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.


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.


Mashable

July 30, 2015

Leo Laporte recently reminded me on his excellent Podcast Triangulation of the site Mashable.

Mashable is good. Better than good. It’s great. It’s going to go into my “read every day” list.

I’m also pleased that successful reading Mashable involves pressing the PgDn key. I’ve been a dabbler in building and publishing simple content-focused web pages since the mid 1990’s. Most of the time my designs expected the user to PgDn and PgUp as part of the navigation. Over and over I was advised by “real” web designers that relying on PgDn and PgUp was not good web design. Their expectations were that the web site should be more like what people see on televisions.

I’m glad the world has caught up to me.


Great Show on Large Hadron Collider

July 11, 2015

A few years ago, due to me taking a hard fall, my son and I stopped our skiing early in the week and on the way home through Geneva we stopped and toured the Large Hadron Collider. Fascinating place.

I ran across the recent show on YouTube about the re-start. Recommended viewing.


Privacy of Account Transactions at Big UK Bank

June 30, 2015

My bank–let’s call it The Big Bank–recently let me know of a future new service called “CashBack” where they offer 3% cash back per month on utilities and household bills, e.g. Council Tax, gas, electricity, TV packages, water bills, phone, broadband, and mobile contracts. This “benefit” costs £2 per month.

The bank told me that their calculation for me indicates that I would get approximately £17 per month back. So … the idea is give the bank £2 per month and they give me back £17. Humm. As an “investment” looks to be a no-brainer. Better look more closely.

  • Who is paying the delta between £17 and £2?
  • I can’t imagine The Big Bank taking the hit. So the service provider is probably subsidising this partially or whole? Why can’t the service providers simply reduce their costs instead of this scheme?
  • Use a now-favourite term, this doesn’t seem sustainable. Doesn’t taste well.

Most importantly, why did The Big Bank feel the right to inspect my banking transactions to determine the £17 savings I could incur? They could not compute this possible savings without looking at my banking transactions. Is this proper and in conformance with banking privacy rules, regulations, and law?

Seems as if The Big Bank has a lot of time on their hands to shuffle money around to no benefit to society. I wonder who benefits by how much?

I declined this “benefit”.


Engineers and Ethical Responsibilities

February 27, 2015

I occasionally make comments about “engineers” vs. “scientists” and their inherent skills, expertise, and value. I believe that society (as sadly presented by media and government) puts too much faith in what they say, how they say it, and their capabilities. Too many people base their own thinking, and defend it to others, on “scientists say” appeal to authority. I sort of understand the political pressures which cause this.

Regardless of whether the “scientists” are correct or incorrect, wise or devious, few if any scientists are obligated to act under an special or legal ethical obligation. Engineers in most countries are “licensed” as an important and “learned” professional, whereas “scientists” are not. Engineers have well-defined professional societies with ethical policies.

Dr. Drang has posted an excellent summary of this related to computer programmers calling themselves “software engineers”. To me the same issue applies with other jobs, e.g. “scientists”.

He reminds me of the “six fundamental canons” of of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)

  1. Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.
  2. Perform services only in areas of their competence.
  3. Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.
  4. Act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees.
  5. Avoid deceptive acts.
  6. Conduct themselves honorably, responsibly, ethically, and lawfully so as to enhance the honor, reputation, and usefulness of the profession.

– See more at: http://www.nspe.org/resources/ethics/code-ethics

I can see where the absence of such ethical behaviour can get society into difficulty.


Windows 64 Bit on Parallels

January 27, 2015

For the longest time I was using Windows 7 32 bit version on my Parallels on an Apple Mac. I had a little down time and decided to create a Windows 7 64 bit instance in Parallels.

Gosh, but it works so much better. Performance is better. Video is better. All is better.

I guess it is because the Apple Mac OSX is 64 bit. I don’t know. All I know is that it appears as if the 64 bit Windows virtual machine is what I will use.