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.

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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, so his “porky” was not recognised by most).
  • When asked, apparenly seeking assurance that it would happen, if President Trump would be impeached, Mr. Boxt suprised the audience when he said “No” and followed that up with the comment along the lines of “If you think Trump is bad, Vice President Pence is even worse.” He did not follow-up that assertion with any sort of evidence.
  • 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“.