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Statements from the California Independent Systems Operator (CAISO) concerning the stress put on the region’s power grid by the heat wave of the last two weeks are “borderline irresponsible,” says electrical engineer Bill Powers.

CAISO, which provides access to the bulk of the state’s power grid, issued 8 notices, either Flex Alerts or restricted maintenance operations notices, between August 9 and August 15. These alerts, Powers says, occurred despite a local surplus of power generating capability of over 29 percent based on projected models, even after deducting any expected contribution from San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, which remains in emergency shutdown mode due to a radioactive leak last January. In reality, the reserve was even greater, as the year’s peak demand hour (3-4 p.m. on August 13) was for 4,288 megawatts of power, 150 megawatts below the projected 2012 peak demand and 355 megawatts below the system’s all-time peak that occurred in September of 2010. In actuality, Powers says, the system had at least a 33 percent power surplus when Flex Alerts were called.

“All of this is particularly relevant because CAISO has become the primary advocate for more fast start peaking power plants in SDG&E service territory, specifically 100 MW Quail Brush and 300 MW Pio Pico,” Powers says.

Powers also shared with the Reader an article he penned for the September issue of Natural Gas & Electricity Journal, which argues that while the need for these new “peaker” plants, designed to come online quickly in the event extra power is needed for a temporary event, is already low, their utility will be further diminished as the spread of on-site solar power in both residential and commercial reduces strain on the power grid during typical midday times of peak demand. In the article, Powers actually suggests that due to the adoption of localized solar power, these midday hours that have historically strained the grid most as consumers crank up the air conditioning will actually transition into the times of lowest demand, since the same excess sunshine that drives electricity demand will be providing the power needed to stave off future energy emergencies.

Meanwhile, in an apparent acknowledgment that a restart of operations at San Onofre is not likely on the horizon despite repeatedly revised timeline projections that originally said the plant would be online as early as last June, operator Southern California Edison has announced that it will lay off up to 730 San Onofre employees, representing about a third of the plant’s workforce.

The layoffs, which are expected to begin after September, will continue through the end of the year. Edison has promised that safety at the plant will not be compromised by the staff reductions.

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Visduh Aug. 23, 2012 @ 4:09 p.m.

Erring on the side of caution? Or just incompetent? Or playing games for the benefit of SDGE and SCE? The comment he made about the solar panels being at their peak output just when the AC load is at its highest is what I've figured for a long time. But, you know, SDGE for sure hasn't wanted to see it that way and wants to pay little for power sent into the grid by users solar panels, yet charge a peak rate for usage during those times. If they get their way with the CPUC, they'll be buying cheap and selling dear just when the demand is highest. Nice business model, I'd say.


Captaint7 Aug. 23, 2012 @ 4:32 p.m.

I took advantage of the reduce your use alert from SDGE this month and received about a 5.00 credit. Granted it is not much but it motivated me and according to this article, "More than 500,000 customers participated in the utility's first "Reduce Your Use" event Aug. 9 and earned a credit of $2 on average, Zaragoza said." Would that level of participation have counteracted the stress warnings?



Founder Aug. 24, 2012 @ 8:25 a.m.

From CaptD: http://is.gd/VpaCpR (Including a large number of relevant comments)

The Energy SYSTEM itself is keeping the US and especially California from going Solar (of all flavors) much quicker...

Many, many more would install Solar if the Utilities paid those that installed Solar for the energy they put INTO the grid, at the very same rate that the Utility charges for that same Energy to folks that take Energy OUT of the Grid! By not paying the same amount, the Utility shareholders receive additional money they do not deserve and the folks that have installed solar end up with a much longer payback period! You can be sure if these Utilities operate their own Solar Farms, they will pay themselves every penny they can...

Remember Solar usually adds Energy during peak period of use (daytime) and it is only fair that if the Utility charges more for Energy used during that period (by using Smart meters) then they should also credit that exact amount to those with Solar that add Energy during those periods!

Remember we all already pay an additional fee for maintaining the Grid itself, so this rate ripoff is nothing but a Utility "Profit" Scam...


Why should shareholders get record profits while the only thing rate payers get is ever increasing bills?

It is time to STOP THE SOLAR ENERGY RIPOFF! http://is.gd/eQog1d


tomjohnston Aug. 24, 2012 @ 11:27 a.m.

I know this will fall on deaf ears, but I'll do it once anyway. Electricity added to the grid from an external source is a commodity. It makes no difference where it comes from. It can be from an outside supplier or it can come from a residential or commercial installation within the system. Any utility, in fact any industry, that purchases an outside commodity, regardless of what it is, will pay less to purchase it than they sell it for. It's a business and they are in business to make a profit. Like it or not, that's just the way the world goes round. Period. It literally took an act of Congress for users to even receive any compensation for electricity returned to the grid. There is absolutely no way Congress would ever take similar action on the rates paid back, It just won't happen. Here's my personal view. As a consumer, solar is not just about how how many bucks I can save/get back. We installed solar years before rebates were a part of the conversation, let alone payments for excess power. Sometimes you do things not for the money, but for the greater good. As Isobel said, "It's what freakin' Jesus would do". Remove your own personal greed from the equation and look at the big picture. Think global, act local.

BTW, why the second party references to your own work??


engineer Aug. 24, 2012 @ 10:54 a.m.

A correction. Bill Powers is referred to in this article as an electrical engineer. In actuality, he is a registered mechanical engineer (for those who are non-engineers, there is a substantial difference). It appears Mr. Powers has done substantial work in the past that is electrical in nature, but his education, background, and professional registration is that of a mechanical engineer. The State Board of Professional Engineers has rules that address these type of issues (i.e. how a person represents themselves and the work they are qualified to perform).


Founder Aug. 24, 2012 @ 1:41 p.m.

Repost of a great letter to the NRC: To: "Elmo Collins"


Dear Mr. Collins,

I was told recently that "no one" in the legislature of California believes San Onofre Unit III can be restarted unless/until its steam generators are replaced. To this I replied, "No one else thinks so either."

I believe all this talk about Unit II restarting should be stopped cold as well because, in fact, neither unit is capable of being safely restarted, where "safely" is defined by standard nuclear industry benchmarks.

I believe the potential for the complete loss of a single Steam Generator in a two-steam-generator system with weakened tubing is utterly unacceptable. But that's the possible condition any restart of San Onofre's reactors leaves us in. In fact, at San Onofre it's almost the most likely point of failure, except for fire (with earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. also distinct possibilities).

I believe Southern California Edison cannot merely put flow restrictors on the inlets to the Steam Generators in order to guarantee that excessive, vibration-inducing flow cannot occur, because then they won't have enough maximum potential flow rate to cool the reactor sufficiently with only the other Steam Generator, should one Steam Generator fail. But without the flow restrictors, a flow rate would be possible above that which ensures that there is little or no flow-induced turbulence (a chaotic flow pattern), and NO chance of fluid elastic instability (a coordinated flow pattern).

I believe the reason SCE hasn't been able to come back to the NRC with a plan for restart as of this writing is that they can't find the magic "sweet spot" where the flow is restricted, but they could still cool the reactor sufficiently in an emergency with just one Steam Generator. I don't think such a combination of guaranteed low enough flow rates and guaranteed sufficient emergency cooling can be found.

They may also be having a difficulty ensuring there are not similar flow-induced vibration problems within the reactor core itself, since a whistleblower, Dan Johnson, has been adamant in the news media comments section that such vibrations have been a persistent problem at SanO since Unit I.

The difficulty of finding this "sweet (and profitable) spot" and other problems caused by SCE's failure to properly analyze their data during the design phase, their failure to properly inform both the NRC and the public about the extensive nature of the SG design changes, and the NRC's failure to independently analyze the new steam generator design has led to this billion-dollar boondoggle.


Founder Aug. 24, 2012 @ 1:42 p.m.

Cont: The solution is to withdraw SCE's license. It should be noted that they also do not have a solution to their ever-growing used reactor core waste problem, and nor does the NRC. Our coastline is too precious and too packed with people for dry cask storage, wet storage, or any storage of nuclear waste. So shut down San Onofre permanently. The production of waste has stopped -- thank goodness -- and it should never continue. Restarting also violates the spirit of California's state law that prohibits "new" reactors because what is a reactor core except a new reactor every couple of years?

I look forward to hearing the NRC response to these concerns.


Ace Hoffman Carlsbad, CA


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