Category Archives: Solar

Pipelines & microgrids

Gas & Hazardous Liquids Pipelines

Pipelines are everywhere. There’s probably one near you right now  delivering hundreds of cubic feet of a fossil fuel allowing you to live comfortably.  Whether you’re in the countryside or downtown of a big city – pipelines are everywhere.  There is a solution to get rid of pipelines – and it’s right there waiting in your hood… just like your farmers market!

San Bruno 2010 Gas Pipe explosion

The people of San Bruno, CA.  discovered their pipeline in a violent way on September 9, 2010  when a PG&E gasline exploded underneath their homes killing eight people and destroying 38 homes. That pipeline was 30” in diameter going right underneath a major suburban area. It was part of PG&E’s 1800 miles of major gas transmission feedlines.

1st hand PG&E experience
When I was doing intense six month training period at PG&E in 1977, a gas department VP  explained how their piplines were used as storage tanks and the pressures could vary 10x fold depending on various demand and supply needs within the system. At that time I thought it was an ingenious, multiple use for a simple underground pipeline system, now we know different.

I’ve come to discover since that the utilities also have massive ‘natural’ underground storage caverns… but that’s a whole different topic.

Other pipelines    Even low pressure pipelines like the infamous DAPL and Excel oil pipelines present unseen hazards to our comfortable living environment. Any and all pipelines present hazards to modern living – even the countless little gas/electric/water/sewer pipes in and under your home.  A low pressure water pipe can create an immense sink hole.  In last year’s DAPL demonstrations, the chant ‘Water is Life’   

DAPL demonstrations

resonated with me.   Even tho oil is now flowing (for now) through the DAPL line, we need to remain vigil and insist that no pipeline be placed within 150 feet of a body of water.  Is that so difficult?  Is that so outrageous?  We don’t allow oil refineries next to schools and hospitals, why should we tolerate pipelines close to our homes any less?  It’s a simple resolution to start on.

We need to get around in our cars.  Pipelines are safer than railcar delivery. Pipelines are here to stay.  Let’s just stop polluting countless underground aquifers and geological formations for centuries to come with pipelines that will satisfy our appetite for gasoline for only 30 years??  We have rules that we  shouldn’t piss within 150 feet of a river or lake when you’re out hiking – so why not the same for pipelines?  It’s just common sense!

The case for microgrids        

Power island

 

The ultimate solution is to wean ourselves away from all this massive, centralized infrastructure and just like our food supply (local farmers markets and not big Ag), take control of our own community’s energy needs.  Several cities are already well on their way in taking control of their energy needs.

 One example:   

MAKE  BROOKLYN  LOCAL  “In New York, the Brooklyn microgrid is conceived to work with the conventional grid, which is in the midst of a reboot under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s directives to make it more flexible, resilient and economically efficient while reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. That effort, known as Reforming the Energy Vision, or REV, includes encouraging the development of microgrids and more active community participation.” ….    -New York Times

REAL microgrids

I’d take it one step further like some European cities are doing: cut the cord to the main grid completely and embrace your neighbors’ microgrids for backup and resilience.  With all the renewable choices out there, a symbiotic relationship between microhydro, geothermal, wind, solar, and biogas/mass can easily be tailored to each community’s needs.

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Energie Wende

that’s German for ‘Energy Turning’... which is well under way with the utility death-spiral already a reality in Germany, but we have our own ‘energy turning in the USofA’… so here’s annual op-ed on energy:

Exec Sum: It’s time to take a hiatus and chill in our warming planet: it’s all too damn confussing,  as our rubber band has exceeded its stretching limits:  Oil prices will continue to hover between $20-40, coal IS done – fini-  despite trumpian efforts,  wind and solar will continue to enlighten, and the USA will continue to gets its energy ass kicked by Europe and China… we are a laughing stock when it comes to energy policy: cheap oil at any price.  We hardly notice as the world moves on (to renewables).

Between falling oil prices and OPEC’s dysfunction (latest production cut agreement won’t hold long),  trumping around with uncertainty, Paris accords fading, Venezuela’s civil unrest, protesters turning into connected protectors,  fracking getting a pass,  more cars at less MPGs, Tesla’s stock shrinking as marriage to its incestuous cousin is approved, and Gaia keeps turning up the
heat on us frogs, what can I say that’s positive?   Hey – we’re waking up!  slowly but surely we are reaching a tipping point and I’m optimistic that our Big Brains will soon figure out that nature doesn’t really have an opinion and it’s better off without us – any questions?  There’s just one little issue with my optimism: Are we really that smart?  It only took us 5,000 years to put wheels on our luggage! And that was on top of 55,000 years without wheels!  something about chisels?… but I digress…

We have an energy solution right in front of us, but can’t seem to get past bi-partisan morass. Even NRG can’t figure it out… I get tired reading about the troubles in the renewable business… would the pop media wake up and get some balls – please?  Fossil fuels are not only messy, they’re guey, they stink, their supply chain is extremely inefficient (<5%), when they leak they kill, and we’re addicted like a heroin addict.  If you’ve ever driven up to an active fracking development area, you’ll be smelling and seeing methane clouds miles away; or if you’ve been with a wild-catting/leatherneck crew you’ll soon learn the messy business of dozens of 100ft long steel pipes swinging overhead waiting to be launched into the ground to send a diamond drill bit down,down,down (sound like I’ve been there? – yep in the 80’s… they were fracking then too in Oklahoma and I had a front row seat… but the fracking is WAY bigger & messier now).

(Newsflash on a recent Oil discovery: a HUGE – yes a trumpian huge – oil reserve in the Texas Bakken field was just unearthed that’ll keep oil & gas prices low for years more and renewables in the USA fighting for survival.)

renewables are messy...and renewables continue getting a dose of political uncertainty (again, sigh…) but what’s so messy about hooking up two wires to a solar panel, a couple water pipes to a hot water collector, or erecting a steel tower (once) for a wind blade? Compared to ANYTHING in the fossil fuel industry… absolutely nothing! (sing it Edwin Starr…. music tune: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpWmlRNfLck

Here’s an easy solution:  teach a kid how to heat water with a black soda bottle (just put some dark liquid in there and stick it out in the sun), or point out the solar PV panels on rooftops, and maybe even a wind turbine when you’re driving around… but hey! in order to be a teacher, y’all gotta be a good student… so study up and then teach the GOOD stuff to a young-un.

Note: if ya wanna be really cool, do this on the right… super heat a soda can!

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P.S. That’s what the LeLc is all about… FUN and PLAY… and the GREAT TURNING  (WTR)