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Comment Re:But....Profits! (Score 2) 281

They can't outstrip actual costs for more than 6-12 months, depending on the local laws. (In my state, the utilities have to justify prices to the public utilities commission or PuC every 6 months.) If in a given period they make more money than they are allowed to - the aforementioned 5-10% - then the excess is returned to the ratepayers.

Capacity upgrades are generally a small percentage of O&M budgets. The majority goes to preventative and corrective maintenance (e.g., tree trimming, transformer replacement) and major upgrades to existing systems (e.g., replacing overhead with underground).

While the solar backfeed is "local," the fact is the AC grid is somewhat of a beast. You still need to maintain the whole system.

Comment Re:But....Profits! (Score 5, Insightful) 281

Why should the utility be forced to pay you at the same rate you buy?

Regular electricity is generated. It's then sold wholesale, where the local utilities then buy it and sell it at a regulated (5-10%) profit. In between the wholesale price, the 5-10% profit, and what you pay, is the cost of maintaining the distribution and transmission networks. These costs are nonzero. As the distribution utilities are traditionally regulated ("nonregulation" is really a misnomer, regulation still exists in those markets), those costs will still be borne by the ratepayers.

If users of rooftop solar get net zero pricing, then they shift all of the upkeep costs to those without rooftop solar - as PV prices go down, these costs will be borne more and more by the poor and/or those who rent (in many cases, one and the same.)

If you want to not pay for system upkeep, disconnect yourself. Spend the money on a vast solar array and a basement full of batteries (what, you though 24h of storage was enough? Not all the time, it's not.) Then realize the traditional model costs less to you.

Comment Re:How big is it? (Score 4, Informative) 37

A few tens of nanometers in diameter. Dots emit light at (more or less) a single frequency (it's actually Gaussian around the chosen frequency.) To emit that photon, the dot has to absorb a photon of higher energy. Since right now dots are absorbing visible, it's energetically possible to emit in microwave or radio frequencies. While I believe it's possible to do so, existing methods may be more efficient (energy-wise or cost-wise), or we may not have discovered dot materials that allow for those emission frequencies.

Comment Re:A Boom in Civilization (Score 2) 227

"Let's assume, that the human race manages to balance birth and death, just right to fit its own planets, and thereby becomes peaceful. What happens? Soon (about next Wednesday) the Bugs move in, kill off the breed which 'ain't gonna study war no more' and the universe forgets us"

Though the best argument made in the novel is, 'juvenile delinquent' is an oxymoron.

Comment Re:Not unusual in the least. (Score 2) 230

Actually, the Northeast is home. While shale gas has brought a ton of jobs to the region, and has helped to limit energy costs (just look at European residential electric rates!) we're using it in a blundering fashion. The point here is that we can't just switch everything over to the current wonderfuel - there are other articles, from the polar vortex earlier this year, that report that the Northeast's gas pipeline capacity was maxed out. As ever, we've got to be smart.

Comment Re:In other words... (Score 1) 230

It depends on the type of peak.

The average, daily peak lasts from around 10 AM to about 5 PM. This is generally from the day-to-day activities from commercial businesses. This kind of peak is routine, expected, and can generally be covered by inexpensive forms of generation.

Extreme, hot-weather peaks generally max out around 4 - 5 PM, though on such days the total load exceeds normal peak by solar noon. The peak is this late in the day because (1) commercial businesses are still open, (2) workers have begun to arrive home and turn on lights, TVs, the AC unit, etc., and (3) the solar energy received during the day is making a very large contribution to the AC cooling requirement (search for "radiant time series." The idea here is that walls store the Sun's energy, and release it later.)

These extreme peaks happen rarely, and the absolute worst lasts for 1 - 3 hours. This is when your jet-fuel burning peakers would come online - they would sit on standby 365 days out of the year, and maybe generate for five hours total.

For the daily peak, in a more diverse area, the natural gas peakers would come on throughout the small daily peak. Rarely would they be on for more than a few hours / day.

15 hours for an extremely expensive fuel type truly is rare.

Submission + - New England Burns Jet Fuel to Keep Lights On (forbes.com) 1

inqrorken writes: During the recent cold snap, New England utilities turned to an unconventional fuel: jet fuel. Due to high demand for heating, natural gas supplies dropped and prices skyrocketed to $140/mmBtu and prompting the midatlantic RTO to call on demand response in the region. With 50% of installed generation capacity natural-gas fired, one utility took the step of running its jet fuel-based turbines for a record 15 hours.

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