Friday, September 27, 2013

Broke Bad Mountain

So... We're all waiting for the Finale of Breaking Bad. We're all trying to guess what happens to Walt, Jesse, Skylar and so on... The Vegas line probably has Walt saving Jesse from the Nazis only to be killed by Jesse in some poetically freakish way.

Here's what I think is going to happen. Walt is going to save Jesse and they're going to escape to the hideout in New Hampshire. Then they're going to grow old and gay with each other. Their hilarious addictions to reconstructive surgery and extravagant clothing lead them to burn through their barrel of money. End scene is Jesse spitting into his hand cause they've run out of lube. Classic.


When I went to university the group of friends I'd go to football games with were all working on Masters and PhDs in environmental studies. Interestingly, these were people that liked to eat, drink, watch football and be merry - I fit right in even though I was working on a double major in nuclear and mechanical engineering. At first these folks didn't square with my perception of what environmentalist were "supposed" to be. I asked my friend Ryan, a soil science guru in the making, to define what an environmentalist is/was/should be. He said you couldn't... the description is too diverse to mean anything. Describing someone as an environmentalist is like describing them as black or republican or young. It's shorthand for the ignorant.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mac Bandy

I watch my share of TV and Film. I enjoy the obvious stuff... HBO, Showtime, AMC but I'll take the dregs too. A good show can do any number of things... Humor... Hunger... Surprise... Disgust... I'm not trying to redefine what the Greeks already figured many years ago - just restating for setting.

Photoelectrics are a show if there ever was one. You've got the laughable, the fuck me, the wow and the fuck you just about everyday. That's an entertaining show. I'm a big fan of watching progress.

Photoelectric Trends

Monday, September 16, 2013

Just a Thought

I've got similar model - It was my Great Grandfather's.
Mine has a fancier handle

U.S. Overstates Leaks by Gas-Drillers, Says Study

This WSJ story covers a study that was supported by a cross-incentivized team. Cross funded studies are good because you get a result which isn't completely one-sided. Here's my thought though. Why the hell are we worried about natural gas leakage when the people drilling have a clear incentive to not have leaks in the first place? I would think they're doing everything they can to minimize leakage because they have a profit motive to do so. Leaks = less gas to sell. What's not to understand? Now hey... I realize it's not that simple... Maybe you can cheat a corner and build a rig that gets 95% of the gas and costs X. Maybe the rig that gets 99% of the gas costs twice as much. I could see how you'd have to use regulation to keep the drillers in line. At the same time I think drillers know what they're doing and we have to give them some breathing room to develop their technology. Let them leak 4% a year for the next few and see if they get down to 3% or 2% leakage rates on their own. If I were head of the EPA I'd stand off, wait, see and learn. If the drillers don't cut down on emissions you regulate - if they do you don't. Just a thought.  

Reimagining V2G

The basic idea behind the V2G concept is that you plug your car in and charge your battery. If something weird happens with the electrical system your battery backfeeds power to the grid. I think I've got a better idea... Starts off the same... Plug in your PHEV to charge the battery. Here's the difference. If the grid needs extra power your car turns on and generates electricity with the engine.  The battery doesn't come into the equation.

The average car engine has around 75 kW of power and there are over 250 million passenger cars in the US. This means the engine power in the US is well over 17500 GW. That's over 10 times bigger than all the power plants in the US put together. Germany's 40 million plus passenger cars have a fleet power in excess of 3000 GW. That's over 30 times more power than Germany's electrical peak.

At first you might think... Well... Wait a second? Gasoline is expensive. Gasoline generated electricity would be expensive too right. Here are some rough numbers.

Gasoline has an energy density of 125,000 btu/gallon. If you assume a heat rate of 10,000 btu/kWh for the generator you could generate 12.5 kWh of electricity per gallon of fuel. In Germany the current price of gasoline is 6 Euro per gallon so if you got 12.5 kWh per gallon this set up would result in electricity costs of 48 cents/kWh. That's extremely high but you also have to figure there's 25 kWh of thermal energy exhausted out the back of the tail pipe for every gallon of fuel. You could capture that heat quite easily. If your captured thermal energy displaced natural gas usage you'd gain an additional value of about 1.88 Euro worth of heat for every gallon. If you subtract the heating savings off the electricity costs (48 cent/kWh - the 15 cent/kWh saved on heating) you end up with 33 cent/kWh electricity. That's only 10% higher than the price of electricity from the German Grid. That's not bad at all.

Here's the kicker though. This V2G setup isn't meant for daily operations - it's only meant for back up power or peaking power when the grid doesn't have enough generation available. We're only talking about a few hours a year - maybe 60 or 100. The value argument doesn't come down to electricity at all - it comes down to insurance.

There's this idea going around that we have to keep the big coal and natural gas plants available because we'll need them for a few hours a year on the coldest nights in the winter and the hottest days of summer. The utilities want to set up something called a capacity market. In a capacity market the power station owners gets paid rent to be available to supply power. Typical rents are around $30 per kW per year. This means a 1 GW power plant would get paid 30 million dollars even if it didn't run at all.

I think that 30 million could be better spent. That same 30 million dollar capacity payment could be spread out over 60,000 PHEV car owners at $500 a pop... That would be one hell of a positive incentive to encourage people to buy PHEVs. As you gained more and more PHEV capacity you could reduce the capacity payments. Eventually you'd phase the payments out altogether. Hopefully you get the picture... The path is there... The power is there... People just need to be more like He-man and realize... WE HAVE THE POWER!!!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Economics of Photoelectricity - September 2013

Economics of Photoelectricity - September 2013

Holy Grail Quotes are Like Assholes

"The 'holy grail' is a photovoltaic module that gives the biggest bang for its buck—with high efficiency, lower materials costs, streamlined and scalable manufacturing and unquestionable reliability. The photovoltaic modules you can buy today have a few of these attributes, but not all of them together."
Grid parity, the point at which an alternative energy can generate electricity at more or less what it costs to buy it from a utility, is the Holy Grail for all renewable energy sources, and in theory it should have a profound impact on power market dynamics.
Jason Deign
In solar cell technology, thin films are the Holy Grail.
Glen Martin
“Splitting water with sunlight is the Holy Grail of a sustainable hydrogen economy.”
Midwest Renewable Energy Association at the annual renewable energy festival, stressed on storage technology, calling it the "Holy Grail" of the renewable energy movement.
"As shown, if the company were to realize its 2016 targets, it would be uniquely positioned on the module landscape -- close to industry-leading efficiency at industry-leading cost. This is the long-sought-after holy grail of PV module manufacturing, and countless startups have perished in its pursuit." 
Shyam Mehta - The Roadmap to El Dorado: SunEdison's PV Module Technology Strategy  
It is important to note that while the holy grail for the automotive industry has been maximising energy storage capacity while reducing weight (electric vehicle batteries are enormously heavy, and thereby affect range, performance etc), at a residential or grid level, size and weight is far less of an issue.
Giles Parkinson - Why the hot money is chasing energy storage

“Battery storage is the holy grail of the off-the-grid crowd." Don’t like solar PV? Ban new installations

Sunday, September 8, 2013


I just bought a Lions bumper sticker for my old broke down vacuum cleaner and now it sucks again.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Funky Way to Make Fresh Water

It's gots to be funky!
Part 0. This idea applies to coastal locations where you've got a lot of AC load and scarce fresh water supplies. Places like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Southern California come to mind...

Part 1. Build a District Cooling Network. This is just like a District Heating Network only its purpose is to deliver cool water rather than hot water. The cool water isn't intended to provide cooling directly but to be used by Air Conditioning units as a heat sink. The idea here is that you save a lot of electricity because you do a lot less work when you use cool water as a heat sink rather than hot air.

Part 2. Once the water has passed through the AC units it will be at a temperature of around 60 degrees Celsius. You do two things with this water. 1. You sell what you can. I figure the target audience is people with hot tubs. 60 ºC water is hot in the hot tub hot. Jump back. 2. Send all the remaining hot water back to a desalination plant where it would be the heat source for a multi-stage flash-type distillation unit. Funky thing here is I used to run a 7 stage flash type distillation unit but we used steam as our heat source so I wasn't sure if 60 ºC was hot enough. Several papers on the internet machine say 60 ºC is hot enough - good enough for me. Anyways, after running through the distillation plant you'd again have cool water to send back to all the AC units connected to your District Cooling Network - by cool I mean it would be close to the temperature of the ocean. Neckbone.

Alternate versions of the idea could skip the desalination plant and instead just have some sort of heat exchanger to dump waste heat. Double dog alternately you could also skip the District Heating Network altogether and do a stand-alone setup where you use the existing domestic water connection to supply cool water to your AC and then feed the resulting hot water to your hot water heater. The problem here is that your cooling demand isn't tied to your hot water demand so you'd be wasting water. Wasting water is Super Bad. Gud gawd.

How much water are we talking about? I don't know. It depends on your flow rates. If I'm reading this ancient paper correctly for every 100 gallons of flow through your cooling network you should get a ballpark value of 10 gallons of fresh water depending on your ocean temperature.

Using the ocean, a lake or an aquifer as a heat sink for an AC unit isn't a new idea but I couldn't find anything on Google that mentioned the use of waste heat from air conditioning to distill water. Closest thing I could find was the use of waste heat from a conventional power plant as a heat source for distillation.

So is that a funky idea or what? Sommee love... wanna kiss myself... hey hey HEY...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


"...spreading information about health and medicine should be carefully bound by an ethical framework, and by scientific rigour."