Saturday, November 24, 2007

Everything's Up To Date In Noo Yawk City?

I don't want to imply that gleaming Gotham, Capital Of The World and a major source of disarmed victims (TM) is a nightmare of bureaucratic obstructionism and grandfathered-in inefficiency, but according to 'Murrica's Paper Of Record, it was only last week they turned off the last DC electric service! (Be sure to scroll down the Comments for amusing speculation on whale-oil vendors and Elevator Operators College).

Yes: the Edison system of power delivery lived on in NYC right into the 21st Century; this is the system that was so flawed that Westinghouse and Tesla had it pretty well spanked before the 20th Cent. got parked!

"New York, New York, it's a town of a hell/The juice is wrong and there's quite a strong smell...."


Anonymous said...

Oh, that comments debate is a scream. Reminded me of fabric- vs. steel-belted radials, or the one I always won-but-lost, which side of the motor cycle the shifter belongs on. The Tesla/Edison thing goes religious in a hurry.

There is no technology so obsolete that a creative engineer cannot make a case for it. And I think you'd agree that fluorescent dimmers and AC motor controls are (thinking of technical term...) a mothering bitch.

Roberta X said...

Agreed! But dimmable, full-spectrum/shaped spectrum fluorescent lighting is a professional commonplace these days; at the Skunk Works, the News set is lit with an astonishingly tiny amount of power. AC motor controls, while a degreee of sophistication fancier than DC, have the benefit of being hugely more efficient. (Don't worry, after the EMP it won't matter that the variable-freq motor control is fried: so's the power plant's control system!)

I totally loved the AC vs. DC debate: Battle Of The Alpha-Geeks! (Dunh dum dee dummmm!) Really, Ray Harryhausen could stop-motion animate the whole thing to overwrought theme music and we'd all sit there staring, open-mouthed, forgetting our popcorn.

...What the debaters forget is, it's over. AC won. It's just too darned handy.

Anonymous said...

Oh it's true, but I'll have keep reminding myself as I 'nail up' AC solar panels on the roof ('course, both wind and sun tend to alternate in these parts anyway, but you have to wait to get 60 cycles).

Could be ConEd burned down that net just in time to get a new one with the same specs mandated by the Dark Futurists.

Roberta X said...

Nope, C. You'll nail those panels on the roof, get DC -- and sell the surplus back to the AMORC-gang via your synchronized inverter. As AC. (And the more that happens, the better, IMO; I'll be saving up for it here at Roseholme Cottage).

You can already put in such a system for the price of a decent home genset and it makes sense to do so if you live where there's sunshine enough (and "sunshine enough" depends very much on the price of power bought and sold plus the initial cost of the system). It's become a very attractive option for back-up power and is likely to become more so.

The grid is AC and will stay that way until something so different as to require replacing the infrastructure comes along and even then, AC's possible.

In much the same manner as fiber-optic telecomms trunks, the "last mile" to your home or office will continue to be AC at the same old voltages and number of phases for a very long time, with whatever nextgen "new stuff" comes along going in alongside it over a number of years.

Anonymous said...

Know that cartoon of a blackboard equation with "then a miracle happens"? That's how solar payback charts always work out for me. There's an awful lot of green talk out there, and then you read the actual catalogue, the one with the price list in it. Those roof membranes are made five miles from me, and only sold in Oz and China.

Breeze turbines are looking a lot better, but the near future still features whole batteries of, well, batteries.

Roberta X said...

Depends on how you score it. It you're looking to make back your investment, you're out of luck.

But how many things do you buy with an eye to making back what you spent on it? Especially a back-up system.

In the example I am familiar with (in sunny Austin, TX, so YMMV; mine does), the choice was between a natural-gas powered genset and a solar system to back up the normal service. The difference in installed cost was minor.

Operating expense of the solar system.... Well, you've got more storage batteries, a minus; but it sits there and sells power back to the grid, a plus. Homeowner -- a smart cookie with a better math gene than mine -- did the homework, made some plausible assumptions, and it came up a wash. (There is an optimal size; this system will carry the home as-is for at least eight hours and indefinitely once the A/C is shut down and other uses are scaled back).

On paper, it's a net loss. In reality, it's sitting happily at home while your freezer and fridge keep on keepin' on, listening to the neighbors swear at the power company. Solar systems don't make noise when they run, either.

Anonymous said...

Yes, when you are perforce off-grid, solar compares real well with diesel, and unlike my back-up, you don't have to shovel. But will a source that costs more than buying power go over big up here, where we have nukes? Which brings you back to, systems for these "pioneers" often still feature the classic 20-24VDC travel-trailer household, which I wouldn't be surprised to see Bloomberg try to sell to the NYT.

In your pole-climbing days, did you encounter the "original" solar-cell arrays, that powered up remote phone systems? From what I hear from AFSCME types, their successors--that flash traffic warnings--are terrible maintenance hogs, with leaks, broken seals, and internal shorts galore (internal shorts, mmm). But that's anecdotes. High maintenance is a little botheration in the budget of a skunk-caster, for instance, or the Toll Road. For "pioneer" revenue streams, like mine, it's a dreamkiller. I'm awfully worried that the only sound from a roof array in Ohio (graveyard of architects) would be cold rain dripping through it, bzzt-pip/bzzt-pap. Our climate and roofs don't really go together, though, so that's a whole different technological inquiry. Just bring it up anytime; I've gotten to be a real expert, damitall.