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    green and red man's Avatar
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    Question about power grid

    This question I have is not one that is new for me.

    What sort of ideas have been experimented with that would be realistic in storing up vast amounts of electrical energy that is otherwise unused and wasted on the power grid?

    The idea of something being able to store up tremendous amounts of electrical energy to the degree that is needed is kind of scary. At least it is to me. When I worked at an airport, exposure to radiation from large amounts of electrical power was just part of the job. But, the levels of radiation from the kind of energy storage I have in mind would be extreme.

    What would be some of the basics for design parameters for such a system of energy storage?
    I'm thinking there would be of great necessity a high speed cooling system when that kind of power is stored up.

    My mind is always stuck on tinkering and trying to solve and map out certain problems like this.




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    Keeper of the GTT Cookies dieselshadow's Avatar
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    In a nutshell the grid is balanced. For every light bulb switched on, a generator picks up the load. So the load and transmission losses equal generation output. There is no excess other than running plants at low load/efficiency. There are means of keeping plants at full capacity therefore at top efficiency. For example, a pumped storage resiviour. During the night when the grid is at low load, pumps pump water uphill to a large resiviour. during the day when loads reach their peak this water is released back through some water turbines to generate power. Simple idea. What this doesn't take into account is the losses in friction through the pipes, pumps/motors, and turbines/generation. So this idea works, just not at an ideal 100% efficiency. There are many other ideas like compressed air, molten salt, and others. The issue really comes down to what can be the most efficient to make it economical to implement.


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    Anyone interested in the power grid, generation and transmission (storage) of AC power should do some reading about Nikola Tesla.

    I read this (paperback) late Spring: [Projekat Rastko] John J. O'Neill: Prodigal Genius - The Life of Nikola Tesla (1944) It's available free in it's entirety online at the link.

    Nikola Tesla had a total grasp of AC current and it's industrial uses and even the demonstrated electocution of an elephant by DC proponents Thomas Edison & Friends with AC current failed to stem it's practical adaptation in the end. Tesla was such a genius that some "conspiracy theorists" propose that he had tapped into "Cosmic Knowledge of the Universe".
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    Quote Originally Posted by dieselshadow View Post
    In a nutshell the grid is balanced. For every light bulb switched on, a generator picks up the load. So the load and transmission losses equal generation output. There is no excess other than running plants at low load/efficiency. There are means of keeping plants at full capacity therefore at top efficiency. For example, a pumped storage resiviour. During the night when the grid is at low load, pumps pump water uphill to a large resiviour. during the day when loads reach their peak this water is released back through some water turbines to generate power. Simple idea. What this doesn't take into account is the losses in friction through the pipes, pumps/motors, and turbines/generation. So this idea works, just not at an ideal 100% efficiency. There are many other ideas like compressed air, molten salt, and others. The issue really comes down to what can be the most efficient to make it economical to implement.


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    Thanks for helping to explain much of what I do not know about power transmission. Sounds pretty complicated. I remember talking to an acquaintance who worked as an electrical engineer for a power company, but never got to discuss it on this level with him. There have been times I have toyed mentally with the design for a perpetual motion type power generating machine that would be somewhat similar to a roller coaster that goes in a continuous loop. Was thinking of something also that employed high compressed air to assist in getting it or another design moving. Not sure what if any of it is practical.

    Quote Originally Posted by HydroHarold View Post
    Anyone interested in the power grid, generation and transmission (storage) of AC power should do some reading about Nikola Tesla.

    I read this (paperback) late Spring: [Projekat Rastko] John J. O'Neill: Prodigal Genius - The Life of Nikola Tesla (1944) It's available free in it's entirety online at the link.

    Nikola Tesla had a total grasp of AC current and it's industrial uses and even the demonstrated electocution of an elephant by DC proponents Thomas Edison & Friends with AC current failed to stem it's practical adaptation in the end. Tesla was such a genius that some "conspiracy theorists" propose that he had tapped into "Cosmic Knowledge of the Universe".
    Yes, I have read about him, but very little. Seems like I recall his critics really trying to label him as a nut, but they were way off. And, yip, I do recall reading about things backfiring on Edison when he attempted to discredit Tesla's use for DC power involving electrical execution of some sort.
    Was it Buffalo, New York that had its street lights first illuminated from power generated at a plant designed by Tesla? It's always easy to accept things that are right in front of our faces that we can touch. For someone to first conceive an idea such as many of Tesla's, work out the design details and then actually build a successful version is absolutely amazing. Thanks for reminding me about Tesla.
    I had completely forgotten about his marvelous contributions to power generation, electric motors, and much more. Got some reading to do.




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    Tesla was and is almost single handedly THE originator of our modern power systems. He began as a little kid with a waterwheel in a stream, observing the action of the water against the blades... The rest is history.

    One very funny experiment Tesla performed in downtown NYC. He was studying "sympathetic vibrations" of objects and "resonance" of structures. He attached some sort of occilating device (probably an occilating electro magnet/weight) to a vertical support column of his lab building. Then he began to play with the frequencies. He succeeded in causing the entire neighborhood's buildings to "quake" and breaking much glass and destroying water pipes... including the ones in the police station a block or more away. He snatched the occilator off the column before the cops came... they knew where to start! It's great reading!

    "Tesla, he's not just electricity!"
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    Tesla was indeed a very smart man. He is without a dought the father of our modern AC power grid we use to this day around the world. Unfortunately he wasn't a good business man. He died pennyless and virtually alone. Only in more recent years has he gotten a lot more credit for what he did.

    Today's grid isn't all that complicated if you break it down. If you were to start a portable generator up and measure it's output, you'll find the frequency of it's output is 60hz at 3600 RPM. The pulses of AC current go from positive to negative 60 times a second. For this example we'll stick with 120 volts output as well. If the generator was stable and no throttle inputs were changed and a 100w light was plugged in, the generator would slow down to say 58hz. The voltage regulator would step up the drop in voltage to maintain 120 volts, but you added a load to the generator, hence the slowdown. The throttle on the engine would have to open to compensate for the drop in speed and increase it back to 3600 RPM and 60hz. When the light is unplugged, the generator throttle would close a little to prevent over-speeding. In this example 3600 RPM on the engine is 60hz output on the generator. Different generators can operate at different RPM's but the designed output will always be 60hz here in North America. Transformers are built to match voltages.

    Our power plants are doing the same thing. They are monitoring the grid's frequency down to the hundredths e.g. 60.00hz. The scale is so much larger that the governors can compensate for these very small increments. When a plant see the frequency slow down, the governor increases the throttle and speeds it back up.

    Imagine a race track filled with cars, trucks, buses, and semis all running in a single file locked bumper to bumper doing 60mph around and around. They all have different engines operating at different loads. But they are all running 60mph. If one car runs out of gas and quits running, it will still be going 60mph because everybody else stepped on the accelerator a tiny bit more. If a semi truck driver mashed his throttle to 100% and pushed as hard as he could, everybody else could compensate and let up a tad and maintain 60mph. This is same how our power plants and the grid operates. A base loaded plant runs at 100% load. Typically these are coal and nuclear plants that have a large boiler or supply of steam that is slow to react to grid changes. They are also most efficient running at 100% output. Other plants are peak load plants. Their output varies to compensate for the changes in load on the grid. These plants can respond very rapidly to changes in the grid. A gas turbine engine or water turbine can ramp up or down very fast.

    Make sense?
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    DS, yes sir that makes perfect sense to me. Thank you and also HydroHarold for you both contributing and adding light to this discussion. Here in Texas, especially my area, the grid has been experiencing strains this year and last, as well as previous years. The power provider was talking about the potential for rolling blackouts. The state was talking of allowing more coal fired plants, but I think some of the permits were blocked. You can often see train cars filled with what I'm guessing to be Wyoming coal headed for the power plants or possibly some of the cement operations that burn it in their kilns.

    Something needs to be done here, IMO, because some years ago the power industry in the state was deregulated. Might also help explain why at least one gas fired plant was bought up by a group of people in Dubai. The public was told that deregulation would encourage competition and lower costs. Well, the costs for the customers quickly increased greatly instead of being lowered. I can remember times that ONCOR asked the state public utility commission(I think that's what it's called) to increase their rates more than one time in a single year and got it passed. There's no doubt that the cost to provide electric power has increased as well, but with the way politics is, it makes a person suspect something else.




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    Green and Red Man great question! While the grid basics were covered previously, electricity is the only commodity than gets consumed as it is produced and cannot be stored in large quantities. There are some examples of storage, albeit small, on the bulk electric grid. Here in New York we have two examples demonstrating two different technologies; a 20 megawatt flywheel storage plant, and a 20 megawatt lithium ion battery storage plant (1 MW = ~ 1000 homes).

    These type of units can respond to dispatch signals very quickly and typically play a role in regulating or "balancing" the ever changing load here in NY - helping to keep the lights on for all New Yorkers!

    Technology - About Flywheel Energy Storage : Beacon Power, LLC

    AES Energy Storage Projects | AES Energy Storage

    Smaller examples of storage tecnology are also found on the distribution system and come in the form of fuel cells which are typically used in place of back-up emergency disel generators for schools, hospitals, office buildings, etc.
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    Although small compared to the last example (at about 1 MW) there is a cool storage solution in PA. Along the Susquehanna River there are several power plants (hydroelectric and nuclear). When there is excess power available from these plants, the system at Muddy Run pumps water up into a reservoir. When the demand increases, the water can flow back through those pumps that then act as generators. For a system that is over 40 years old, it is a pretty cool and environmentally sound idea. I am guessing that the return on investment was not great enough or we would see more of them.

    I found this wiki page on it, but did not read through.

    Muddy Run Pumped Storage Facility - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    "For a system that is over 40 years old, it is a pretty cool and environmentally sound idea. I am guessing that the return on investment was not great enough or we would see more of them."

    Well, not the only reason they didn't catch on, at least here in the Hudson Valley of NY. There was a move afoot to build one of these plants on Storm King Mt. just below the city of Newburgh and it was going to be "the latest thing" in power. I and a bunch of other people saw the lack of benefit of tearing up pristine forest to build a giant "lake" and the construction of the intake/exhaust effect on fish, etc. We managed to save that part of the river, Con Ed be damned. We already had a nuke within 35 miles of Manhattan.

    The first result on this Yahoo search...

    storm king power plant - Yahoo! Search Results

    ...tells about the "bargain" made with Con Edison re. their "open cooling technology" in lieu of the Storm King debacle. I'd rather have a "Today's Technology" coal burner than a recirculation plant which uses power to make power. There is no Perpetual Motion or free energy. This country, particularly the NE region is sadly lacking in updating the power supply to keep up with new demands. Our representatives, though they use electricity themselves, are not keeping the pressure on to keep the rest of us supplied sufficiently. "Rolling Blackouts" are scare tactics of an old fashioned and out dated industry.
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