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Our Adaptable Planet

By Energy Rant No Comments
For years, I wondered how the national debt would result in Great Depression-level pain and a reset not unlike bankruptcy. The national debt doesn't need to be paid back like we often hear or read in the news. It just needs to be maintained at manageable levels, defined as not letting the borrowing cost get to a prompt supercritical situation that overwhelms everything else. Financing costs are becoming alarmingly high – already more than we spend on national defense – about $1 trillion annually. When tax revenues to finance the debt are insufficient, or if debt markets bomb, the Federal Reserve steps…
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Progressive Outline to Decarbonize Buildings

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Two weeks ago, I described an array of district heating and cooling plants that serve medical, college, industrial, and even city-scale loads. Last week, I explained options to decarbonize district heating and cooling plants. Those options include converting systems from steam to hot water as equipment reaches the end of its useful life, heat recovery chillers, and, most importantly, energy efficiency in facilities and processes served. But before getting started on efficiency, I must add that there are also many barriers to shutting down a district steam plant and transitioning to distributed heating and cooling plants. First, there are loads other than space…
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Decarbonizing District Steam and Chilled Water Plants

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Let's begin with Oxford Dictionary's definition of decarbonization. Noun: reduction or elimination of carbon dioxide emissions from a process such as manufacturing or the production of energy. Last week, I introduced central or district plants that serve multiple buildings with steam, chilled water, and, in many cases, electricity. District plants serve colleges, healthcare, manufacturing campuses, and, in some cases, entire sections of cities. This week, I describe issues and strategies to save energy and decarbonize these plants. As I learned early in my energy efficiency career, it is essential to understand the design logic behind the system before recommending modifications. Steam moves…
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Decarbonization – An Introduction to District Plants

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I would like to see a poll of peoples’ suggestions for decarbonization. My guess is solar panels would be near the top; next, maybe an electric vehicle; after that, maybe electrified appliances and HVAC. Are any of these investments cost-effective? Keeping it simple, are the accrued savings over the life of the project or object more than the cost? It depends on the baseline alternative and various stackable incentives. Without guessing and getting into details, I believe consumer electrification and decarbonization are driven more by non-financial matters. What about commercial and industrial facilities? It gets decidedly more challenging because the…
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Studying Ice

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I took advantage of the cold weather this week to demonstrate ice formation again. Caution: video ahead. When I take to Google and ask, "What is the freezing point of water?" it apparently depends on my location 🙄. You probably know that the boiling point of water changes with barometric pressure, but the freezing point also changes with pressure – but over a much greater range of pressure, as shown below. A change in the melting point of ice of two degrees Fahrenheit requires 2000 pounds per square inch (psi). The range of atmospheric pressure everywhere on the planet only varies…
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Three One Eighties in Fifty Years

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My top "strength," according to Gallup's CliftonStrengths survey, is context, which means knowing and understanding history to assess situations and inform and guide decisions. "Those with Context are the people in our lives who instinctively look to the past to understand the present." How does this affect my perspectives? Historical context serves as an impenetrable bullshit filter. I.e., we've been here before. I recognize this pattern, and I'm not joining the mob. See you later. We're Going to Starve If you're over 50, you were probably told that we would run out of food. Here are some zingers from the 1970s. "Population will…
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Electric Vehicle Discoveries & Trajectories

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The depth of decarbonization will ride the line where the net of cost and convenience meets that of conventional alternatives. Polling from the University of Chicago indicates 38% of Americans are willing to chip in one (1) dollar per month to fight climate change, down fourteen percentage points from 2021 (presumably, that 14% are willing to pay nothing now). Or, as one Wall Street Journal article noted in November, “Someone has to pay for it, and shareholders and consumers decided this year it wouldn’t be them.” For instance, I like to cut, split, stack, haul, and burn wood for heat. It must burn hot…
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Seven Chicken Bones for 2024

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I was going to skip predictions for 2024, but due to popular demand, I’ll throw some chicken bones at the tarot card enthusiasts. Like other things in my life, I don’t make safe bets or set goals of high probability. If my guesses aren’t 50% wrong, I’m not sufficiently aggressive. Clean Energy Investment Curtailment Inflation will continue to chop block the economy, including clean energy investment. I have a saying that many have heard in recent months: inflation is no problem for those of us who don’t need food or shelter. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that manufacturing in…
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Twelve Pack Lookback

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This post features my predictions from a year ago and what has happened since. Forecast #1: “The Ukraine war will not end peacefully with a desirable outcome as long as the bipartisan U.S. Congress keeps laundering money through the military-industrial complex (and others) in this proxy war with Russia.” The Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2023: “Nearly two years into the war, Putin’s gamble that Russia can outlast Kyiv’s Western backers appears to be paying off.” That was after Ukrainian President Zelensky visited Washington in December to urge Congress to send more weapons, to no avail. The average Ukrainian soldier…
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Load Flexibility vs Indeterminate Supply and Demand

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Two weeks ago, I roasted the federal government’s solution to 24/7 renewable energy: buy renewable energy locally. That can work to some degree for locating new-build data centers, which are significant loads on the grid. Most other sectors and subsectors need access to ports, rail, supply chains, and people – i.e., cities and military bases. For the most part, they are not geographically positioned with local access to significant renewable energy generation and, therefore, need electron superhighways known as transmission lines to receive bulk power sources hundreds of miles away and in different time zones in many cases. Pole and…
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