewhat isolated from neighboring grids but it does have some ability to do some solar collection time shifting since the sun take over 50 minutes to traverse the entire state. Texas spans almost the entire central time zone; El Paso is in the Mountain time zone.

Nevertheless, Texas seems to be an ideal location for both wind and solar energy (and ironically, oil and gas too).

WillPostForFood said 5 months ago:

Texas is actually the largest producer of wind power, by far.


But lags in solar.

said 5 months ago:
SaintGhurka said 5 months ago:

You should be able to shift it by 45 minutes just by locating the solar generation in El Paso since it's 500 miles west of the major population centers and 700 miles from the eastern border.

Sunset in El Paso is at 7:51 today (mountain time). Sunset in Longview is 8:05 (central time).

El Paso also has more reliable sunshine than Austin and Dallas and Houston.

khuey said 5 months ago:

It's possible in theory but California is a net importer pretty much all of the time.

mrfusion said 5 months ago:

Seems silly but I’d imagine a lot of places could use the lower rates during peak solar to precool the buildings.

My house only heats up about two degrees per hour with the ac off. In theory I could precool by ten degrees and coast until the evening.

seanmcdirmid said 5 months ago:

Do you live in east/mid Texas? That sounds like some super great insulation if you are only accumulating 2 degrees an hour during a hot humid Texas summer.

vonmoltke said 5 months ago:

My house in Dallas only rose by about one degree per hour during the day when the A/C was off, even on the hottest days. It was pretty well-insulated, and the large trees around it helped.

> humid Texas summer

This is probably the warped idea of "humid" I got from growing up in South Florida, but Dallas was rarely ever humid.

humanrebar said 5 months ago:

Dallas is relatively humid, but not Florida, no.

It also doesn't have the constant sea breezes and incidental rain that most of Florida enjoys.

londons_explore said 5 months ago:

Build your houses out of stone rather than wood, and they'll have a 10+ tonne thermal mass. Just a few inches of insulation around that on all sides, and the temperature barely varies day to night.

shliachtx said 5 months ago:

Houston is as humid as it gets though.

mrfusion said 5 months ago:

Similar latitude actually. My house is concrete block though so it tends to resist temperature change a bit.

Also keep in mind large buildings will resist temperature changes even better than houses due to their size. Less surface area per volume.

mcv said 5 months ago:

Good insulation is a great investment for any home. Keeps your house cooler in summer, warmer in winter, dramatically reducing your energy needs in both cases.

abootstrapper said 5 months ago:

Our house went from 78 to 85 in 48 hours with the AC completely off. With highs over 100. We have an old house with basic insulation upgrades.

m463 said 5 months ago:

I'd expect it is a combination of insulation and thermal mass.

ip26 said 5 months ago:

Time of use rates will even get the residents to do it (precool) themselves.

michaelbuckbee said 5 months ago:

Do any of the smart thermostats have this function (tying in with rates?)

abootstrapper said 5 months ago:

Yes they do. Austin Energy has the Rush Hour rebate program that precools your house before peak demand. It’s compatible with several programmable thermostats. It’s an opt-in program and you can override your thermostat if you want. Austin’s rates don’t change with demand, but they are tiered and increase the more electricity you use per month.

ceejayoz said 5 months ago:

My Nest is signed up with my local power provider. In the summer, they turn up my temp a couple degrees from 2-6pm a couple times a month.

There's a pre-cool from 1-2 where they drop the temp, and if I leave it alone for the entire four hours, I get $5 off my power bill that month.

mjn said 5 months ago:

My parents (who live in Texas) get a rebate like this from their electricity company, which surprised me by even having an option to do it manually without a Nest-style internet-connected thermostat. If it's a day that the company wants reduced peak usage, they text+email you that you can get a rebate if you reduce usage during a certain set of hours. They judge whether you did or not by measuring your usage during those hours against your historical usage on similar-temperature days, so you can get the credit just by turning up your thermostat manually for a few hours. (This does require a new-style meter that reports hourly usage.)

chaosbutters said 5 months ago:

Doesn't it make sense then to send the power eastward while max generating it and then import power from the west later in the day when you need it? You could theoretically leverage the time differences and peak usage/generation. I understand there is losses in transmission but seems like a good juggling act

jdavis703 said 5 months ago:

The Texas grid is not integrated with other states. I'm guessing breaking this "independence" is a tough political sell.

londons_explore said 5 months ago:

Power arbitrage between non-connected grids is a thing in the rest of the world. I'd be very surprised if nobody is doing it to/from Texas.

It would require DC/AC convertors, so there is a slight energy loss, and fairly significant upfront capital cost.

Dumblydorr said 5 months ago:

Demand response can load shift cooling onto times when solar is more abundant. DR is criminally underused and will be one of the top ways we will utilize renewables going forward.

ip26 said 5 months ago:

Hell, you can even use DR to shift electric water heating to free up scarce power during peak A/C load.

Brakenshire said 5 months ago:

Even with 4 hours of battery storage solar should be substantially cheaper than gas peakers.

There also should be a huge amount of opportunity for demand side behaviour. For instance someone coming home at 6 could precool their house at 3 and save money, we just need to make that easier for consumers.

Pulcinella said 5 months ago:

There are cooling systems that freeze a tank of water at night when power is cheap and run the A/C system though it during the day. I’m not sure how effective it is though.

joezydeco said 5 months ago:

Here in Chicago we cool entire banks of skyscrapers using that method. It's very effective.


bradknowles said 5 months ago:

It’s called an “ice bear”, and is actually very effective at the level of an individual home.

I don’t know why more people don’t install them here in Texas.

seniorThrowaway said 5 months ago:

Pre-cooling your house at 3 in the Texas summer will last until about 3:30 at the latest.

cannonedhamster said 5 months ago:

Sounds like Texas needs better insulation standards for their housing.

ceejayoz said 5 months ago:

That's particularly frustrating, because effective building techniques for keeping houses cool in hot climates have existed for millennia.

imglorp said 5 months ago:

The problem is all those ancient tech items require long term thinking, such as shade trees, masonry, insulation, subterranean, etc... This sounds more like a cultural shift from cheap and fast stick-built: they're spoiled by that mentality but paying the price now.

todd8 said 5 months ago:

Yeah, but I don't want to do this: The town where people live underground: Welcome to Coober Pedy [1]. :(

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFA-OB-nJ_I

ceejayoz said 5 months ago:

No one said you have to go anywhere near that far.

Thicker, solid walls with more thermal mass that soak up the overnight cool to release throughout the day. Better insulation and air sealing. Trees, roof overhangs, and shade cladding to prevent direct sunlight from hitting the house.

"Just add a bigger AC" has been the approach for far too long, and it's not sustainable.

dubya said 5 months ago:

Overnight low of 81° F in Houston tonight, and it probably doesn't get that cool until 2 am or so. There's no overnight cool to soak up. It's also super humid just to cooling more challenging.

ceejayoz said 5 months ago:

Sure, there will always be some nights in the height of summer where you want some AC. The goal isn't total elimination; it's reduction.

Running AC in the dark night to cool that thermal mass will benefit during the day. Using some energy, but substantially less and at non-peak times.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_of_Houston indicates 81 is above the average... and again, thick walls aren't the only available approach. Any approach will involve a collection of different tweaks.

Brakenshire said 5 months ago:

The production cost of peak solar is probably a tenth of the cost for a gas peaker. You'd really have thought in a rational market there would be enough value there for people either getting a distinct thermal storage option or good enough insulation to make precooling work.

enlyth said 5 months ago:

I looked at the chart you provided, and calculated the difference between 12-2pm and 4-6pm usage, which seems to be only 13%.

Is this really such a huge hurdle in itself? I'm curious, not trying to be dismissive.

_ph_ said 5 months ago:

Pointing the panels more westward could fix this with only little losses in peak efficiency.

satya71 said 5 months ago:

If they required/subsidized better insulation, they could pre-cool the buildings to a bit lower than optimal temperature and have a huge thermal reserve. But it's Texas, so...

tth3uoku said 5 months ago:

All new residential construction is required to meet International Residential Code energy efficiency provisions. The State Energy Conservation Office provides funding opportunities to support efficiency programs and loans for public institution retrofitting projects. There are many programs requiring, subsidizing, and incentivizing energy efficiency: https://programs.dsireusa.org/system/program

What do you mean by it's Texas?

lern_too_spel said 5 months ago:

If the utility offers TOU billing, more solar installations will point west, shifting peak supply later in the day.

srmatto said 5 months ago:

I think Chillers with ice storage could be used to handle this somewhat. They already are used for that purpose to buy power off peak prices and then distribute the cooling when its needed thus de-coupling the supply and demand somewhat. This is mostly just armchair speculation on my part however.

jhayward said 5 months ago:

Commercial solar plants in Texas take advantage of the market by aligning themselves a few degrees off the optimum for total power, so that they can produce better in the heavier demand/higher spot market rate time periods in the evening.

A few percentage points lower in total mWh produced but more profit.

closeparen said 5 months ago:

So maybe people should cool their homes while away at work, assuming they’re insulated enough to then need less cooling after work.

IfOnlyYouKnew said 5 months ago:

There is less of a relation between heat and solar intensity (and therefore solar cell output) than one might think.

A cloud-less summer day in Texas offers the same potential solar energy no matter the temperature. And as you go higher latitudes, temperature drops far faster than irradiance. Which is why solar power in southern states is only moderately more productive than in New England or, for example, Germany.

big_chungus said 5 months ago:

There's almost always some mis-match between these two. The "duck curve" [0] is the best known example of this issue.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duck_curve

NovaEcosophy said 5 months ago:

This is somewhat true but a side effect of PV is that its performance degrades with higher temperatures. It is possible to use panels output as thermometers they are so consistent in this behavior.

I'm not saying they will stop working but merely they lose out in some potential.

xavieralexandre said 5 months ago:

The efficiency of photovoltaic tends to decrease with heat above 25°C.

Storing energy is expensive.

ljf said 5 months ago:

Storing energy is expensive - but as you can see - the value that the market has put upon this instant dispatch energy is also high.

newguy1234 said 5 months ago:

The solution is to simply build more natural gas peaker plants, not solar. If you read the article it pretty much shows that Texas overinvested in wind power and it just so happened that during this period of time the wind wasn't as strong. Also for Texas having an energy crisis like this is unacceptable because Texas is sitting on the largest natural gas fields in the country.

PhantomGremlin said 5 months ago:

Texas is sitting on the largest natural gas fields in the country

These things take time to sort themselves out. E.g. right now Texas is flaring a lot of natural gas (which they get as a byproduct of oil production).

Looked at dispassionately it seems insane.


RonaldSchleifer said 5 months ago:

It's a persistent fallacy to assume that sunniness and heat equal more solar power. Reality is that heat decreases the efficiency of solar, so, the hotter it is, the less efficient solar will be.

technofiend said 5 months ago:

A friend of mine who works from home was trying to get me to switch to Griddy which offers pass-through market prices at 15 minute increments. Today his electric bill was $9 and that was after he turned off literally everything except his fridge. He even turned off his hot water heater.

We only had 3% capacity left in the system, yet out in the Permian Basin operators are flaring off excess gas because they have no access to pipelines or choose not to pay for it. *1

Until the Texas Railroad Commission stops allowing flaring permits and forces operators to connect the energy of all that gas is wasted, which is a damn shame.

We could definitely use that gas (after processing) to run peakers until better storage comes online. But how do you sell the idea of investment to flatten energy prices in an unregulated market?

(1) https://oilprice.com/Energy/Natural-Gas/Gas-Flaring-Running-...

SwellJoe said 5 months ago:

You know what's worse than the gas flare offs? Nearly 100% of solar power, of which there is a tremendous amount in Texas in the summer, is going to waste. Most of the wind, of which there's a lot in the plains of west Texas and the hills of central Texas, is also wasted.

The only reason Texas isn't producing nearly 100% of its power from renewable sources today is because the oil and gas industry has been coddled and protected and catered to by the state government for decades, at the expense of everyone who isn't employed by the oil and gas industry (which, admittedly, is a lot of people in Texas).

tbirrell said 5 months ago:

Thats is the only reason not counting infrastructure, storage, peak-usage logistics, winter-usage logistics. Oh, and the fact that weather is temperamental, not consistent, not under our control at all, or able to change to meet our demand.

Oil and Gas already has infrastructure, and solves literally every one of those other issue due to the fact it can ramp up quickly if necessary.

If renewable advocates actually cared about something besides being anti-oil, they would see that the best renewable strategy is something to the effect of 70-80% nuclear, and 20-30% wind/solar/hydro with efficient storage options.

And finally, here is a Practical Engineering video that says the same thing but with data to prove it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5cm7HOAqZY

SwellJoe said 5 months ago:

I'm not opposed to nuclear, but that's not an option on the table, either. In Texas, fossil fuel is God, and nothing that would impede it will be tolerated, even when there are more cost effective and less environmentally destructive methods. Oil and gas holds so much sway over our politics that it's nearly impossible to make progress. Allowing the oil industry to externalize costs is so deeply ingrained in our politics it's hard to see a way out of it.

tbirrell said 5 months ago:

> more cost effective and less environmentally destructive methods

There are few options that are both these things. Which is not an argument to not fund R&D to reach that point, simply that as of right now, precious few things have both these properties. And once you add in the requirement to be able to sustain the power grid, I'm not sure you have any options.

That said, arguing that Big Oil has a strangle hold on politics, while not wrong, is misleading. This simple fact of the matter is that it is the least of many evils right now. Its like salt. Very useful for meat preservation, and the best they had for millennia, though not up to par with modern preservatives. Some day we will have something that is a legitimate contender, and at that point we can go after Big Oil for its influence. But until we have a legitimate contender, taking out Big Oil will only cause problems.

SwellJoe said 5 months ago:

Your comment is misleading. Solar and wind are literally cheaper than fossil fuels today (https://insideclimatenews.org/news/25032019/coal-energy-cost...). Even if we want to punt on going wholly green and keep night-time/cloudy-day coal and natural gas infrastructure running rather than deal with storage (though wind still blows at night), the times when Texas most needs power are the times when the sun is most able to provide it.

The only reason coal/natural gas aren't prohibitively expensive is that the infrastructure already exists. If the deck hadn't been stacked against solar and wind all this time, and if externalized costs started being reflected back on fossil fuel extraction decades ago instead of incentivizing more extraction, we wouldn't be in this mess. We would already have a healthy balance of solar and wind power generation, and the cost of converting some coal-fired plants to natural gas a few years ago (which was cause and effect of more fracking in west Texas, Oklahoma, and elsewhere) could have been redirected toward clean solutions. If our governments at all levels weren't owned by fossil fuels, we would have built our last fossil fuel power plant a decade or two ago. Germany made the decision a couple of decades ago, and they've got more Seattle weather than Texas weather...where were we? We were subsidizing cleanup for BP and Exxon spills and pretending like there were no other options.

blaser-waffle said 5 months ago:

It's a shame no one is willing to consider nuclear more. I'm convinced it was an oil-gas media campaign, lord knows they're in deep with a lot of other lobbying.

concert-gilled said 5 months ago:

I believe this was discussed in the documentary "Pandora's Promise."

technofiend said 5 months ago:

>Nearly 100% of solar power, of which there is a tremendous amount in Texas in the summer, is going to waste. Most of the wind, of which there's a lot in the plains of west Texas and the hills of central Texas, is also wasted.

It would be interesting to see a source on that, since there still seems to be investment in window and solar. But yeah we need storage to soak up that excess (whatever it is) when it exceeds use.

until better storage comes online.

cannonedhamster said 5 months ago:

We've literally had storage systems based on lakes for ages. They use them for coal plants. Find a naturally occurring underground vault of which there are many in Texas find two Chambers of differing height, pump higher when you have excess, reverse when you need more. Initial costs are high but it's cheaper than new plants.

Junk_Collector said 5 months ago:

All lakes in Texas are artificial. There just aren't many good locations to build new ones and if you did you would have to relocate probably thousands of people currently located along the river. Building underground in Texas is also problematic because of the type of soil in nearly every region. There are also no real mountain ranges that can be used for elevated storage. There is some work on using previous wells as compression storage but the efficiencies on that are poor currently and the setup is very expensive. Careless deployment of underground storage can also cause earthquakes.

Texas is one of the largest producers of renewable energy in the world thanks mostly to wind production, but it was not blessed with any great natural options for storing energy. Really though, this just means we need to keep working until we develop an artificial one!

xyzzyz said 5 months ago:

Building things deep underground is very expensive. These would have to be enormous vaults, so you’d have to go very deep. Caverns like that are hard to find and hard to map.

Cthulhu_ said 5 months ago:

So why is said oil and gas industry not investing in solar power themselves? I mean they will be left behind at some point if they don't catch up now.

And whatever happened to the free market? If an investor wants to plop down a solar collector farm somewhere in Texas' vast lands, what's stopping him? The government?

iambateman said 5 months ago:

Ghengis Khan doesn’t look around at his pillaged kingdom and think: “i guess this is enough, maybe we should establish more competition to enhance our long-term success as a community.”

No. He keeps chewing on brisket until someone else forces the issue.

jumbopapa said 5 months ago:

I don't believe these huge oil/gas companies are this naive. If just one makes the plunge and has success then all the others would have to follow. I don't think any of these oil companies are a Kodak.

SiempreViernes said 5 months ago:

If you mean not naive in the sense that Exxon knew of the effects of the emissions they helped create and continued with no change except for spreading disinformation: you are correct, they aren't naive.

pjc50 said 5 months ago:

Permitting is one thing: https://openei.org/wiki/RAPID/Solar/Texas

Access to the wholesale electricity market is another.

big_chungus said 5 months ago:

> why is said oil and gas industry not investing in solar power themselves?

Some are:

- https://www.chevron.com/technology/technology-ventures

- https://www.shell.com/energy-and-innovation/new-energies/she...

Admittedly, that's not a ton. What's really stopping it is that the family offices etc. don't want to invest in any thing but oil. It's a safe bet, they know it, and tech has given it very high odds of a return compared to what it used to be.

Some investors are doing just that (all though more with wind), just not a ton. Oil prices are down quite a bit off their last high, so expect to see less of this. Every thing in this equation is relative to oil.

SwellJoe said 5 months ago:

"And whatever happened to the free market?"

In Texas? With regard to fossil fuels? Oil owns the government in Texas, and the market is regulated to suit them.

ourlordcaffeine said 5 months ago:

In what way is the energy dumped or wasted? Are they downregulated by the grid operator?

SwellJoe said 5 months ago:

It's not being collected, at all. Sun hits dirt, wind blows by. Decades of externalizing oil and gas costs have made it seem like fossil fuels are cheaper than renewables, so renewables have not been deployed widely, even in a state like Texas where conditions are ideal (a lot of sun and a lot of wind, pretty much year 'round).

bradknowles said 5 months ago:

Even in the case of what light does hit a solar panel, something like 80% of that power is wasted anyway, because the light in question is infrared. The bulk of the output from our Sun in the visible and near-visible range actually comes to us as heat, in the form of infrared.

Now, if there was only a way to collect much of that and turn it into usable electric power.....

SwellJoe said 5 months ago:

And? Fossil fuel power plant efficiency is only ~30-40%, and the waste is disastrous.

Building solar power generation is now competitive or cheaper than fossil fuel even with the low efficiency of panels. So...yeah, it'd be fantastic if solar panels continue to improve over the next few decades, but we can't afford to wait for that to happen to deploy them on a wide scale. And, hell, they last 25+ years. They more than pay for themselves, even at a low efficiency.

newguy1234 said 5 months ago:

Solar is too expensive when you consider that you can probably get Natural gas for some insanely cheap price. Just burn the natural gas to make electricity that way everyone can just run their AC without paying a fortune.

s_y_n_t_a_x said 5 months ago:

[citation needed]

pjc50 said 5 months ago:

Gas flaring needs to be banned or at least very heavily penalized as the #1 priority of western environmentalists everywhere. Yet everyone seems to be caring about straws. I kind of want to make a video of holding up a plastic straw next to a hundred-foot flare to ask people which is the bigger problem.

Not all of the flaring is in remote areas, either: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-4...

donkeyd said 5 months ago:

> Yet everyone seems to be caring about straws.

Yeah, I'm not really a believer in conspiracies, but the whole straw thing feels like a distraction campaign.

pjc50 said 5 months ago:

I don't think it's deliberate, but it's the kind of "distraction" that can very easily arise organically. "We must do something, this is something we can do, therefore we must do this". Straw bans are something completely trivial that can be done for the environment with almost no pushback (apart from disabled people!). People can then get back in the SUVs while feeling like they've done their Good Deed For The Environment.

viraptor said 5 months ago:

I don't understand the mocking. If they would get back in the SUVs anyway, then yes, they did something. Maybe tiny, but at least a part of a wider change. For some that straw, plastic bag, and a keep cup may be the way to start thinking of something bigger. If not, they saved a straw, a bag and a plastic cup - I'm happy they did. (just acknowledge it's a tiny part and move on)

hyperman1 said 5 months ago:

I like this way of thinking.

I started using Linux as a better and free system than win95, and only after a while thought about the bigger software freedom issues. Before linux, microsoft was just a random company for me. I am not alone in this respect. And look how far open source has come.

In the same way, straw banning can be a 'gateway drug' to environmental awareness. You've done your bit. So you acknowledged there was something to do. Then you dont want that small bit to be meaningless, so you do a tiny bit more All the while advocating to other people this is a worthy cause. Then you find how bigcorps are flagrantly violating the good cause. Of course this cant be right. And drip by drip you wear down a mountain.

SkyBelow said 5 months ago:

>I don't understand the mocking.

Try swapping out the 'wrong' and 'good' with something else and the reasoning seems far clearer.

"Hey, I've done my two hours of volunteering at the orphanage, now let me go back to running my child sweat shop."

If you feel the scaling is unequal, change it. At any scaling I can imagine the initial reaction to someone seriously holding that view is disbelief and then mocking.

michaelt said 5 months ago:

If, in an attempt to lose weight, I drink a can of diet coke instead of regular coke when I eat my daily Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese and Large Fries, some would say either I'm not really trying to lose weight, or I've grievously misunderstood the whole enterprise.

Retric said 5 months ago:

Keeping everything else the same someone who drinks a 24oz Diet Coke vs regular every day ends up ~25 lbs lighter. That’s less obvious if their baseline is 300lbs, but it’s still meaningful 8% of their body weight and a great first step.

Keeping everything else the same is hard with diets, but just cutting soda does seem to have a real impact.

kemayo said 5 months ago:

Your point would work better if you said "eat healthily" rather than "lose weight". Because just dropping sugared soda from an already-unhealthy diet is a fantastic weight loss method. :D

Dylan16807 said 5 months ago:

Yep. Bad analogy.

A better analogy for the straw is skipping one fry in each meal. Technically that's an improvement, but the amount is negligible and if you act like it made a difference you're more likely to skip opportunities to actually force meaningful change.

viraptor said 5 months ago:

Some others would say they understand the challenge of losing weight and the diet coke habit is a great first step! Do you know what you'd like to tackle as the next one?

cannonedhamster said 5 months ago:

I lost 10lbs just switching to diet soda. It's definitely not a small change if you're drinking soda often like I was. I eventually moved off of soda entirely.

said 5 months ago:
donkeyd said 5 months ago:

Why is the straw inherently a problem though? If properly exposed of, there's no issue with them. People who are buying expensive metal straws wouldn't just throw them out in nature anyway, so I'm not seeing how those things solve any problems. Sure, a ban, like you mentioned would keep assholes from littering, so that would help independently.

Edit: Did some googling, and this article sums up my concern nicely:

"Banning straws may confer 'moral license' – allowing companies and their customers to feel they have done their part. The crucial challenge is to ensure that these bans are just a first step."


viraptor said 5 months ago:

Any single-use non-degradable object is an issue. It's not as much about throwing individual straws out in nature, but loads of bars/restaurants/cafes, each throwing out hundreds of them a day, every day. Next, we can grab another single-use plastic thing...

falcolas said 5 months ago:

Straws are also recommended by dentists, since it reduces the exposure of your front teeth to sugary drinks. For what it’s worth.

cannonedhamster said 5 months ago:

Switching to eating a cheese pizza a week in place of a meat meal would do far more for the environment overall and be almost negligible for most people yet no one really does it because it's hard to virtue signal that.

DoreenMichele said 5 months ago:

I think most people imagine straws are a trivial and completely unnecessary luxury item that everyone can give up painlessly -- aside from seriously disabled people, whose voices don't count for much to most people, in part because I think most people imagine disabled people are some trivial percentage of the population. Reality: most stats cite 15-20% of the population as disabled and one study found that if you don't use stigmatizing language -- like disabled or handicapped -- then 60% of people admit to having varying degrees of difficulties with various tasks of day-to-day life.

Comment with more details and a link to the study:


esotericn said 5 months ago:

Isn't take-out food and drink in general a trivial and completely unnecessary luxury item, with single-use items (including straws) being a subset of that?

I can think of populations for which it's more necessary (e.g. the homeless) but as I think you've posted about before - the solution to that is to, well, fix the root issue, no?

Maybe it's an artifact of my upbringing - I literally couldn't afford takeaway food apart from the odd cone of chips (wrapped in paper) or whatever, a McDonalds meal with a straw etc is still something I think of as being absurdly expensive (it's like an hour at minimum wage).

Even middle class families in the UK often just don't eat out like this because it's both bloody expensive and usually crap food.

It's weird to me that people treat this luxury, and of fast food at that, as something that absolutely has to be protected?

DoreenMichele said 5 months ago:

I'm guessing you aren't American. Forgive me if that's incorrect.

When I was a homemaker, workers at grocery stores where I shopped would joke about getting me to talk to their wife do I could convince her to cook as much as I did. They could tell by the frequency of my visits to the store and the contents of my cart that most of our dinners were home cooked.

A lot of modern Americans don't really know how to cook. One expression for a woman who can't cook is "Microwave queen."

I hate microwave food and seldom eat it. I think most stuff that comes out of a microwave is pretty revolting.

In recent years, it has been my observation that grocery stores are simply mobbed in the days before a big holiday when the stores expect to close and a big home cooked meal is thw norm. I also routinely see comments on the internet about how impossible it is to cook for one person or how impossible it is to stay on budget and eat healthy when you don't have time or energy for anything but takeout.

I strongly suspect a lot of Americans don't do all that much cooking. Fast food seems to be basic survival for many Americans. They don't have the money or time for fancier restaurants and they don't have the skills or time to cook from scratch.

whenchamenia said 5 months ago:

But us not cooking is a luxury. That was his point. All of us can choose to cook. Its odd that in the usa cooking seems relegated to the rich and the poor, with much of the middle class ending up overfed and malnurshed by prepackaged food. I bet just a switch to fresh food would be more beneficial to the environ than going vegan, and much better for your health.

DoreenMichele said 5 months ago:

I'm not so sure that's true. You could say "Owning a car is a luxury" but most parts of America seem to make that a necessity and it's an awful burden for many people.

If you don't have the time or skill to cook, you will find it tough to find the time to learn to cook. A lot of Americans are very time stressed.

esotericn said 5 months ago:

I don't mean to be flippant but I really think you are over-egging this 'time and skill' thing based on people that simply chose not to cook because they could.

It's not correct to look at, say, a father who can just let the woman of the house be the homemaker, or a person who just buys take out all the time, and say "they don't have the time or skill". I know people like this. The former is especially prolific - they will go ahead and pretend they can't cook, make silly unhealthy meals, because they can't be arsed and know that wifey will sort it all out.

They have what they consider to be a substitute good and so they don't need to cook. They could rapidly develop the skill if they wished to. No, they won't be some gourmet chef, but making mashed potatoes and stews and salads and stuff like that basically requires knowing that you can boil things to cook them.

You could compare it to, say, a well off parent who has no idea how to raise children because they just pay for a nanny or whatever. If you forced the issue; they lost their job, say; they would learn because the alternative wouldn't bear thinking about.

It's a hell of a lot easier to buy a hob and some pans, than it is to move home. Cars are a far more difficult issue because there are homes in locations that are simply too isolated to function properly without the mobility a car provides.

(Amusingly, I'm in temporary accommodation at the moment - it would be completely impractical to live here without a car, but also without home cooking, because the nearest fast food place is... I don't even know, probably over 50km away.)

s_y_n_t_a_x said 5 months ago:

Paying others to cook for you is and always will be a luxury.

Groceries are soooo cheap in America, take advantage of it.

esotericn said 5 months ago:

Yeah, I'm not American.

I've heard something like your last paragraph there a lot.

I don't really understand cooking as something that takes a lot of skill or time. I just made a stew whilst chatting on here, it took less than 10 mins and you just throw things in a pot.

Hell, if I had a McDonalds or whatever _next door_ it would take me more than 10 mins to get food from there.

What it does require is some level of capital investment - you need pots and pans, a hob, a stable place to store that stuff, etc. Which is a barrier.

The whole "Americans can't cook" thing just seems like a silly joke to me though. It's not like other countries don't have that sort of person. They'd figure it out if you took away their microwave bullshit, they're not gonna starve and die.

And of course, this is all tangential to the issue of straws. There we're talking about opening a tap and putting a cup under it. Or a bottle if you have no running water.

DoreenMichele said 5 months ago:

My parents bought a house when I was three. When I was 18, my father asked me how to turn on the oven in this house we had lived in for 15 years.

My dad was very old fashioned and never learned to cook. My oldest son found cooking scarily intimidating, though he did eventually learn to cook.

My mother is German and she cooked up a storm, plus sewed and knitted and crocheted. I'm actually one of the least domestic ladies of my extended family. I don't really like cooking and I never learned to sew or crochet or knit or quilt. I feel like some terrible failure of a woman in the eyes of my relatives, but Americans often seem to think I'm some kind of domestic goddess because I stayed home with my children, I cooked dinner most nights and we didn't live in squalor.

My oldest son was saying to me just recently that he thinks something went very wrong somewhere in the world that we don't know how to teach people to cook. Maybe it's some weird American thing.

I wrote a smidgen about him learning to cook here:


I'm actually planning to start a blog about feeding yourself well because this seems like such a big issue for so many people.

esotericn said 5 months ago:


Yeah, I totally understand what you're saying. I know it's a thing - I have old friends with extended families that are like this.

I'm pretty sure it is a weird American thing. It doesn't help that you guys have seemingly super cheap fast food.

One thing that might be interesting to look at is - if fast food just disappeared tomorrow - imagine every restaurant below say $15 a head just was gone overnight, microwave meals disappear, etc - would there even be enough food? Would the local supermarkets have enough or would there have to be an adjustment period?

Dylan16807 said 5 months ago:

Are you redirecting all the ingredient shipments from the restaurants and factories to the grocery stores?

If yes then the supply side of things is perfectly fine. Stores shelves might be low for a few days from the rush, but that will be over very quickly. All the interesting stuff is out of scope.

If no then I don't think the scenerio says anything useful about the places people eat. You're just deleting a chunk of the food supply, and you would cause similar problems no matter what random chunk you deleted. Even if it wasn't particularly big. So the scenario tells you nothing about whether any kinds of food are too popular. It just says that a sudden cut to the food supply is bad.

esotericn said 5 months ago:

I'm more thinking about the whole thing Americans talk about with 'food deserts' - e.g. are there people surviving on fast food that are really too far away from a real grocery shop to buy supplies - you can't build shops overnight.

How many people don't have a stove i.e. they're effectively homeless if not literally on the street? Stuff like that.

I have no idea. It'd definitely be alright in the UK but the way I see Americans go on about this stuff on here makes it seem as if McDonalds is critical infra.

perl4ever said 5 months ago:

The US and UK have similar rates of obesity* and fast food availability, as far as I can tell.

*The US is noticeably higher overall, but there are about 13 US states including NY and California with lower averages than the UK.

perl4ever said 5 months ago:

Fast food restaurants per capita:

1 for 1,600 people in UK

1 for 1,700 people in US

pjc50 said 5 months ago:

Specifically in the context of disabled people, it may not be as easy as you claim at all. Arthritis can make the holding and cutting of things extremely difficult. If it's hard for someone to stand, it's hard for them to stand at a stove. And so on.

> There we're talking about opening a tap and putting a cup under it

Requires a minimum grip strength and coordination.

esotericn said 5 months ago:

Oh, sure, of course.

mcv said 5 months ago:

It's a practice that has always baffled me. Why burn off fossil fuels for no gain at all? It's bafflingly wasteful.

Plastic waste is also an issue (not sure if straws are really the biggest issue there), but it shouldn't be hard to tackle both.

SuoDuanDao said 5 months ago:

Flaring gas normalizes the pressure inside a mixed well, allowing oil to be pumped at atmospheric pressure. That's a much cheaper way of getting to the oil than any of the alternatives (which basically require working with a high pressure right at the wellhead, a very dangerous practice). As for why the companies don't just harvest the gas first then get the oil, gas is harder to transport. The places I worked with flare stacks were well off the beaten path, oil was stored in 400 barrel tanks and brought out with trucks. There's no such system for gas, hence why it's considered a nuisance by a lot of drillers.

exabrial said 5 months ago:

This. Comment.

Of note: Gas requires a pipeline. Take a look at some recent well-meaning protests around pipelines; they've likely had the opposite of the desired effect.

Compromise would be way better than "my way or the highway" extremist positions.

viraptor said 5 months ago:

Weren't the protests about oil pipelines mostly? We've seen those fail with bad environmental effects a few times now. Apart from stricter and enforced safety rules, I'm not sure what could lead to a compromise here?

fencepost said 5 months ago:

More than that in some cases - oil pipelines through areas basically regarded as burial grounds.

"Son, this is where your ancestors were buried, but we're not quite sure what happened to their remains after the oil company scraped the top few feet of soil in the 2026 oil spill cleanup and 'remediated' with clean soil imported from somewhere else."

jimcsharp said 5 months ago:

I wish people weren't so hung up on cemeteries. They are a waste of land and sentiment. I realise I'm in an extreme minority.

CNJ7654 said 5 months ago:

"When I'm dead, just throw me in the trash!"

whenchamenia said 5 months ago:

Pipelines, even with their faults, are cleaner and safer than trucking.

exabrial said 5 months ago:

Modern pipelines carry a multitude of stuff, they separate it with giant blasts of compressed air.

Obviously it'd be best if we didn't use any hydrocarbons for burning, but the alternatives to pipelines in the current economy are:

* Flare the gas off, instant C02

* Train crashes

* Increase well head pressures creating an explosion hazard (and if it blows, you now have a oil well fire)

* Put it through older pipelines engineered to safety standards of the 1950s

said 5 months ago:
said 5 months ago:
DoctorOetker said 5 months ago:

why can't they use a fraction of the flaring gas to liquify the rest of the flaring gas? then the liquid gas can be transported just like the oil barrels to the pipeline-connected world

technofiend said 5 months ago:

That would be nice but gas liquefaction units were still quite expensive and large, too much so to put one at a single well last time I checked. I haven't been in O & G in a while but I don't think it's changed based on comments elsewhere in this thread.

DoctorOetker said 5 months ago:

Are the liquefaction unit's replacement-or-repair costs higher than the value of barrels of liquid gas could generate?

If not what is the timescale to pay itself back?

Would the following alternative work? :

The well delivers barrels filled with oil to the connected world, and thus needs a constant supply of empty oil barrels. Why not fill them with liquid nitrogen (generated at large "economy of scale" liquefaction units at the connected world) and use this to liquefy the gas at the remote well?

scottlocklin said 5 months ago:

Liquification plants typically cost billions of dollars. People are working on things which look like they're more in the 10's of millions range (just eyeballing the machinery and estimating by visible mass of machinery -it's not like they have a website they sell them on), but it's not clear they're cost effective.


Re: your liquid nitrogen idea; "that's not how physics works." Even if you could store liquid nitrogen in oil barrels (you can't) ... how does that help you?

DoctorOetker said 5 months ago:

uhm, it helps by providing a cool heat bath to pump the gas heat into? the idea is not to store liquid nitrogen in the barrels, but merely transport them to onsite storage?

Edit: it's not surprising that LNG liquefaction plants cost on the order of say billions of dollars: by economy of scale one is driven to build extremely large plants. This does not mean smaller (but less efficient) liquefaction plants at much lower costs are impossible, but it does mean those smaller plants don't reach the same efficiency as the bigger ones... (my refrigerator is condensing and freezing water from air...)

scottlocklin said 5 months ago:

If you pump natural gas through liquid nitrogen you get ... slightly colder natural gas. Try again. In fact, please go look at how LNG liquifaction actually works. It's not something that works on a small scale, which is why I posted you a link to the smallest scale LNG plant that actually exists in the corporeal world.

It's not like people haven't thought of these things before. Thermodynamics is well understood.

DoctorOetker said 5 months ago:

>If you pump natural gas through liquid nitrogen you get ... slightly colder natural gas.

I am not proposing to bubble raw natural gas through liquid nitrogen.

>It's not like people haven't thought of these things before. Thermodynamics is well understood.

I don't claim to be the first to come up with the idea of using liquid nitrogen to liquefy raw natural gas. I am entirely open to the idea that using liquid nitrogen to liquefy RNG is somehow uneconomical or infeasible. I was hoping to get a more constructive reply: not references of how expensive or hard a smaller scale liquefaction plant is, but rather papers detailing why specifically using a heat exchanger with liquid nitrogen is infeasible, if as you say "It's not like people haven't thought of these things before."

What is raw natural gas? Predominantly methane, and some slightly longer alkanes, with impurities (H2S, CO2, N2, He,...) see [1].

What are the atmospheric boiling points of the alkanes? see [2]:

alkane, boiling point:

methane -183 °C

ethane -183 °C

propane -190 °C

butane -138 °C

pentane -130 °C

hexane -95 °C

heptane -91 °C

octane -57 °C

nonane -51 °C

decane -30 °C

undecane -25 °C

dodecane -10 °C

eicosane 37 °C

triacontane 66 °C

Observe that the lowest boiling point of the alkanes (the fuel in natural gas) is for propane at -190 °C.

The atmospheric boiling point of liquid nitrogen is −195.795 °C [3], wich is colder than the boiling point of any alkane!

What does this mean by definition? that a balloon filled with gaseous alkanes, when submerged in a heat bath of liquid nitrogen, and left to equilibrate temperature, will fully liquefy.

>Thermodynamics is well understood.

^ indeed

(This is my first order interpretation, assuming the mixing entropy does not decrease the boiling point of a mixture of alkanes, if however this is the case, I would like to see an explicit reference to a paper describing this for alkanes.)

So essentially heat exchangers and a supply of liquid nitrogen should be able to liquefy raw natural gas.

Now what about the economics of having to generate liquid nitrogen?

Let's take a step back: domestic natural gas pipelines connected to the gas grid doesn't contain liquid but gaseous natural gas. So at some point the liquid natural gas is expanded to a gas, and this absorbs heat at a low temperature. (I don't know at what point in the distribution chain this happens, but it necessarily happens somewhere.) This is the ideal point to colocate the liquid nitrogen generation plant: use the evaporation of LNG to gaseous natural gas to help the heat pump liquefy air/nitrogen, so the energy required to liquefy nitrogen is largely recycled.

The storage of liquid nitrogen at the gas well should be an entirely solved problem: at the exact sciences campus (de Sterre) of the Ghent university, at the solid state research block, there is a large (fenced off) tank of liquid nitrogen, and once in a blue moon a tank wagon comes to refill it...

[1] https://www.e-education.psu.edu/fsc432/content/natural-gas-c...

[2] http://chemistry.elmhurst.edu/vchembook/501hcboilingpts.html

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nitrogen

SuoDuanDao said 5 months ago:

There are actually liquid nitrogen services used in well servicing (I saw them but never inquired what they were for) and they were on the scale of a medium-sized service truck - so in theory, what you're proposing should be possible.

My guess is that in practice, it's not profitable given the current price of natural gas and the difficulties of keeping liquid nitrogen cold - the smaller the container, the shorter the time it can economically stay liquid. So you'd need either pretty bulky equipment that needs to be moved once the gas at a well runs out, or you'd have to spend an awful lot of the energy from the gas keeping your N2 cold during transport. Which even if it is profitable on paper, might not survive contact with the field - oil leases are not controlled environments, and Murphey's law is out in force out there in a way that can be easily underestimated.

jacobush said 5 months ago:

It is a nuisance - it should be fixed by making it mandatory to harvest it.

r-bryan said 5 months ago:

Actually, just leave it all in the ground.

driverdan said 5 months ago:

Plastic waste is not much of an issue in the US or Europe. It's a big problem in southeast Asia where much of it is dumped in the ocean. Sticking it in the ground isn't a big deal. It's wasteful but there are far bigger problems.

newguy1234 said 5 months ago:

It is because the gas is not worth much right now. Cheaper to burn it off. Since most of the demand is for oil and not natural gas, it makes sense right now to just burn it. If natural gas doubled or tripled in price then you would quickly see the natural gas being brought to market. Also Natural gas is heavily pipeline constrained commodity so it isn't easy to transport like oil is. No one wants a natural gas pipeline in their backyard.

StudentStuff said 5 months ago:

The US is riddled with natural gas pipelines, most homes literally have a pipe in their backyard (or front yard) that is used for natural gas.

perl4ever said 5 months ago:

The US has a great deal of territory that is not in someone's half acre back yard.

drak0n1c said 5 months ago:

Gas flaring ensures that its methane content is burned and not leaked into the atmosphere. Raw methane natural gas is 30x more potent of a greenhouse gas than the CO2 and water vapor products of its burning.

Banning gas flaring would be extremely short sighted and counter productive.

estsauver said 5 months ago:

Serious environmentalists should be talking about flooding parts of the Sahara or other wild geoengineering prospects, not plastic bags at the grocery.

IfOnlyYouKnew said 5 months ago:

Serious environmentalists are talking about a lot more effective measures, although them being environmentalists (and somewhat realist) they usually shy away from pie-in-sky (desert) geoengineering projects. Examples are CO_2 trading schemes, phasing out ICEs, public transport, liveable cities, or reforestation.

Plastic straws/bags/etc are obviously small (but not necessarily negligible) efforts. They rise to prominence mostly because they are easy to mock.

mlonkibjuyhv said 5 months ago:

I don't understand reforestation in the sense of plant X amount of trees, and feel good about yourself. Won't this happen naturally at a similar rate if you just leave it alone? I'm pretty sure my yard would be covered in different shrubs and trees within 10 years if I just stopped tending it.

Kye said 5 months ago:

Flooding the desert responsible for Atlantic hurricanes is ripe for unintended consequences. The planet is big and complicated, and everything is connected.

pjc50 said 5 months ago:

Deserts are also an environment, often with endangered species of their own.

reitzensteinm said 5 months ago:

Today his electric bill was $9, but has he saved money overall? It reads like you're saying you're glad you didn't sign up for the service, but you also paid a ton for power today - just amortized over the average $/kWh your power company charges you.

The difference is that you don't have the option to reduce your consumption today to save money.

If large numbers of the population were signed up to a market rate service, it would go a long way towards preventing these spikes, and will probably be necessary as we shift to a higher renewable share making the pricing far less stable.

technofiend said 5 months ago:

His use case and mine are very different. For one I don't work from home, have an old home and cool it with window units. When I got home at 6 or 7 last night it was 90+ degrees in my bedroom. I'm not going to risk paying spot prices and having to wait to run my AC because it takes hours to cool down as it is. He can run his AC when it's cheap and weather a few hours of it being off if he has to.

I hear you about possibly saving money the rest of the time. It's worth considering if I can get the data. I can tell you today my use is so low in the winter I've had the power company come out and disassemble my meter because they thought it was hacked. The shoulder months around summer is when I could save the most. It's just whether that savings outpaces peak prices and frankly whether I want to take that risk since IMHO this kind of thing is only going to get worse.

danmaz74 said 5 months ago:

Don't forget that his friend had to endure a crazy hot day without AC - and still paid much more than usual for electricity. Most people don't want to gamble on these things.

reitzensteinm said 5 months ago:

Running the AC on that day is not expensive due to financial agreements. It's intrinsically a resource intensive thing to do.

When you sign up for a fixed rate, it's baked in to the price that you will fire up your AC if you feel like it even when the grid is at capacity and power is extremely expensive.

Paying market rate doesn't mean you are blocked from firing up the AC. It might cost you $100 during a heat wave, but you've paid your power company $100 less throughout the year because you haven't been paying in instalments for your peak consumption days.

Being able to say fuck it, I'd rather be uncomfortable and save $100 is empowerment, not a burden.

In aggregate, those that make this decision would provide a lot of economic benefit. The peak is reduced and whole power plants can be decommissioned.

carlmr said 5 months ago:

>Being able to say fuck it, I'd rather be uncomfortable and save $100 is empowerment, not a burden.

Also you can decide to hang out at the mall until prices go down.

thaumasiotes said 5 months ago:

Some years ago (around five?) there was a big heat wave in Shanghai, and the subway stations filled with people who didn't want to pay for their own air conditioning.

carlmr said 5 months ago:

That's a good thing, it drives down peak demand and increases overall energy efficiency.

sokoloff said 5 months ago:

It comes at the cost of many people wasting a portion of their lifetime waiting in a subway rather than doing almost anything else that they'd probably prefer doing.

For every 60K people that spent 12 hours sheltered in the subway, 80 human-years of life was consumed.

reallydontask said 5 months ago:

> The difference is that you don't have the option to reduce your consumption today to save money.

are you saying that in Texas you pay a fix charge for electricity regardless of usage?

Assuming that this is not the case, it seems to me that should he/she take the same actions as said friend there would be a reduction to the bill too, just a lot less significant, due to the price being a lot less

CalRobert said 5 months ago:

" he turned off literally everything except his fridge. He even turned off his hot water heater."

Which is exactly what you want people to do when a resource is scarce. Price signals work.

Hopefully his next step is to consider solar water heating. It's summer in Texas FFS.

dta5003 said 5 months ago:

My cold water is coming out of the tap a lot warmer than usual, and that's from underground! I'm super interested in bringing back older tech to make us more sustainable and self-sufficient.

CalRobert said 5 months ago:

It's insane people don't have solar water heating in sunny places. Fantastic ROI. Also, simple things like deciduous trees south of your house do wonders.

dsfyu404ed said 5 months ago:

$9/day after doing all that is still insane. This is not NYC or SF where that is the cost of a bagel.

Price signals may work but at the end of the day utilities need to be cheap enough that the poor can mostly use them without thinking twice. The elderly can't just turn off their A/C in high heat.

CalRobert said 5 months ago:


So getting people who are able to do so to use _less_ of that scarce resource helps ensure it's available to those who need it.

We uses prices for almost everything with a scarcity, saying "well if we price this thing correctly the poor can't afford it" is an argument for addressing income inequality, not just trying to make everything an all you can eat buffet.

dragonwriter said 5 months ago:

> Price signals may work but at the end of the day utilities need to be cheap enough that the poor can mostly use them without thinking twice.

No, utilities need to be subsidized for the poor (perhaps through s general subsidy, or otherwise through a utility-specific one) and perhaps also those somewhat less poor with special needs so that they can use what is essential without undue hardship; the prices of utilities for the rich don't need to be low enough that the poor could pay them without thought.

perl4ever said 5 months ago:

I don't think utilities need to be subsidized for anyone. There's a difference between that and just giving people money. If I have $X extra a month in income, and electricity or fuel is really expensive, then I still make choices based on the relative price of those things versus other goods. But if I am given a subsidy of $X specifically for energy, then that seems like a terrible idea. Just because it's the same amount of money doesn't mean it has the same effect on my choices and the environment.

mikeash said 5 months ago:

A lot of that is because most end users don’t have such granular prices. They keep their AC on because why not. When price changes are concentrated on just a few users, the swings get wild.

sokoloff said 5 months ago:

If we had an abundance of low environmentally impacting energy, energy would be cheap enough that the poor could use it without caring. That's not the world we live in (at least not yet).

lazerpants said 5 months ago:

Exactly. He can probably afford it given the otherwise low cost of living and lack of state income tax.

said 5 months ago:
amluto said 5 months ago:

> We only had 3% capacity left in the system, yet out in the Permian Basin operators are flaring off excess gas.

That has nothing to do with the problem (except extremely indirectly via global warming). There isn’t a shortage of fuels — there’s a shortage of generation capacity. No amount of extra natural gas would make the slightest difference.

tonyedgecombe said 5 months ago:

There isn’t a shortage of fuels — there’s a shortage of generation capacity.

Or an excess of demand, there are plenty of ways to build houses that lower the need for air conditioning.

dillonmckay said 5 months ago:

Or retrofit existing houses with supplemental geothermal cooling.

adrianN said 5 months ago:

Or add some insulation.

benj111 said 5 months ago:

"except extremely indirectly"

Not really that indirectly, if there weren't scorching temperatures there wouldn't be a need for extra air con. I'm aware though we can't definitively attribute this heat wave to global warming.

mikeash said 5 months ago:

More fuel would mean lower prices would mean more generators built to take advantage of that.

amluto said 5 months ago:

At the price of peak electricity on a peak day, the cost of fuel is irrelevant. That $9k/MWh peak was about $300/therm. A therm of natural gas, retail, from PG&E is less than $2.

The problem here is that the grid more or less guarantees that each customer can draw as much power as they want whenever they want, so there needs to be generation capacity to cover the maximum demand, but that means that, under normal conditions, a good fraction of the capacity is unused. A plant that only runs for a few hours a year needs to charge a lot for those few hours.

In theory, demand response can help — the grid can pay certain customers to stop using power at times. Aluminum refineries are the classic example — an aluminum refinery can, in principle, be configured to turn off on demand without much loss other than the production at that time period. So an aluminum refinery that shuts off for eight hours a year generates nearly as much revenue as a refinery that operates continuously, but those eight hours can help the grid during peak load. Actually making this work requires some fancy communication with the grid operator, and this is rather new.

mikeash said 5 months ago:

Thanks for providing concrete numbers! Looks like the effect would be too small to notice even if gas were free.

ChuckMcM said 5 months ago:

For what its worth, the rolling blackouts in California resulted in the state permitting a bunch of new plants fairly quickly. With luck that will happen in Texas.

PhantomGremlin said 5 months ago:

For what its worth, Kenny Boy and Skilling and Fastow had a lot to do with those blackouts.

Wikipedia claims:

These blackouts occurred as a result of a poorly designed market system that was manipulated by traders and marketers, as well as from poor state management and regulatory oversight. Subsequently, Enron traders were revealed as intentionally encouraging the removal of power from the market during California's energy crisis by encouraging suppliers to shut down plants to perform unnecessary maintenance

Sadly, Kenny never did any time and Skilling and Fastow are both now out of jail.


abathur said 5 months ago:

Late to the thread, but I'm also a Griddy customer in Houston and wanted to put an asterisk on this.

I'm not sure how your friend knows his rate yet. The Griddy interface takes 24-48 hours to update/integrate the smart meter data for a day.

It's possible your friend's data integrates faster than hours, but we still see no summary for Tuesday usage. That said, the charged rate did max out (I think this is a regulatory cap) at around $8.99/kwh for a little over an hour yesterday (and was over $2/kwh for a few hours). I suspect there's been a miscommunication here?

For additional context, Griddy rates update every 5 minutes and just include the base power component (delivery/tax/etc. are roughly fixed per kwh).

technofiend said 5 months ago:

The linked article was for Monday, as was my friend's power bill. So you're right - I was off by a day when I posted on Tuesday "Today his power bill was $9." He was actually complaining to me about the day prior, Monday August 12th. In the interest of full disclosure when he texted me he said "$9 power bill" but his screen cap from Griddy which he sent later was only $8.07. I think he was a little cranky when he sent the first text. I can upload the screen cap if you want to see it?

Edit: BTW he just texted me: Tuesday's power bill was $14.65.

abathur said 5 months ago:

No worries. Just seemed like a disjunct somewhere and wanted to make sure to clarify how this model works since very few people have direct experience.

He's probably even crankier today :)

For additional context for others, our energy cost (not including other costs) for Monday were $1.24 for 14.4 kWh (88c for .3 kWh during the spike between 1pm and 4pm).

It looks like our Tuesday records showed up between my original post and now. We paid $3.18 for 15 kWh ($2.83 of that between 1-6pm).

technofiend said 5 months ago:

See my edit above. Tuesday's power bill was $14.65 and of that $10 was during a three hour period where usage was less than 1 kwh per hour.

hollerith said 5 months ago:

Forcing Permian Basin operators to "save" the natural gas currently being flared would probably increase the price of electricity in Texas because someone has to pay for the pipelines.

If it would decrease the price, then operators could have and would have already increased their profits by building the pipelines to deliver the gas to generating plants.

"building": building collectively and with the help of the financial industry.

You seem to believe that the oil industry consists of vicious subhumans or something that need to be forced to do the right thing even when the right thing co-incides with their economic self-interest.

newguy1234 said 5 months ago:

Problem is pipelines are a regulatory nightmare to build, even in texas. It is getting even harder to build because so much pressure has been focused towards renewables. The northeast has the same issue. Opposition to natural gas pipelines means gas shortage in winter months. They retired their coal plants and now use diesel generators for peak load.

dillonmckay said 5 months ago:

Building out pipelines usually involves eminent domain issues.

It is a tough sell to have one’s property confiscated by the government on behalf of a for-profit entity, especially if lacking funds for legal counsel.

dsfyu404ed said 5 months ago:

They take land to sell to developers to build strip malls, luxury condos or mixed use buildings (whichever happens to be politically fashionable that minute) often enough that taking it for an actual utility should be no issue.

The problem is that you have a bunch of people who are militantly against anything fossil fuel because it's part of their political identity who get their politicians to block any fossil fuel utility project.

Sure, fossil fuels aren't good in the long term but only an idiot would deny that having more natgas available cheaply resulting in less power being generated by and fewer people heating their house with oil is a significant improvement over the status quo.

RandomBacon said 5 months ago:

I have a brother going through this right now. They want to build pipeline on his property.

He can't really say no because of eminent domain, but he has a lawyer and is fighting for a fair contract (pay for everything they break/destroy etc when building it). Most people are SOL.

newguy1234 said 5 months ago:

The land isn't confiscated. The owner still owns the land and gets a royalty for the pipeline being there.

hollerith said 5 months ago:

That is depressing.

technofiend said 5 months ago:

Not sure if you're responding to me or someone else but I did work at an Enron pipeline subsidiary back in the day and heard all the stories of slapped together wellhead gas collection that was literally plumbed with household-grade PVC pipe. It really came up in the context of operators looking to break out of those contracts because at the time gas was getting expensive enough they wanted to sell direct rather than through the aggregator who had plumbed up all the wellheads and locked them in to some low-paying contracts.

And as I mentioned in the linked article now folks are flaring because it's cheaper than connection even if there's one available. From their perspective breaking contacts back then and flaring off now are just good business, so yes I 100% believe they'll do what's in their own economic self-interest.

If you happen to believe in global warming, then whether flaring that gas is in their own long term self interest is a separate conversation.

ralfd said 5 months ago:

> You seem to believe that the oil industry consists of vicious subhumans or something that need to be forced to do the right thing even when the right thing co-incides with their economic self-interest.

Their economic short term interest, yes. Gas burned off wastefully is not available in the future and we have this small global warming problem.

pjc50 said 5 months ago:

The right thing (not flaring the gas) doesn't coincide with their economic self-interest, that's why they're doing it in the first place!

newguy1234 said 5 months ago:

private companies pay for the pipelines.

baldeagle said 5 months ago:

Another annoying thing is that flaring pollutes more than running a peaker. Literally win/win.

jacobkranz said 5 months ago:

I was one of the first Griddy engineers (though I’m no longer there). We would have people call & complain when the cost for a day was much less & they had AC blasting. I wonder how the customer support reps are dealing with all of this.

abathur said 5 months ago:

Can't answer the small question, but they did send out an email that they're going to tighten their marketing budget for a bit and comp/refund everyone's $9.99 membership fee for the month.

Griddy's communication efforts have generally grown increasingly proactive since we joined in June 2017, and they have been very proactive over the past ~10 days. They sent informational emails on the 6th, 9th, 12th, 13th, and 14th notifying us about upcoming high-price/demand periods, what hours things are expected to spike, and providing suggestions for avoiding/mitigating energy use.

abathur said 5 months ago:

And another a few minutes ago for the 15th :)

RandomBacon said 5 months ago:

I just keep switching companies for the lowest, fixed-rate, new customer plans.

It's faster to do that than to go on the phone and complain or ask for a "discount" (where you would still be paying more).

(I don't know about other states, but this is extremely easy to do in Texas.)

raverbashing said 5 months ago:

> But how do you sell the idea of investment to flatten energy prices in an unregulated market?

It seems you sell it as the article is saying: at peak times you'll be selling it at $9 (ok maybe less) but that might be enough to justify the investment.

tialaramex said 5 months ago:

Indeed. This is why Dinorwig (the Welsh power station) is profitable. When electricity is cheap they buy it, and put electricity in and it pumps water up to an artificial lake, when prices rise they stop, and when the price rises still further that's their cue to drop water from the lake back through the system to make electricity for sale.

You can do the maths "Hmm, we need to make £2 per MWh of electricity at least once per day for this business to make sense" and look at price charts and say "Yup, that's feasible, today we will buy any time it's below £30 until we're full and we'll sell any time it's above £35 until we're empty" and make plenty of money. If only conveniently located mountain lakes were more common we'd probably have these everywhere.

The price decisions are tricky though, imagine you decide you should sell for £40 today, and then the wind just doesn't stop blowing at sea and offshore wind turbines (which will sell for any price at any time since their power is basically free) keep the price below £38 all day. You end the day with zero income. Not a game for people with limited capital reserves. Or you decide to buy once it falls below £40 on another day, but then every AC unit in the country is running non-stop and the cloud sit, unmoving but blocking the sun, prices sit above £50 all day. Again no income.

It wasn't built to make a profit, the government built it because it's a Black Start facility, ie it's one way to "boot up" the electricity grid if it fails and you need to start over from no electricity. But now it's privately owned by a French corporation and increasing use of renewables means more minute-by-minute price fluctuations to profit from.

monkeynotes said 5 months ago:

I am confused, are some consumers actually paying $90.00 per kw/h?

tialaramex said 5 months ago:

That would be $9.00 per kWh, not "$90.00 per kw/h" which is both the wrong amount and the wrong way to write the unit.

And yes, some cosumers may have chosen to be billed at spot prices like this, though probably not very many, and of course since it's spot pricing they were charged it back then, not now when you're writing this and the wholesale price is more normal.

abathur said 5 months ago:

The Griddy rate was pegged at $8.99/kwh for about an hour and 15 minutes.

zaroth said 5 months ago:

That's over ~$750 for the power stored in a single Tesla battery pack. Not that the cars are capable of back-feeding the grid (V2G), unfortunately, nor is the infrastructure in place to pull from them in times like this...

It sure seems like if we're going to have millions of these 100kWh batteries plugged in, all nicely geographically distributed and internet connected, it would be swell if the owners could set a price at which they would be willing to sell their energy. It would just add another way that EVs are better than ICE cars.

monkeynotes said 5 months ago:

This sparks an interesting discussion around 'what if we all had EVs'. Texas would not be the only place struggling to meet demand. If everyone is fueling their cars with electricity, demand is going to be high in all cities.

Without fossil fuels we need to find new sources for power. It's not good enough to say 'electricity', how do you generate it at a capacity that fills in for the 20.5 million barrels of oil consumed a day in the USA?

The numbers are interesting. There is 17500 kw/h or 1.7 mw/h in a barrel of oil. Using 20.5m barrels a day, that's 34.85 million mw/h a day. The US currently generates around 10 million mw/h of electricity a day[1].

Granted, a fraction of a barrel of oil is used for gasoline, but you can see that the grid will need a sizeable upgrade if it is to fill in for our dependency on oil.

Please forgive me if I have some of this wrong!

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_electrici...

Klathmon said 5 months ago:

EVs don't need to be charged at peak usage times. We have ours scheduled to charge starting at 11pm every day (which is just before the lowest demand part of the day in my area), and most EVs include this functionality.

And as EVs become more common, I could absolutely see them being a useful tool in power generation. I'd absolutely allow the power company to control the home-charging of my car for a discount (and some agreement that i'd be able to charge to full at least once a day). The power company could enable more EVs to charge when there is a valley in demand, and turn some off when there are spikes. And all of that can happen without vehicle-to-grid systems which come with their own bag of tradeoffs.

Also, keep in mind that gas engines aren't 100% efficient (IIRC they are under 50% efficient). So even though there is theoretically 1.7 mw/h of power in a barrel of oil (I'm taking your number as true here), I assume that cars are only using a fraction of that (especially after all the refinement as well, which I'm assuming cuts into that efficiency even more).

skocznymroczny said 5 months ago:

> I'd absolutely allow the power company to control the home-charging of my car for a discount

Let's not be naive. If anything, you will pay the standard price if you allow them, otherwise you'll pay extra.

zaroth said 5 months ago:

The biggest factor is how much of the EV charging can be done at algorithmically controlled times.

If the load can be computer controlled to exactly fit the supply curve, the electricity becomes extremely cheap to provide.

If that same load can basically instantly switch from charging, to paused, to discharging we end up with an extremely smart and efficient grid that can very effectively utilize high variance generation sources.

nradov said 5 months ago:

Over time it might be more practical for EV manufacturers to take back decommissioned vehicles and install the battery packs in centralized facilities for grid storage and stabilization. That would avoid the need for expensive and complex grid connection equipment in individual EVs. Even if the reused batteries are down to 60% capacity, stacking a bunch of them could deliver enough power for demand spikes.

dragonwriter said 5 months ago:

> Over time it might be more practical for EV manufacturers to take back decommissioned vehicles and install the battery packs in centralized facilities for grid storage and stabilization.

Don't batter packs have a shorter useful life than most of the rest of an EV?

MrRadar said 5 months ago:

It depends on what you mean by "useful life."

Say you have a 300-mile EV which averages 3 miles/kWh for a full useful capacity of 100 kWh. If the battery degrades to half that capacity the car would only go 150 miles which I think most people would consider well past EoL (manufacturer warranties will replace a vehicle battery once it degrades to 75-80% of original capacity).

However that battery can still hold 50 kWh which would be enough to cover my home energy use for a week (I live in a small apartment and don't run my AC much). For stationary applications the "useful life" of a battery can be much longer than for mobile applications.

zaroth said 5 months ago:

Unfortunately the batteries degrade in other ways beyond mere capacity. I’m not an expert but a comment here says resistance also increases, so I would guess you end up with lower capacity and also slower charge/discharge rates, and lower efficiency.

I would hazard a guess that the battery becomes effectively useless before “capacity” actually reaches 50%.

I do wonder if this is a matter of going from 500 to 1000 cycles, or if it’s more exponential decay so we’re talking just 100 cycles between “no longer good enough for the EV” to “no longer good enough for the house/grid”.

ccmonnett said 5 months ago:

Rivian, an all-electric "luxury adventure vehicle" (imagine Tesla for trucks and SUVs) plans on doing just that: https://www.engadget.com/2019/06/14/rivian-second-life-batte...

jillesvangurp said 5 months ago:

No need to wait until they are decommissioned with vehicle to grid. Charge at night at cheap rates, use during peak demand.

michaelt said 5 months ago:

You know how cell phone batteries wear out after a few years, because many li-ion batteries will lose 20% of their capacity after ~500† charge-discharge cycles - and users often have to throw away their phone in response?

Vehicle-to-grid would have to pay me a lot if it means I have to scrap my EV after 5 years instead of 10.

And if the power network is going to use half of my EV's battery's cycle-life and pay half my battery's cost, why wouldn't they just buy their own battery?

And if they're only going to activate V2G for a few hours a year, it'll have to pay high hourly rate to cover the cost of the extra car components.

On the other hand, just limiting charge rates in times of high demand doesn't degrade cars' batteries at all. Makes much more sense IMHO.

†Yes, it depends on the battery model, the temperature, the current - but we all know from phones that battery degradation is a real thing.

fencepost said 5 months ago:

Cell phone batteries are actually a terrible example here though, because they're not designed for longevity. Pretty sure most of the deterioration happens at the extremes, so if being designed for longevity they'd probably only have half the available capacity because it'd be capped at both the top and bottom of the range so they never went above 80-85% and never below 35-40%.

zaroth said 5 months ago:

Of course! The idea would be you would provide your battery service at a price that made sense to you!

At $9/kWh (which is a truly absurd rate) the battery pays for itself in roughly 12 cycles.

At a less insane but still hefty $1/kWh margin, it would pay for itself in roughly 100 cycles.

Of course you wouldn’t scrap your whole EV, you would buy a new battery for your EV with the profits, and ideally end up with both excess income, and a longer overall vehicle lifespan, with longer effective ranges over time.

I’m sure someone has done all the math on this and knows exactly how good and cheap the EV battery has to be in order for this to be worth doing, and it seems like we’re nearly there.

Plus, with the same hardware plus a safety switch in the house, the EV becomes your house battery backup as well.

Buraksr said 5 months ago:

You are very correct in your points, but I would like to highlight that we push our phone and laptop batteries very hard. They are normally pushed to full charge and discharge and not properly cooled (In the case of phones they are sometimes even more of a heatsink for the cpu) and this causes them to die faster [0 for relation of use to decay] [1 for impact of thermals].

Discharging and charging your cars battery will cause wear, but I don't think It would be so fair to compare it to the degradation you see in other devices. Tesla has seen some success in getting more from its batteries by managing thermals [2] as well as limiting max and minimum charges to more healthy levels [3, we saw tesla give more capacity to units implying there is a reserve] [4, we know these cars will still drive even after there range is 'exhausted' for some time]

Considering the expense of batteries for cars maybe I wouldn't do it, but It is likely not so bad if you have a car with good power and thermal management

-0, https://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/capacity_loss -1,https://cleantechnica.com/2018/12/05/60-kwh-nissan-leaf-stil... -2,https://www.teslarati.com/watch-tesla-battery-thermal-manage... -3,https://cleantechnica.com/2017/09/09/tesla-unlocks-extra-bat... -4, https://forums.tesla.com/forum/forums/reserve-power-when-sta...

NullPrefix said 5 months ago:

>And if the power network is going to use half of my EV's battery's cycle-life and pay half my battery's cost, why wouldn't they just buy their own battery?

Same reason why they wouldn't just buy their own solar panels.

0xB31B1B said 5 months ago:

Are you a battery engineer? My understanding is the EoL for Li Ion batteries is when they are at 80%. Below that, their internal resistance is too great to do anything useful with.

EmpirePhoenix said 5 months ago:

As someone recycling old laptop cells that are decades old (even got a few sony fukushima ones in last batch). Having a absolute large amount of them can cancel this out. Sure one fresh cell might have the small top current than 10 parallel old ones due to resistance, but if space is no concern the older ones are really great economically.

adammunich said 5 months ago:

Too great for cars but plenty fine for solar demands.

dsfyu404ed said 5 months ago:

Quantity has a quality all its own.

They just have to have enough capacity to be cost positive after overhead.

reitzensteinm said 5 months ago:

The new Leaf is V2G capable. Devote your battery to shaving peak load a few times a year and you're going a long way towards closing the price gap with an ICE.

IIRC, Tesla decided against V2G years ago out of concern for battery life, but given that they're now claiming the batteries will outlive the cars that decision may change.

goodcanadian said 5 months ago:

The old Leaf is, too. Pretty much any Leaf from 2012, onwards.

If you are in the UK and have a Leaf with a 30kWh battery or larger, you can participate in a V2G trial: https://www.ovoenergy.com/electric-cars/vehicle-to-grid-char...


Technically, Leafs with 24kWh batteries work, too, but they aren't normally accepted in the trial as there is not enough capacity to be worthwhile.

etimberg said 5 months ago:

The big challenge with V2G is planning for it. Consider the case of a single distribution feeder with 10 vehicle chargers that each support V2G. There are infinite combinations of real power (P) drawn by the chargers.

For simplicity though, let's limit to one of three states (0, full charging, full discharging). There are still 3^10 combinations for that one feeder. The utility needs to know that the system will work in all of those cases. Doing the analysis for that is quite complicated, and a lot of the tooling isn't there yet.

taneq said 5 months ago:

AC Propulsion was touting "vehicle-to-grid" as a feature way back in the 2000. At the time it seemed crazy with car batteries having cycle lives in the low hundreds, but it's looking better and better now...

zaroth said 5 months ago:

I think if you could set your own price limit, and the software can account for it somehow in terms of de-rating the battery warranty, it would work.

The big factor I'm not sure about is the added COGS to the car. This [1] seems to say it's only $200-$300 in added cost of parts in the car. It's not clear if that's in addition to the added cost in the charge port, or instead of.

One important factor is even though the battery is capable of feeding perhaps up to 100 KW, if your charger is on a 40-amp 240v circuit, you are limited there to just 9.6kW. This drastically limits your ability to profit in the case of a spike, but then again, if there are several hundred thousand batteries competing with you, it's less likely to need to pull more than 10kW from any one battery.

[1] - https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy17osti/69017.pdf

Thev00d00 said 5 months ago:

Ovo Energy in the UK is trialling V2G with the Nissan Leaf [0]

0. https://www.ovoenergy.com/electric-cars/vehicle-to-grid-char...

i_am_proteus said 5 months ago:

> This week’s price spikes also underscore how dependent the region’s power grid has become on wind farms, which now make up about a quarter of the generation capacity in Texas. Lackluster breezes have contributed to the higher prices, Hehir said.

> Wind power generation in the region has plunged for three straight days, grid data compiled by Bloomberg show.

This happened in Australia earlier in the year. It's going to keep on happening, as long as the industry fails to account for the variance in output by wind power.

hcurtiss said 5 months ago:

And the all-in cost of wind will be much greater when accounting for the gas support they require.

WhompingWindows said 5 months ago:

Which kind of gas? Base load gas yes, but not new gas peakers - solar+batteries is already cheaper than peakers. The problem is Texas is not a solar-friendly state, it will be hard for non-fossil/non-wind sources to penetrate heavily.

dreamcompiler said 5 months ago:

For reference, $9k is roughly 300x the "normal" price.

H8crilA said 5 months ago:

Here's a chart for a quick visualisation:



Also such bumps do happen somewhat regularly (which is concerning), but this one was by far the largest recently:


6thaccount2 said 5 months ago:

$9k is fairly artificial in that it comes from the $9k ERCOT ORDC (operations reserves demand curve) meaning they did a study awhile back looking at Texas GDP and the cost of lost load and judge it to be ~$9k per MWh. This means when the optimization software has a shortage of their operating reserves the prices jump up to that level.

estomagordo said 5 months ago:

Are American electricity prices usually given as USD per Megawatt-hour? Because I found the headline wholeheartedly useless without knowing what the unit of energy was.

tialaramex said 5 months ago:

Wholesale prices are usually in local currency per MWh, but yes consumer prices are normally per kWh (and may use a smaller unit of currency if there is one) so that is confusing if like most people you don't normally look at wholesale prices.

For example headlines in the UK green press mentioned a £45 per MWh strike price for new wind turbine. Strike prices are basically a guaranteed wholesale price. But consumer pricing would normally be presented as pence per kWh.

carlmr said 5 months ago:

In Canada I had per KWh (same as in most of Europe I think), so yes, I found this completely useless. Maybe they just wanted to say it's over 9000 because of the meme.

vinay427 said 5 months ago:

Same everywhere I've lived in the US. These are wholesale prices in the article which seem to use MWh in many countries.

ralfd said 5 months ago:

1 Mega = 1000 Kilo

So a price of $9000 per MWh is $9 per KWh.

carlmr said 5 months ago:

Obviously, it's missing in the title is the point, not the unit used.

Dylan16807 said 5 months ago:

You're calling an article 'useless' because you have to open it to know the unit? That's pretty extreme.

Would you be complaining if it was "Texas Power Prices Spike Amid Scorching Heat"? Or "Texas Power Prices Max Out Amid Scorching Heat"? I think both those titles are fine, and they give about the same amount of information.

carlmr said 5 months ago:

I was replying to a comment on the headline being useless. It's normal in English not to repeat something in a reply.

To spell it out. It's completely useless to mention $9k in the headline if you don't mention per how many units of energy.

Your suggested titles are IMHO better since they use qualitative language instead of a quantity with no reference point.

Dylan16807 said 5 months ago:

If you want to say the number inside the headline is useless, I won't argue.

But you were agreeing with a claim that the headline itself was useless. That's not the same thing.

If the headline was useful without the number, which you seem to agree with[1], then the headline is still useful with the number. It's like adding an extra filler word to a sentence. The word is useless, but it doesn't ruin the sentence it's inside of.

[1] Note that the original headline already had qualitative information, and made it clear that this number was unusually high. It's not qualitative vs. quantitative, it's qualitative vs. both.

ryanmarsh said 5 months ago:

This is the spot price in an extremely seasonal futures market. This article is clickbait garbage.

I have a few clients in this space. Texas, through ERCOT is a deregulated market. The “electricity company” or REP (retail electricity provider) merely purchases futures from ERCOT (the market maker) and bills you for your usage according to the pricing plan you have with them. In the end your provider must purchase from ERCOT at least as many MWh as their customers use.

Distribution and maintenance is handled by various regional companies and factored into the price by ERCOT

The market price is like a futures auction, of a commodity where demand peaks in August. This is why the spot price can be so ridiculous.

The thing is, nobody pays the spot price. If a REP must pay the spot price in August (because of inadequate hedging) they almost always immediately become insolvent. It’s the “third rail” of this industry, touch it and you die. At that point secondary measures kick in to ensure those customers are not without power.

If you have more questions please reply.

tialaramex said 5 months ago:

You mention that "nobody pays the spot price" but what effect does this price have then if nobody pays it?

If I have a way to make, let's say, 30MW for up to 5 hours per day, and inject it into that system, could I get $9000 per MWh for that power during the period mentioned in the article?

If I wouldn't get $9000 then what purpose does this price signal have? "Oh great, the notional price I won't actually get paid went up. I will be sure to increase the notional amount of electricity I don't actually make"

jabl said 5 months ago:

Everybody (sane) is hedged. So while nobody per se pays the spot price, the spot price affects the parameters of the hedging contracts, PPA's, and whatnot.

ryanmarsh said 5 months ago:

A few REP’s pay that price each year.... and they go out of business.

The price is a reflection of the scarcity of generation and transmission capacity when its 101°F at 90% humidity and the entire state has the A/C on full blast.

If you were plugged in with ERCOT as a generator (guessing you don’t have the millions to build one), and you were the last to get told to start up, and you were close to the source of the need, you most certainly could earn that much. That’s what “peaker plants” are. You’ve probably heard about how bad they pollute.

Oh, and that price might only last for 15 minutes.

If you’re generating electricity “behind the meter” (from solar panels) they usually agree to some nominal price but chances are if it’s that hot your system is using your panels to augment your grid usage.

tialaramex said 5 months ago:

This makes more sense, thanks. I do have a further question though.

You say you'd get this price if you're last but surely it would make more sense to pay all generators the current winning price otherwise there's an incentive to guess and under-supply to get paid more.

I know the UK had to iterate a few times to make a system that wouldn't get gamed by suppliers, ensuring their incentives align with the power network stability and performance goals.

I've actually been reading recently about the other side of this, the retail side would like to force consumers to accept 15 minute metering. Current legislation forces consumers to be metered in hour increments, with 15 minutes only at their option but that might mean suppliers eat a spike like this one. Most home users are actually paying a fixed rate or simple on peak/ off peak system, with their off peak supply locally switched off by relays during peak times, but the law already provides for hourly rates. The long term idea is to load shed home users. Power spikes? Stop filling up those EVs and heating swimming pools rather than spin up another gas turbine.

ryanmarsh said 5 months ago:

The generators can’t just do whatever they want, otherwise they could easily conspire to set prices.

ERCOT, MISO (mid-continent system operator), and CALISO (California) basically run the grid. The generators are all under contract and can be fined for not being able to spin up when asked. This is called an “unplanned outage” and it can really cause problems.

nickserv said 5 months ago:

Seems like solar power would be perfect for this situation, maximum production at time of greatest use.

And Texas has plenty of land where putting in massive solar plants would do little ecological damage.

sokoloff said 5 months ago:

$9K / MWh for those who are curious. ($ alone as a unit is meaningless.)

bufferoverflow said 5 months ago:

$9 per kWh is pretty out there.

jedberg said 5 months ago:

Wasn't Texas also where the price went negative over the spring?

cavisne said 5 months ago:

That’s what happens in markets with a lot of wind generation,

South Australia saw a 14000/mwh price for 5 hours earlier this year (Due to a 48 Celsius heat wave).

Hot days and wind generation are not correlated unfortunately.

tzs said 5 months ago:

Isn’t the Texas grid largely isolated, with only minimal connections to the two major multi state grids that the other states connect to? I’d guess that also contributes by limiting their options for dealing with excess when demand is low or shortages when demand is high.

Skunkleton said 5 months ago:

It sounds like even a non-renewable grid would benefit from large-scale energy storage.

said 5 months ago:
dawhizkid said 5 months ago:

Guessing that breaks down to something like $30-$40 per hour per home? Wow.

phamilton said 5 months ago:

Some fun numbers (@ $9/kwh):

Running a 1kw microwave costs 15 cents a minute.

Watching a 2 hour movie on a 65" TV costs a dollar.

Playing a PS4 is $2/hr.

Edit: Added @9/kwh because it wasn't clear that's what I was using in my calculations

cmurf said 5 months ago:

A 1500W microwave at 10 cents/kWh will cost 15 cents per hour. A 65" TV might use 100W, 2 hours a day would cost you $6 a year.

A refrigerator will get you because it's running 10 hours a day. Much bigger, is the giant heat sink that is your water heater.

mlyle said 5 months ago:

The spike here was to $9/kWh.

100W * 2 hours * ($9 / (Kilowatt * Hour) = $1.80

said 5 months ago:
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kmc059000 said 5 months ago:

Most (I assume) residential consumers pay a fixed price, so that cost falls to the energy providers. Events like these have caused smaller Retail Energy Providers to have to go bankrupt due to not being able to pay for the demand of their customers.

jumbopapa said 5 months ago:

This is what I was interested in learning about.

jhayward said 5 months ago:

No one pays that. This is the realtime spot price, which is only paid by retailers who have an "oh shit" problem with their advanced purchasing. (I should note, there are actually retailers who will sell you spot priced power, should that be your desire).

The vast, vast majority of power is purchased years (via PPAs) to days ahead of time at much more reasonable and stable prices.

hanniabu said 5 months ago:

I'm surprised there aren't rate limiting controls for home when certain rates are hit (that the home owner can set).

xfitm3 said 5 months ago:

Running a diesel generator cheaper than $9/kW.

driverdan said 5 months ago:

So is a gasoline generator. A Honda EU3000is costs around $0.50/kWh to run, excluding depreciation.

jabl said 5 months ago:

For something that is used a few hours per year the dominant cost is the capital cost, and not the marginal cost (fuel + wear&tear).

adammunich said 5 months ago:

Around 50 cents / kWh

jhayward said 5 months ago:

Not for 90 minutes per year.

nkingsy said 5 months ago:

How hard would it be to run large hvdc lines across time zones and pipe energy between areas with complimenting renewables?

ars said 5 months ago:

Texas has an independent power grid unlike the rest of the US.

It's an odd choice, it helps then in some ways, but hurts in others.

hanniabu said 5 months ago:

I guess that's a repercussion from the succession. It was a long time ago, but I'm sure there were many people in positions of power that still held those viewpoints and wanted to keep everything separate for when that (in their minds) inevitable day comes again.

atdrummond said 5 months ago:

My understanding is that it is a side effect of WWII. Texas had a large amount of plants needing redundancy. Afterwards, ERCOT's independence allowed the state to bypass a significant amount of FERC oversight and regulation.

205guy said 5 months ago:

Buck minster Fuller called, and he's still waiting for us to implement the future he envisioned.

See the section titled "The Global Energy Grid:" http://peakenergy.blogspot.com/2009/02/buckminster-fullers-c...

newguy1234 said 5 months ago:

Very hard. Most people don't want an extension cord running through their backyard.

trhway said 5 months ago:

One would think it would be a slam dunk high profit business opportunity - come to TX, buy a cheap land, put solar panels and large battery, throw a power cable to the electric grid ... and just relax and watch the Niagara of money flowing into your bank account. It is pretty informative to meditate upon why such business opportunity is just a fantasy incompatible with the current reality.

philipkglass said 5 months ago:

People are preparing to do just that:

"Texas’ solar market is about to catch fire"

With more than 5 GW of approved solar projects in the ERCOT grid, Texas is getting ready for a major boom in its utility-scale solar market.


Though the Niagara of money is going to be more like a modest rivulet of money since prices like these happen only a few hours a year, and Texas generally has low wholesale electricity prices.

peteretep said 5 months ago:

Can you use the heat differential of underground former oil mines to pump the heat into?

akeck said 5 months ago:

Is there a photovoltaic tech the uses infrared to take advantage directly of the heat?

Dylan16807 said 5 months ago:

The maximum energy you can extract from a unit of heat is based on the temperature ratio of your hot object and your cold object.

For light coming from the sun, the hot object is 6000K and the cold object is around 300K. So about 95% of the energy is available to attempt to capture. 94% if your solar panel gets very hot.

The infrared coming off local hot objects is almost useless in comparison. If you can keep your infrared-catcher perfectly cooled with an underground loop, it will be at 290K. If you have an object that's all the way up at 150F, that's still only 340K and less than 15% of that energy could possibly be captured.

said 5 months ago:
wglb said 5 months ago:

Perhaps ycombinator should find team who can build the shipstone.

mabbo said 5 months ago:

It sounds as though there is a hell of a market for energy storage in Texas. Tesla dropped that battery station into Australia on a very short timeline- they should try that again.

jweir said 5 months ago:

Prices went up from a lack of wind and capacity.

If you think solar is the solution stop and think.

Solar occurs during peak demand. You will need more solar then demand. That is a lot of solar.

Also when it gets really hot the wind often stops. Same goes for really cold. Wind farms often have to shutdown in cold conditions because of ice.

RcouF1uZ4gsC said 5 months ago:

>The unprecedented market rally highlights how volatile the Texas power market has become as coal-fired power plants, which have seen their profits squeezed by cheap natural gas and renewable energy resources, continue to close. Texas’s grid operator has been warning for months that plant retirements and increasing electricity demand has left it with slim supply margins.

>This week’s price spikes also underscore how dependent the region’s power grid has become on wind farms, which now make up about a quarter of the generation capacity in Texas. Lackluster breezes have contributed to the higher prices, Hehir said.

This is one of the downsides of the push to "green" energy. While wind and solar are great, there can be significant variability. Unfortunately, battery tech is not there yet to help with the supply-demand mismatches.

prawn said 5 months ago:

"Unfortunately, battery tech is not there yet to help with the supply-demand mismatches."

Isn't this the situation that Elon's battery in South Australia was built to handle? From what I understand, it's been profitable and successful.


Without something to handle soaring peaks, a friend of mine who works in energy described the power landscape as like needing a 100-lane wide bridge to deal with peak-hour crossing a city river.

sjwright said 5 months ago:

The South Australia battery is profitable because it solves the problem of changes in demand over a period of seconds or minutes, filling the gaps while a larger fossil fuel plant manually ramps up to take over the load.

It’s critically important and far more costly to do in other ways.

IshKebab said 5 months ago:

It's not just "seconds and minutes". It can provide 70 MW for 10 minutes and 30 MW for 3 hours.

gervase said 5 months ago:

From the article, it seems they're dealing with demand fluctuations of 1000-3000 MW within a given hour (2PM was the example), so I think it's really working on a totally different scale. Even 10x as many batteries wouldn't be able to smooth that load fluctuation.

ars said 5 months ago:

> While wind and solar are great

I think they actually just need more solar power - try to keep the two technologies approx even.

To a first approximation they are complementary and generate power at opposite time periods (stormy windy weather has clouds, hot dry weather has no wind but does have lots of sun).

dreamcompiler said 5 months ago:

I agree but solar would only partially address the Texas problem. Texas is so humid right now that it doesn't cool down at night, so people have to run air conditioners all night long.

dillonmckay said 5 months ago:

This has existed for quite some time to deal w/ mismatches:


sjtindell said 5 months ago:

True and for a period we will have to pay to avoid the externalities of coal that were never priced in.

d_burfoot said 5 months ago:

One of the biggest skills humanity has to learn soon is global heat management. At the same time it's 100 degrees in Dallas, it's freezing cold in some other part of the world. And in the same place but at a different time of year, the temperature goes down to around 40 degrees. There's got to be a way to even out those fluctuations, and doing so would produce immense benefits: humans are comfortable in 60-70 degree weather, so by moving heat from the hot space/time locations to the frigid ones, we win on both sides of the deal. And by the way, the Second Law of Thermodynamics also wants to smooth out temperature gradients. It's got to be possible.

cobookman said 5 months ago:

I’ve wondered as solar gets more popular we’ll have heat and cooling systems that take advantage of the free excess electricity.

For example heat my water to 140% the ideal temp and cool a thermal sink for ac when I’m away from home during peak solar.

Then when I’m at home and it’s no longer sunny my electricity needs are nil as I utilize the pre stored coolant and heat.

Haven’t done the math but I’d assume a 500 gallon water tank that’s heated or cooled during peak solar with insulation could be used to keep your home at the perfect temperature by using excess solar.

Scoundreller said 5 months ago:

Ideally, use phase changes. A bank of ice will reject a lot more heat than 1C water.

Steam too, but it’s better for transport versus storage. You could melt wax if space was at a premium.

mywittyname said 5 months ago:

Using a water tank as a primary heat sink for a reversible heat pump will probably reduce energy usage quite a bit on extreme weather days. Especially if said tank is installed under basement to keep the temperatures relatively stable.

krapht said 5 months ago:

Build your house in the ground. We should all live in Hobbit holes, which means comfort, because of consistent year round ground temperatures.

RandomBacon said 5 months ago:

And having "grass roofs" would probably be better for the environment too.

lurker458 said 5 months ago:

To even it out across space already exists. Temperature differences generate a force that vastly outnumbers our own energy production capabilities (including nukes). It's called wind.

spraak said 5 months ago:

Literally pumping heat or cold around the earth, you're saying? That sounds like it could have a disastrous effect on the seasons at best...