Friday, August 29, 2008

translation to EE-speak

Ignore the below. I did a little more searching and found this paper from 2003 talking about the problems related to shedding large loads as a type of spinning reserve. It endorses the idea of load management for reliability improvement, but suggests that managing small loads is preferable.

I still think the idea I wrote about yesterday is a good one. This is pretty rare for me. I usually bore of my ideas within a few hours or look back on them from another perspective and find that they were unoriginal or impractical or poorly thought out. I suspect that most "new" ideas in the world suffer a similar fate.

But I like this one. It is an evolution of an existing process that may be practical and beneficial enough to be worth implementing. My brief search so far hasn't revealed any previous discussion of this exact idea, so there is even a small chance that it may even be somewhat original.

Utilities do something similar already, establishing contracts with certain customers where the customer agrees to be the first load shed to avoid a blackout in exchange for a lower price for electricity. And at least one California Utility recently established a system whereby several back-up generators already installed at customer sites around the city would be turned on to increase production to avoid a blackout.

So, this is essentially the same idea, but instead of responding to near catastrophic events that occur once a year, it would be designed to respond to economic conditions that occur up to several times a day.

The mechanism for implementation within today's energy market would be to sell the flexibility of a load (or collection of loads) on the energy market as spinning reserves. (Spinning reserves are generation facilities that must be run on a standby basis in order for a power system to remain reliable. If the need arises, these plants can quickly increase their power output, so that supply and demand always match. Usually, they are steam-based fossil-fuel-fired plants where the boiler is kept hot enough to allow a fast response to demand.) All power systems need spinning reserves to function properly. The more unpredictable your supply or demand is, the more spinning reserves you need.

Spinning reserves are a largely ignored blemish on the face of wind power, because systems that have more wind power need more spinning reserves to remain reliable and spinning reserves are a source of CO2. Meanwhile, wind energy producers are given CO2 credits based only on how much energy they sell to the system, completely ignoring the increased need for spinning reserves.

So, there you go. If you are looking for a business plan in the utility industry, this one is available. It'd probably work best in California because they have a screwed up, expensive, and deregulated electrical system, year-round irrigation demand, market-based power scheduling, and high concentration of wind energy. Presumably, you could even come up with a way to demonstrate that the process reduced CO2 (by displacing spinning reserves), so you could also realize profits from CO2 credit sales.

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