Tag: electricity

Economic dark clouds

  Everyone that isn’t a partisan Republican is celebrating the recent string of good economic news regarding the GDP, unemployment rate, and manufacturing numbers. And for good reason. After three years of stagnant economic conditions, and all sorts of global financial problems, the working class of America is finally getting some belated relief.

 However, let’s not kid ourselves. There are economic indicators that are not only not recovering – they are getting worse.

  Instead of getting caught up with this brief respite of good economic news, with the implication that we can relax now, we should instead be viewing this interlude as a last opportunity to avoid another economic crisis. We should be pushing harder for reform, not relaxing.

 That’s why I want to bring your attention to these issues.

Pique the Geek 20101114: Backyard Solar Cells as a Panacea

First, please do not get me wrong.  I am a strong supporter of solar power, either to charge your car battery or to run cities.  Before we start, get the idea that I am opposed to solar power out our your mind.  But solar power has it limitations.

Lately, the SOBber on the Fox “News” network (soon to have to be distinguished from The SOBber of the House of Representatives) has been adding solar generators to gold and food stashes as a way to survive the coming apocalypse in his repertoire of advertisers.  I shall not use the name nor the website for the particular backyard solar firm to which his adverts refer, but will start by stating that the claims are, to say the least, overblown.

Before we start, very happy birthday wishes to the former Mrs. Translator!

Pique the Geek 20100425: Electricity: Cells and Batteries

Electricity is the movement of electrons one way or another.  The electron is a very small mass particle that is classified as a lepton, meaning that is has mass and has a spin quantum number of +/- 1/2.

An electron has a mass of 9.0166 x 10^-31 kg, making it about 1/1800 the mass of a proton, which is a hadron.  Hadrons account for most of the mass in normal matter, as opposed to dark matter, the nature of which has not been elucidated nor ever proven, but that is for another series.

This series is concerned with the storage of electrical energy in the form of chemical energy, and converting the two into useful currents.  Most of the electricity that we use is quite transient in nature, but that stored chemically in batteries is much longer lasting, if not as intense.

Solar Cell 40% Efficiency Breakthough, becomes Product Ready

This 40% breakthrough … has finally become available for your home (maybe?) and office use …

Solar cell breaks efficiency record

Michael Kanellos, CNET News — December 6, 2006

Boeing-Spectrolab has developed a solar cell that can convert almost 41 percent of the sunlight that strikes it into electricity, the latest step in trying to drop the cost of solar power.

Potentially, the solar cell could bring the cost of solar power down to around $3 a watt, after installation costs and other expenses are factored in, over the life of the panel.


Current silicon solar cells provide electricity at about $8 a watt, before government rebates. The goal is to bring it to $1 a watt without rebates or incentives.


Here is the Final Product from Spectrolab for your Home use. from this week’s news.

Pique the Geek 20091101: A Primer on Nuclear Electricity

We shall get away from food for this installment of Pique the Geek and talk about something more, well, geeky.  The concept of nuclear power is widely known, but the actual way that is works is mysterious to some because people think that it is hard.  Actually, the basic science behind nuclear power is very simple, but the technology to contain and make it practical is complex.

This complexity is due to several reasons, not the least of which is safety.  Whilst the nuclear fuel to power commercial reactors is not very malignant, after that fuel has been used a while it becomes extremely radioactive due to a large number of complex nuclear interactions.  It is the spent reactor fuel that is the real problem.  However, there is a completely different technology used to generate electricity that does not involve a nuclear reactor, and we shall discuss this one first.

Nuclear Electricity, the Must Have for the Meantime 20091101

I know that this essay is likely not to be popular with progressive folks, but I am not only a progressive, I am a scientist as well.  In my opinion, the only relatively clean option for power that we have, other than natural gas (which is less plentiful and not as clean as the TeeVee adverts say) is the fission of uranium and plutonium.

I realize that this sounds pretty bold, but please bear with me whilst I build my case.  We need power in the meantime for the transition between fossil fuels and truly sustainable ones, and nuclear power is the only one that can provide that power.  First the physics, then the economics, and then the future.

Imagine a 350 World — It IS Possible!

350 is more than a catchy slogan —

350 is a target Ceiling for a very good reason:

that reason:

+6 C

325 or 300 ppm, of worldwide CO2 levels,

would be more like what the world really needs!

Alas, what is an Oil and Coal addicted Planet to do?!?

1) Get educated

2) Don’t lose hope

3) Do YOUR part — No one else, can do that …

OH NO!!!! Americans using less electricity!!!!

That might as well be the title of the Wall Street Journal article Surprise Drop in Power Use Delivers Jolt to Utilities.  

An unexpected drop in U.S. electricity consumption has utility companies worried that the trend isn’t a byproduct of the economic downturn, and could reflect a permanent shift in consumption that will require sweeping change in their industry.

OH NO!!!! Americans using less electricity and this might be something permanent rather than simply a lousy economy.

Now, as for the ‘lousy economy’, as we have yet to hit bottom and have a long way to go, hard to assert (yet) that it is not economic distress that is driving reduced energy use.  Perhaps people are ‘turning off lights’ to save pennies in the face of economic distress. And, patterns begun in economic turmoil could become life’s new patterns.  Thus, unlike what the WSJ‘s coverage might suggest, there is much to hope for as to a start in a shifting of American culture toward more energy efficient patterns.  

CATO libertarians say energy deregulation does not work

In an Op-Ed that was published in the Wall Street Journal last month (and is available in full to non-subscribers on CATO’s website) two CATO economists specialised in deregulation and energy markets provide a breath of fresh air in the debates on energy.

Their point is to criticize the poorly thought out deregulation in various US States over the past 15 years, and they explain clearly how energy markets work (something which is rare enough in the mainstream media), and what the consequences of various bits of deregulation are on market behavior and thus on electricity prices.

Their conclusions are so unexpected that other libertarians felt compelled to criticize them violently (and the authors felt the need to defend their libertarian credentials… Follow me below the fold for the gory details.