Proposal for Better Way to Rate Renewable Energy Windmills

May 26, 2017

I’ve always been uncomfortable when I read or hear media reports of the proud completion of yet another windmill far where they seem to always say something like “Will meet the energy needs of more than 60,000 homes” or something like that. How they come up with that number is never explained and I suspect what they do is take the sum of the name-plate power rating capacity for each machine, multiply by some “attractive” load factor (say 30 or 40% where in fact the number is often closer to 20% or below) and call it a day.

I have a proposal for a different and probably more informative way.

Developers of windmill fields surely do short-interval (continuous?) long-duration (a year or two?) time-series site survey measurements of the patterns of winds (speed, direction, vertical profile) in the locations where they plan to plant a machine. It is from this wind from which energy is transferred into useful power to be dispatched to the customer. Using that data with some science and engineering, and the Betz Limit one can surely compute a probability distribution profile of the expected power output of that wind stream passing the windmill. Regardless of the name plate capacity of the machine (and how many near-by homes there are), this probability distribution shows how much power can be expected to come out. Certainly the size of the machine and other machine parameters are part of the output energy computation, but the basic input is how much wind does and will pass through the machine. And remember, no wind–no power. Too much wind–no power.

Then, agree (government can do this sort of thing easily) the probability percentile to pick off the cumulative distribution curve as the “standard” rating for that machine at that location and the time over which power/energy is harvested. I propose we use 95%, which means the windmill operator can say “We have 95% probability that over the course of a year this machine will create produce XX mega-watt-hours of electricity over the course of a year for our customers.” They can compute the confidence factor on that number, but there probably is no need to quote in media, but the investors surely should be informed.

With other methods of power generation, e.g. burning fuel (coal, gas, oil, nuclear, etc.) to produce power based on the thermodynamics capability of the machine it makes sense to quote the power capacity of the machine as the economic basis of how much sellable power will be produced. This is because the machine operators will, for sure, keep feeding the machine with a constant supply of fuel to ensure the machine produces what the customers demand and the investors expect. Whatever it takes, they will do it.

However, this approach to look at the machine to quote power production capability is misleading for renewable energy machines. Yes, serves the interests of those who want more of these machines, but what about the customers and the rest of society?

With renewable energy machines using solar, wind, tides, and waves … the operators are no longer in charge or nor have any responsibility to fuel the plant. We are at the mercy of Mother Nature.

Hence measure and predict Mother Nature.

Will it happen? Probably not. Or maybe they do it now. I don’t know. But if I had anything to do with it we would.


Jason Boxt is kinda full of it

May 25, 2017

I had opportunity to watch Jason Boxt, Washington-based Democratic political pollster and operator (@psbresearch), speak at the Royal Scots Club, Edinburgh, Scotland on 24 May 2017.

He was among friends in Edinburgh. Most of the audience are relatively un-informed of US politics and governance processes and what they think they know this is pretty much based on what the BBC and Guardian tells them to think. Jason did not disappoint because for many he confirmed what is is they think.

Me, however, believe I have a bit more insights to what is happening in the USA. Can’t say I understand everything, but I know “everything” that the BBC, Guardian, and (especially) Channel4 TV news is often biased and just plain wrong.

The event was advertised to talk about the first 100 days of the Trump Administration. While Mr. Boxt did present some numbers (in un-readable graphs on the projected screen) comparing numbers of executive orders, public opinion, and other things (could not tell as could not read slide), he did not outline any accomplishments/disappointments/works-in-progress at all. In fact, he said “Trump hasn’t really done anything yet”, to which the audience of course mumbled full agreement. He spent no time, nor was asked, to comment on the “Russians” and all the so-called scandals–at least that’s what the BBC calls them. I would have been a public service had he explained (fairly) what’s happening. I also was hoping to hear him explain what the US Government did once they “discovered” (by illegal spying on US Citizens) possible Russian interference in the upcoming election? It looks now like they did nothing to “protect” the country. So, how can it be argued that it’s a big deal now? Oh, the opportunity Mr. Boxt missed to help the audience understand.

Jason gave a number of false facts and innuendoes based on falsehoods, e.g.

  • He criticised President Trump for issuing a “raft” of executive orders in his first 100 days without the sanction or agreement of Congress. “Oh Dear”, the audience thought. Little do most know that Executive Orders by the President of the United States are not under the purview or review of Congress and are instructions from the Chief Executive to the Executive Branch about what policies and actions to execute. See The Straight Dope explaining this.
  • He lamented that his best friend, a Republican political operator, is so depressed about President Trump’s election that he is going to form his own political party. This was done in the context to prove how the Republicans are abandoning the President.
  • He kept talking about “healthcare disaster” as if “Obamacare” is about health *care*. It’s about scrapping a fully functional private health insurance “system” with a government-operated, mandated, tax. People in Britian have no clue what the debate about Obamacare is about as they view it through the lens of the NHS and the (myths) that millions of people in USA are denied basic health and dental care, turned away from hospitals, etc. and that Obamacare fixes that. Yea, right. They don’t know about Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA government-run-health-care debacle. They don’t believe me when I say there were always ways for people to get care, even if they could not or would not pay. And anyone could and should buy their own health insurance if not provided by their employer. They dispute that because they saw something otherwise on the “telly”. Jason kep saying “healthcare” which is an emotional word, and he knows it.
  • He tacitly accused President Trump as a racist because he said “he has an affinity for white guys.” Oh dear. How respectful.
  • He expressed frustration that President Trump had not acted on some recent incident involving a white person and a black person and one or the other was killed or injured. I’ve looked at recent media reports, and I can’t find what he’s talking about. In any event, why would President Trump would do that? I don’t know. I did observe that President Obama would often interject himself into recent crimes, especially Missouri, especially if he found a way to attack the police for brutality or racism. I guess Mr. Boxt wants Trump to jump into these incidents, and when he does and does not take on the “correct” side, he’ll get attacked with all the “-ism” words, or something like that. And how about all that federal government action during the Obama Administration to assist Chicago, Mr. Obama’s home town, in their on-going murder problem?
  • While the event was slated to be about the 100 days of President Trump, he said nothing about what was accomplished, or not. He said at one point President “Trump has done nothing.”
  • He said Anthony Wiener was an ex Mayor of New York City and his wife Huma Abedin was a “keen Hillary supporter” in response to someone who asked wha that was all about. Wrong. (This story not covered in UK).
  • A member of the audience asked, with disdain, why President Trump has employed his family members as advisors? Boxt could only reply with with yet more disdain, “dunno.”. “Tut. Tut” from most in the audience as yet more evidence of President Trump’s unsuitability to be President. They did not even consider to discuss and debate the possibility that the family members who are involved are competent and fully trusted. Not everyone in the White House, some hold-overs from the Obama Administration, have either of those qualities.
  • He admitted that he, as a pollster, got the election prediction wrong, but “everybody else did too”, so I guess that’s ok. He said that he forecast the popular vote pretty well, but anyone with basic knowledge of the US Constitution knows that’s not what matters. Many in the room don’t know it and use the fact that Clinton received a few more votes is one more reasons why Trump’s election is invalid. Wrong.
  • He was asked to compare the 100-days performance of the President, along with his adversaries: Congress lesd by Senators Schumer, Polisi, and McCain; Speaker Ryan and Representative Waters; the media; the “resistors” and their funders. In true politician fashion Mr. Boxt admitted that not all of President Trump’s problems are caused by him, but then he went on a tangent and did not address the question.

There were many other “fake” facts and innuendoes expressed. I wish I had a recorder running to do a more thorough report here. He did not do the USA any favours, but surely he impressed his masters in the US Democratic Party and his customers in Scotland, whom ever they are.

When I saw Jason speak in Edinburgh last August, I suggested to him that his analysis was wrong and that Trump would win with about 300 electoral votes. He looked at me disdainfully. When I saw him speak a few days after the November election, I reminding him of that forecast and I suggested that when he returns to Washington he advocate for cooperation and proper governance. He said “I’ll have to think about that”. I guess he decided to become a “resistor”. Sigh.

I’m reminded of what Mark Twain is said to have said: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so“.


Essential Software (Updated)

March 13, 2017

First published in 2014, new version here (copy paste then edited since WordPress seems to have lost the original text!

March 2017

I sometimes get involved with helping people help themselves by using good computing tools. Following is a list of tools and products that I heavily rely on and recommend to those with needs that match what these tools do. The key is “need”. Given the need, here’s a list (in “no particular order” and ignoring specialty software used for professional reasons):

Apple Mac hardware. say no more. Accessories: external keyboard (to put wear and tear, including spills, on that instead of the laptop keyboard), wireless mouse, DVD Drive, 27″ Apple monitor (get to as much space as possible).

Scrivener ($). For writing. Outstanding. I wish I didn’t still have to to use Microsoft Word. I have been using word since DOS days in the mid 1980’s. Scrivener is the first thing that has come along which can usurp Word. http://www.literatureandlatte.com. Starting to experiment with Ulysses…

OmniGroup Tools ($). OmniOutliner and OmniGraffle are terrific to tools. Use OmniOutliner to make (write, edit, re-write, re-edit) then export into Scrivener as an OPML file. Use OmniGraffle for making all the diagrams. Store the OmniGraffle source files in the Scrivener Research folder.

Safari and Chrome. For internet browsing. I list both to make the point that you can use both and not fret about picking one or the other. I tend to use Safari.

Feedly. For doing lots of internet reading. http://www.feedly.com This is supplemented by Instapaper and Safari’s Reading list.

Apple Ecosystem. Apple Mail, Contacts, Calendar, iTunes, iPhoto, etc. Just works, especially with iPhone and iPad synchronisation with each other. Supplemented with iCloud and DropBox.

Apple Terminal. There is so much that can be done at the command line which is so much faster, easier, which more importantly can lend itself to automation. There is no reason for anyone to be afraid of it or shun its use. GUI’s are not necessarily the best way to do everything.

BusyCal and BusyContacts ($). I supplement Apple Calendar with BusyCal and OfficeTime (for time logging for client invoicing). BusyContacts, from the same company who produces BusyCal, is most useful because of its ability to show all emails and documents associated with a contact. Both of these “busy” products use the standard Mac OS calendar and contacts databases so nothing is lost by using these other products. I tried Fantastical on IOS, but found it was just too fancy for me.

Microsoft Office ($). Well, can’t get away from it, can you. Use Excel and PowerPoint. Avoid Microsoft Outlook (which some new Mac users gravitate to because they erroneously justify the decision on “I don’t want to lose my email or contacts”). I am migrating away from Word. While I used it since it was released in the 1990’s, I stopped in the 21st Century and never looked back. There are so many better products which facilitate better productivity. That being said, I now have a Microsoft 365 subscription.

ScanSnap Hardware and Software ($). By Fujitsu. I’m getting good at being paperless. ScanSnap products make it happen. I use an S1100 and S1300, but a few years old. I’d probably go with the XI500 if I was buying now and get rid of all the old paper that is still around but that I want to retain.

Hazel ($). Gosh, but a big impact on personal productivity. http://www.noodlesoft.com/hazel.php Allows me to setup key automation to help save time, especially with scanning and other “paper-work”.

DropBox. http://www.dropbox.com Relied on for syncing all my devices. http://www.dropbox.com. I avoid DropBox for situations requiring collaboration as there is no secure the file from others editing/changing/deleting. For that also use SugarSync http://www.sugarsynch.com

CrashPlan ($). Offsite backup of all machines (Windows, Mac, and Linux). http://www.crashplan.com And of course use Apple TimeMachine for routine and continuous backup. Have used often to recover past versions of files. Never used for disaster backup, but I’m confident it will work. Looking at ElephantDrive since CrashPlan is abandoning Drobo.

1Password ($). To securely store the hundreds of bits of sensitive information, e.g. passwords, ids, account numbers, scans of identification, etc. https://agilebits.com

Text Expander ($). Boy, does that save me time in routine writing. http://smilesoftware.com/TextExpander/index.html As of today,July 18, 2014, TextExpander tells me that it has saved me 2,063,152 keystrokes and 85.96 years of my life (assuming 80 words/minute typing speed). I can believe it. Update April 2106: the publishers of Text Expander has changed their licensing model to a monthly subscription with the new version having features of no interest to me. Not for me. Like Dr. Drang, I’ll migrate what I have to Keyboard Maestro and in due course un-install Text Expander.

Soulver ($). Terrific calculator. While I do use the HP15 emulated on the iPad, and my “real” one, Soulver is useful.

OmniFocus ($). Absolutely essential. Have used so many ways to keep track of “to-do’s” over the years. The only tools that have stood the test of time were Daytimer 5×7″ notebook system and now OmniFocus. “Things” almost made it into my life, but too simplistic. I also like their OmniGraffle product which I use occasionally for illustrating technical writing. Integration with iPad and iPhone make this the “must-use” product.

DEVONthink ($). http://www.devontechnologies.com A fantastic document management systems. I’m a packrat for interesting documents. I have about five major working databases segregated by business and personal.

Sublime Text 2 ($). For text editing. I like to mess with Python. BBEdit also in use, but tend to use Sublime Text 2.

Jump ($). Helps me while travelling to connect back to my Windows desktop computer at HQ. Used to use the Microsoft Remote Desktop Client, but it was limited to accessing Windows. And it “seems” Jump is faster. I find myself using Jump on the Mac to use the Windows machine that is adjacent. Simpler.

VMWare ($). To run Windows 7 and Linux on the Mac. I used to use Parallels but a recent upgrade bricked a running Ubuntu instance, so was forced to migrate everything to VMWare. Saw no reason to go back.

Apps in heavy use on on iPad include: Drafts (most iPad writing starts here), OmniFocus, 1Password, Calendar/BusyCal, OfficeTime, HP15c Calculator, Soulver, Downcast (Apple’s iTunes didn’t just does not work properly for Podcasts and I never looked back), Kindle, ByWord, iPhoto, Feedly, my Bank’s app, Google Maps, DEVONThink, Terminology.

($) Means purchased software.


Proper Way to View Risks

October 26, 2016

From “25 Myths That are Destroying the Environment”, by Daniel B. Botkin. ISBN 9781442244924

What are the chances it will happen? What will be the effect if it does? What are the chances that we can fix things and prevent damage to begin with? And how much will the equivalent of an insurance policy cost, versus how much it will cost to repair the damage?


Talking about Climate Change and “Fixing it”

March 12, 2016

I was at a conference earlier this week, the topic being power generation. The focus of most speakers (and many of the attendees that I was able to chat with) was about how all these alternative methods of generating electrical power are proposed on the basis of our “reduced carbon [sic] future”.

At the break I asked one of the speakers how life would be different in, say 2030, when we transform everything to a world where we get power from “carbon free” methods? He was unable to say other than to agree with me that he would “feel good.”.

I then explored with him the idea of scrapping the goal of conflating power generation with carbon reduction, and I did get an earful about how the ice caps are melting, that the root cause of the “Arab Spring” could be attributed to “climate change”, and that the flooding and record high temperatures are “proof” and we *must* do something. “All scientists in the world think it’s a problem!”, he said.

This guy had the podium at a major conference on power production, hosted by the power industry, and attended by many so-called “informed” professionals! Sigh. Big Sigh.

Another person, a person who was previously a speaker on a topic of importance, was defending to me the grave need to “tackle climate change.” I asked him to please define what he meant by “climate change” so that we could then agree what we are talking about. He told me that he could not really define that as it’s much to complicated to define, “but we gotta tackle it!”. Sigh.

I seemed to be the only one wondering what the heck is going on?


Changing Email Address the Easy Way

January 26, 2016

Sometimes I’ve found myself getting into a situation where in discussions with colleagues it appears that a great solution to their email “problems” is changing email service problem. The “problem” often is that the person is using the mail server connected to their internet service provider (ISP), e.g. Verizon, BTInternet, or whatever. They notice (or I notice when trying to send them email) about the unreliability of their email account. Sometimes mail just gets lost on the way. Sometimes the ISP mail is blacklisted due to malware reports, e.g. Yahoo.co.uk is notorious for that.

ISP’s are also notorious for not providing proper email service. Mail is not their core business. They don’t care. For example, IMAP was designed in 1986–30 years ago, yet it was only relatively recently that BTInternet offered this to their customers. IMAP, compared to deficient protocol POP, allows email clients like Outlook, Apple Mail, etc. work like people expect them to work. Yet sometimes they cannot or will not use it for reasons unknown to me (other than like with BTInternet, just not available). I’ve seen people hesitate or be nervous to use IMAP and then I hear their complaints about how the mail on their iPhone is different than on their PC. Yeah, that’s the cost of not using IMAP.

Worse, when someone uses email service and email domain address “hooked” to their ISP it means when they their ISP (because of poor service or they moved residence/business to another area), their email address is no longer going to be of any use to them.

The Better Way

A better approach is to use a great quality email service and a service where it is likely you’ll never have to changed your email domain.

Some options:

  • Get your own domain. That email address(es) and domain are yours to keep for as long as you keep the internet domain active. Registration of an internet domain is low cost, e.g. from Hover.
  • If your email is to be used for business purposes, absolutely use a domain for the business becuase to use any other email domain address, especially with a retail ISP, e.g. “@btinternet.com”, makes the business look amateurish.
  • Get an email service from a quality vendor, e.g. FastMail. Their costs are very reasonable, has great support, and many ways to set things up–with your own domain, or use one of their many domains. Quality of service is essential, especially for business use of email.
  • Use something like Google, Apple iCloud, Microsoft 365, or similar. Free and great quality (for now) service.

All the quality email service providers will use IMAP (Google’s is reported to be slightly difference, but you’ll not notice) which you would use to setup access on your PC, smart phone, and tablet. IMAP keeps all the mail in sync. They also will provide a web site interface which requires only a login via your browser using any device. Some even have dedicated “apps” for portable devices which bypasses the native mail applications you might have. Due to extra complexity I don’t recommend using dedicated “apps”, but if that floats your boat go with it.

Going about Changing Email Address

Set up your email client, e.g. Outlook, with the new account. Keep the old accounts in your email client for as long as you want. Continue to monitor them.

Be polite and send everyone who is important to you a simple email to tell them you have changed your email address. Send out this email to everyone using BCC and to “TO” so that you are not broadcasting everyone’s private email address to everyone else.

For the accounts that you already setup on your email client, change the “reply-to” field in the client configuration for all those accounts to the new email address. That way when people send you mail to your old account, when you reply, the “reply-to” field in the mail your friend receive will be the one that you want them to use. If they reply, it will go to the new address.

Some of these people will update their contact lists. Some won’t both. This isn’t a problem, as many people don’t bother looking up emails and simply “reply” to the last email. Some look for an old email and copy/paste that email into the new email. As they will find your “new” email address first, or if they hit the “reply” button, they will send to the correct email address.

And, since you are not going to stop monitoring (until you have to) the “old” addresses, you will not lose email even if sent to the “wrong” email address.

Log in to any internet services where you have registered email address and change to the new account. While you are at it, use 1Password (or similar, and if not done already) to develop an inventory of internet sites and their login ID and password. Use 1Password’s feature to create complex passwords as way to enhance your internet security.

Job done.


Flooding in York

December 29, 2015

This was a man-made disaster. It was not “unforeseen” as it’s happened before–more than once, in fact. The cause has nothing to do with “climate change” (whatever that means!).

In this instance, the UK Environmental Agency in York noticed that “water was entering the building” (the building holding pumps which were to operate to mitigate the effects of fooding), and they decided that this electrical equipment was “at risk”. So, they lifted a flood barrier thus deliberately flooding a large residential area.

See Martin Brumby discuss this story, as an insider, at http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2015/12/27/the-eus-role-in-the-floods.html#comments, Dec 29 9:23 a.m. where he asks the pertinent questions:

So, were the pumps working and, if not, why not?

Were the electrics maintained and sited above flood levels? (Think:- Fukushima!) If not, why not?

Who made the decision to open the barrier and make the £8M (1982 prices) installation an irrelevance? Who was consulted?

How many of those responsible will be sacked?