Thursday, April 04, 2002

Dim all the lights...

Let me tell you about this really hot woman...

It was a sultry July day around suppertime, in a trailer in the sun with an underpowered air conditioner. I turn to the kitchen and there she is, glowing as she cooks spaghetti and complains about the lousy airconditioner and high electric bills...

Cut! What's wrong with this picture? You might cite innumerable things, like the absence of a young and perky Kathleen Turner. But to a disgustingly practical, erotically disabled engineer like me, what is she doing cooking spaghetti at a peak time of day in a hellhole that's impossible to keep habitably cool anyway, then fussing about power bills to boot? I don't think it occurred to her that the last thing she needed in that cheap rented trailer with the undersized AC was more heat and humidity, but she didn't even put the lid on the pot.

Worse yet, this was about the time of day that people were coming home, loading the AC, turning on the tube, washing their hands, turning on washers and dryers - the result is that consumption hits a peak around 6 PM as shown on this (which I understand is updated multiple times a day).

Utilities have to design their generation and distribution systems to handle the peak demands they are reasonably likely to experience, with a margin on top of that to accomodate supply interruptions or demand disturbances. The power must come either from their own generators or whatever they can buy from interconnected suppliers, and at peak times the prices can get extremely high. Those of you who don't like transmission lines or power plants, note - the power you use at these times is your implied consent to build more of each.

We consumers can help by reducing power consumption at the peaks. Can't the dishwasher wait? Can you cook that outside? Can you eat later? Do you need all those lights?

Cutting off the peaks of demand is good, and it's also good to fill in the troughs - this way you'll get more energy out of the existing plants and thus put off the day when more will be constructed. So go ahead and run your washer and dryer - at 2 AM.

Stick around here at NWA for more electrifying insights. You might even get to read about thermodynamics, the recent 23rd anniversary of Three Mile Island, the upcoming 16th anniversary of Chernobyl, radwaste, solar photovoltaics, fuel cells, alternative energy, and all sorts of stuff guaranteed to shiver your timbers. Watch out Instapundit!

Meanwhile I'll work on those opening scenes. I could use a hand - I wonder what Newt Gingrich is doing nowadays?

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