Strategy for America’s Energy Consumption

Our country is pushing a great deal of money into renewable energy, i.e. Solar photovoltaic (PV) Panels and Wind Turbines.  In the military, we call this, “Good Initiative, Bad Judgment.”


Pushing for solar PV panels and wind turbines is admirable, but there are less expensive and far more valuable options out there, not to mention having solar PV panels and wind turbines without the proper infrastructure is going to cause major problems in our country.  Electric cars are going to push up consumption and new power plants are expensive.


The following is a list of things to do to decrease current electrical consumption to deal with the future increase in unregulated power generation from homes and the increase in power consumption from electric vehicles.


LIST OF THINGS TO DO
•    Solar Water Heaters have to become the standard and replace electric water heaters as the primary water heater.  This will reduce a family’s and business’s cost in the long run, but more importantly, free up a big portion of electricity for other uses.  With demand decreasing, electrical prices will go down and reduce the strain on our electrical grid
•    Push for electric cars.  Reduce our dependence on foreign oil.   Unfortunately, electric cars are not as good to the environment as some people think   (Electric Cars & Batteries Blog)
•   DC to DC systems are more efficient than any other energy solution.   Theoretically they can achieve 99.9% efficiency, currently around 95%.   Since solar PV panels and Wind Turbines create DC power and anything electronic uses DC power, we need to have systems implemented that allows for this high efficiency: i.e.; Solar Panels used for charging a car or powering electronic devices directly
o    There already are companies out there that have such systems and trying to push their technology.  One such company invented an ingenious solution a decade ago to use existing electrical wiring to ship both AC and DC, so there will not be any major infrastructure changes.  You just use a special plug ($1) and plug your electronic device into the wall socket.
o    If you don’t have solar PV panels or a wind turbine, you can still save a great deal of money by having a big AC to DC converter attached next to your circuit breaker running at 95% efficiency, versus having the little power supplies in every electronic device running at a dismal 30-50% efficiency.
•    Homes having their own micro power plants.  Basically this is having your own solar PV panels and wind turbines.  The excess power can be stored locally, but on a very windy day or sunny day, the homes have to be able to put power back in the electrical grid and therefore deploying it anywhere else it is needed in the country.  We need a national highway system of electricity.  In addition, this system needs to be protected from damage that can be caused by electromagnetic pulses (EMPs).  This is an extremely important step that must be fixed now or eventually it’s going to be a gigantic mess with 2nd and 3rd order effects.
o    An electromagnetic pulse can occur naturally or manmade.  Certain nuclear explosions can create EMPs, but what people don’t know is that the sun periodically creates EMPs.  Most of the sun’s occurrences don’t create big problems, but on occasion the pulses are big enough to cause havoc.
o    In 1989, the Quebec grid was shut down by a very large solar flare that created an EMP strong enough to cause the problem.
o    A more subtle effect is power company transformer insulation degradation.  These result from lower grade solar EMP’s causing electrical disturbances that create temporary increases in transformer temperature, which over time can destroy the insulation, hence knockout the transformer.  We’re talking about transformers that cost millions of dollars that take at least take six months to a year to build, and they don’t keep these things in stock.
•    Pollution from electric power plants:  55% of our power comes from coal.  If you want to reduce pollution in America, we have to go nuclear.  Renewable energy will only get us so far, 25% if we are lucky…not to mention that it’s expensive.  The rest has to be nuclear, preferably pebble bed reactors for safety reasons and they’re plug and play capability for future growth.
•    Natural Gas — the U.S. has a significant reservoir of natural gas.    We can use natural gas to power many things in our country, i.e. cars, power plants, heating/cooling, etc.  In addition, you can also turn natural gas into diesel fuel (gasification).  This will go a long way towards helping us approach energy independence.  Congress almost passed a resolution to create a gasification plant during the OPEC crisis, but the crisis ended too soon, and we went back to having “cheap” gas.
•    Compact Flourescent (CFL) Bulbs are much more efficient than incandescent bulbs.  Unfortunately, CFLs are a pollution problem since they contain mercury so they’re not the end all be all solution.  Light emitting diode (LEDs) are even better and last much longer (50,000 hours, which is about 50 times more than an incandescent bulb, and 3x-9x of CFLs).  LEDs are the future and they’re here, yet there is no law incentivizing people to buy them.  In Germany, incandescent light sources are banned.  In America, a major tax should be levied on incandescent bulbs, since some establishments prefer them for ambiance reasons, which is fine; they’ll just have to pay extra.  Using LEDs will free up electrical demand dramatically.  The US has started to ban inefficient incandescents, and more bans are due in the coming years…but sometimes, people like the glow of incandescents in certain conditions.  (It will be comical if a black market for incandescents comes to fruition).

Will we ever get away from using petroleum? No, and using “oil” as fuel for vehicles is a big waste.  There is a limit on how much oil there is in the world and it’s more important to use oil for petrochemicals, then for using it to fuel your vehicle.  By decreasing the use of oil, both for environmental, economical, and national security reasons, we can do a greater good for ourselves and set an example for the rest of the world.  The previous list is not going to quench our thirst for energy, but it’ll greatly help offset our country’s increasing demand for energy.

Electric cars are going to increase your electric bill by 30%.  Installing a solar water heater to replace electric water heaters will probably negate that increase.  Using efficient lighting technologies can save another 10%-20%.  Using solar PV panels and wind turbines to directly power your DC equipment can save another 10-20% in lost efficiency.  Granted, not everyone can afford to do all of these things and based on geography, may not be feasible, but some of the country doing this will dramatically improve our energy issue.  Not to mention when people start noticing the “Jones” saving a bunch of money or stating how little, if any, their electric bill is, the energy smartness fever will catch on.  Especially when the Jones’s have a party at their house and start bragging.

The solution to our energy problems are an amalgam of solutions that do not eliminate the energy sources we use today, but find ways to clean those that are dirty, use and expand the use of our natural fuels which are plentiful, educate and eliminate the prejudices associated with poor application of certain technologies in the past, and meaningfully and intelligently harness the naturally occurring energy sources of wind, water, the earth’s heat, and the sun.

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