Can it happen here?

Punch a button, the heat comes on. Magic!

Here’s a story that every daily newspaper should be running as of, oh, day before yesterday.

Is your state’s power grid in shape for a Texas-size storm? Do you even know where or how your state gets its power?

I sure don’t. Lucky for me there’s this magic button on the wall, and when I press it, zoom, I control the weather! Inside the house, anyway, and only if nothing goes wrong outside it.

Here’s a New York Times story from last fall breaking down how making electricity has changed over the past two decades. Regarding New Mexico, it reports:

Coal has been New Mexico’s primary source of electricity generation for nearly two decades. But coal-fired power has declined since 2004 in response to tougher air quality regulations, cheaper natural gas, and California’s decision in 2014 to stop purchasing electricity generated from coal in neighboring states.

Natural gas, wind and solar accounted for a little more than half of the electricity produced in New Mexico last year, up from just 15 percent two decades earlier. In 2019, the state legislature passed a law requiring utilities to get 50 percent of the electricity they sell from renewable sources by 2030, rising to 100 percent by 2045.

According to [the U.S. Energy Information Administration], New Mexico has among the highest potential for solar power in the country. The state also sends a significant amount of electricity to California, which has long set aggressive renewable energy goals.

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24 Responses to “Can it happen here?”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    Of course when you get a week straight of clouds, there goes solar. Better hope the wind blows. I wish this state wasn’t so anti-nuclear. The Gen III and potentially, Gen IV nuclear power plants could be a great backup or addition to renewables when the sun and wind are not renewing….

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      What’s battery tech like these days? Power generated via wind and sun can be stored for use when one or neither is available, yeah? Or so the renewable dudes say, anyway, with the qualifier that it’s “getting better all the time.”

      From the Colorado Sun:

      Current battery arrays can store significant electrical energy for four to eight hours of peak demand, or to fill in for interrupted supply. Storage technology gets better over time, and will improve. Long-term storage, at higher capacity, is possible by using off-peak power to produce hydrogen, which can be stored in massive quantities, and then drawing down the hydrogen at peaks to generate electricity.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Batteries take metals and the cost might come down but to a point. I guess that would be great for the lithium mines up near Dixon, at least with current technology. But the batteries last a few years at most and of course, there is nothing clean about mining metals and fabricating batteries. Then you recycle them, I guess.

        Some other things I have heard of is using mirror arrays to boil water or oil to power a turbine but that is not storage. Something primitive like pumping water uphill during the day and generating hydropower at night has been suggested. Making hydrogen out of water works, too, but I don’t know the net energy gain of any of this. And of course, it would be nice to make stuff here in the USA instead of having China hold our family jewels for ransom some day.

        Maybe its because of my job, or that I spent a summer cruise on an SSN (Sand Lance) that I am not afraid of nuclear. Atomic energy (fissioning atoms) is in theory about a million times more energy dense than chemical energy (rearranging electrons) so even though you produce rad waste, its far less in volume than say, coal ash square miles of wind farms or solar arrays, or constantly spouting CO2 into the atmosphere.

        I come down in the “all of the above” category. Reduce demand. Sequester carbon. Use all of the generating options to eliminate greenhouse emissions. Reprocess spent fuel to reduce the long term storage issues. Make birth control pills free.

        But to me, it seems a lot of Americans want a perpetual motion machine so they can do business as usual with no consequences.

        Best thing you can do to save the planet, so to speak, is not have any rug rats. We scored on that one. One of me was more than enough, as I am sure those here would agree.

        • Dale Says:

          Lithium-Ion batteries are great, but they come at a great cost, about the cost of coal mining and I’m not sure about the long term effects of the tailings.
          Poorly engineered, stored, or damaged L/I batteries also tend to spontaniously combust or explode.
          I am not against nuclear, but there is still the mining damage to the land and tailings to deal with forever.

          • khal spencer Says:

            Sure, there is mining whether for Li or U. There is no free lunch. But my earlier point is that in the case of U, the energy output per gram of U is far bigger than for anything chemical.

            But I think battery technology is in its infancy since we never really worried about advanced batteries prior to the last couple decades or so. Here is one interesting idea: a metal-free battery with pure ionic liquid electrolyte.

            A Metal-free Battery with Pure Ionic Liquid Electrolyte

            iScience
            Volume 15, 31 May 2019, Pages 16-27

        • B Lester Says:

          That pumped storage hydroelectrical seems like a great idea. I recall hearing an NPR piece about one in NY (I think). It had been around a long time and seems cleverly low tech compared to other options.

          My supplier is a rural electrical COOP, even though I’m a city dweller. They’ve floated the idea of smaller sub-regional “new tech” nuclear. Intriguing idea.

          But you’re right- the “all of the above” is prolly where we’re going.

    • SAO' Says:

      You’re never going to get me to sign up for nukular until they fix the flux capacitor issue. That, and crossing the streams. Besides, it’s all ball bearings nowadays. As long as you prep the Fetzer valve with some 3-in-1 oil …

  2. carl duellman Says:

    we get our power from the natural gas plant right up the road. they just converted from coal a few months ago. our mtb trails adjoin that property so if we got lost we just looked for the smoke stacks or listened to all the racket to reorient ourselves. no telling how much mercury we inhaled when it was a coal plant. that would go a long way to explaining some things about us. the military has converted some of their old airfields into solar farms. no wind energy but we do manufacture the generators here. some of the blades used to come into the port and leave by train. those things are huge. our infrastructure takes a beating whenever we get a hurricane but that’s mostly from falling limbs.

  3. B Lester Says:

    We also have a converted from coal to gas plant that just went online. They added an adjacent solar array to offset the energy cost of running the plant.

    50 miles east, Wisconsin Energies is adding a large solar farm with batteries for nighttime flow.

    I commute to Madison where MG&E was asked the question yesterday about their generation capacity weather security. The answer was, “we are hardened to endure several days at -40F.” They too are building a huge solar array next to my daily commute.

    I like to think we’re in good hands. We’ll see.

  4. Pat O’Brien Says:

    Our power company is Sulpher Springs Co-Op which was slow to change to natural gas and renewables. They are moving more progressively now because they see the writing on the wall. Large solar projects are being built, one by the utility itself, and rooftop solar is widespread through the county on public and private buildings and homes. Our biggest loads including some brown outs come in summer from air conditioning during heat waves which are increasing in severity and frequency. I think our two biggest threats in SE Arizona are water supply and natural gas. We are dependent on NM and TX for gas and are on the end of the pipeline. I was expecting a gas outage during this Texas storm like we had in 2009 when all of Southern AZ, NM, and TX were in a deep freeze. We lost gas when the outside temp here was 3 degrees!

  5. SAO' Says:

    Coal just sucks. Obviously digging it is bad, and burning it is worse. But there ain’t a single chapter in the story of coal that has a happy ending. Had no idea just how nasty it was until I had to commute via a route that went by and over the railroad tracks. Because it’s just dumb rock, there’s no need to cover the rail cars, but a few billion tons of rock rumbling thousands of miles inevitably turns some of the cargo into dust. So that crap just floats into the air and into the HVAC filters of neighboring homes. And Lordy, those trains are long. I think Denver got 8 deliveries a day, and each delivery was 120 cars. Worst part is, they have sensors on those railcars that can tell when you’re late for something, and they put down the crossguard arms and flash the red lights exactly then.

  6. Patrick O'Grady Says:

    It all kinda reminds me of when the old man was on his way out in ICU. He was wired and plumbed, and when they treated one of his problems it would exacerbate another, and so they’d treat that, and … well, you get the idea. Medical Whack-a-Mole, and the patient was the last one whacked.

  7. Shawn Says:

    We have big dam just down the hill from us. The advantage to living in a place where there was once a WWII aluminum plant. Lot’s of clean (now, not so much in the past – ie: concrete production) power. Most of it is now marketed for other locations – DC line transmission to California.

    We have some wind turbine power generation that is offsetting the coal fired power plant to the east of us that was shut down. Cleaner air, thank you very much.

    Renewable energy storage at this time seems to be reservoir hydro-storage (wind), liquid sodium storage (solar) and of course battery storage. If land is available, reservoir hydro storage is a good idea. I believe a project is going in the east of where I am at in the near future.

    Unless we all practice dropping the temp to 66 as you do, generating a much smaller C footprint, and convince our youth that fewer folks use fewer resources, alternate nuclear will be something that we may drastically need. Are we (humanity) going to make it? Yeah I think so. Will we have to change and adjust significantly to a changed planet. Yep. I believe so.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      One of our biggest problems, I think, is that the developing world wants to live the same way we do. Gadgets, whizbangs, whatchamacallits, comosellamas, bits of this ’n’ that. Stuff you don’t need and can’t afford. And you can’t blame ’em. It’s nice to have shiny cars, iPhones, and plenty of cheap food, clean water, and warm places to shit.

      It all takes energy, and they’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

      • SAO' Says:

        And if the developing world doesn’t want it, we’re going to sell it to them anyway.

      • Pat O’Brien Says:

        Our standard of living in the future will not be what it is now. For us to live this way, and others doing so, or wanting to, is not sustainable. And a simpler life with less stuff, less space, and less energy use will probably be better than how we live now.

        • Pat O’Brien Says:

          Damn, I am optimistic this morning, ain’t I?

          Well, off to Ramsey Canyon. Not on a bike, but shank’s mare.

        • khal spencer Says:

          We did our shopping at Wholeazon Amafoods this morning as Trader Joe’s was hit hard by the lack of shipping through Texas. Woof used to have more meat analogs and vegetarian stuff before Jeff Bezos bought it out. Now it is practically wall to wall red meat, pork, chicken, fish, cheese, eggs, etc.

          Eight billion souls can’t eat that way. We are fishing out the ocean, contaminating the what is left with mercury and heavy metals from coal burning, deforesting the wild, sprawling our cities. Oh, and the lot was full of ponderous vehicles. Eejit in a Yukon XL in front of us could barely get out of the parking lot.

          Santa Fe is supposed to be the woke city different? Yeah, sure. As you say, Pat, we can’t all live this way. I’d love to see a true Green New Deal just to see the shock on the faces of all the folks up this way who find out their way of life is a big part of the problem.

          • Patrick O'Grady Says:

            We’ve been doing our shopping at Sprouts. It’s closer than Wholeazon Amafoods, and while it lacks many of WA’s bells and whistles, it serves us pretty well. There are weird shortages now and then, but only of whatever it is we want/need at that exact moment. First World problems, don’t you know.

          • khal spencer Says:

            There is a Sprouts up this way that is a stone’s throw from the house. We often shop there but this time, in addition to TJ’s being picked over, we needed (or perhaps wanted) some stuff that ain’t at Sprouts.

            Indeed, First World problem.

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