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Biden’s Dangerous Energy Plans Put Americans at Risk
President Joe Biden and his supporters in environmental groups and the press clearly hope that most of the public knows little about our electricity grid. If Americans understood how we get our power, they would simply laugh when Joe and friends put forward the fantasy that we can power our modern industrial societies with wind and solar power.
When we flip the switch, the lights come on without anyone thinking about it. This has only been true for the last 100 years in metropolitan areas, and for only about 80 in rural areas with the enactment of the Rural Electrification Act of 1936.
In 1935, only 25 percent of rural homes in the United States had electricity, and there are people alive today who grew up without it. Today, few people are even aware of the system that generates, distributes, and controls the electricity that flows across our nation. The system is referred to as “the grid,” which is actually three grids covering the entire lower 48 states.
Over the past century, there have been only two area-wide blackouts affecting over 30 million people caused by a failure of the transmission system. There have been smaller blackouts, mostly caused by storms affecting fewer people. Overall, these grids have worked remarkably well. Reliability can still be improved upon, but this is primarily a question of placing transmission and distribution lines underground to minimize weather-induced outages.
Suddenly, we are faced with a threat to the grid we haven’t seen before. It is the threat that dramatically increases blackouts and the suffering that accompanies them. It is the result of the amazingly wrong-headed, if not fraudulently promoted idea⏤that mankind is creating an existential threat to our planet as a result of burning fossil fuels to produce our electricity.
Biden and company claim that wind and solar power can replace all other fuels to create electricity. Aside from the fact that this is physically impossible, the ultimately failed effort is going to make electricity far more costly and less reliable. Yet the president and his allies are willing to gamble the safety of all Americans as well as our economy based on an absurd ideology.
The average American has had no need to look behind the light switch to see how the massive electric grids work. That has been the province of the engineers who keep it working. In many ways, the grid is quite simple, but there are important details to understand involved in the equipment that generates the electricity and the equipment that carries it across the country, and the distribution into your home or business.
The three actual grids that stretch across the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean are the Eastern, Western, and Texas grids. We are blessed in the U.S. to have an abundance of low-cost fuel to power our grids. They include coal, natural gas, nuclear power, limited hydropower from dams, and geothermal from deep hot rocks. While wind and solar power are popping up everywhere, so far, they have added essentially nothing to our available electricity as they must be backed up 100% with fossil fuel to take over for their unreliability. Wish as activists and the press may, no sufficiently large, economic storage, such as batteries (think Tesla) will be available during this century, if not longer.
Capacity Factor (CF) is an important measurement for evaluating different types of generation. CF is determined by calculating the amount of electricity a power plant actually produces over a year, divided by the amount the unit could theoretically produce based on its nameplate rating. For the primary types of energy sources we use, CFs are 91% for nuclear, 87% for combined-cycle natural gas (uses a second turbine to extract heat from waste gas), 85% for coal, 34% for onshore wind, and 12 to 25% for solar. Clearly, in the latter two cases, the power we get in actual real-world applications is nowhere near that suggested by their theoretical ratings.
Power transformers are used to raise the voltage of the electricity to as high as 800,000 volts. This creates a large enough gradient to allow the electricity to move very long distances. Without such high voltages, losses in power to the end-users would be very large. Then it is reduced to 60,000 volts for sub-transmission within the areas it is to be used.
Most AC (alternating current used in your home) is transmitted through overhead lines because of the very high costs of placing high voltage lines underground. DC or direct current transmission reduces losses, but the equipment to convert AC to DC is normally prohibitive, except, of course, in your cellphones and other handheld devices whose rechargers convert from AC to DC.
Transformers in substations lowers the voltage to between 4,000 and 13,000 for distribution within the local areas. Distribution transformers are usually found on telephone poles or in small boxes behind homes. They lower the voltage to 120 and 240 single-phase for homes. They can be put underground economically.
Without getting too much into the details, it is interesting to know that, because electricity is a powerful electromagnetic force at high voltages or currents (which measure the electric flow), circuit breakers are needed, to interrupt the flow when a problem occurs. In your home, fuses serve that purpose. The whole system must be maintained within certain limits for which capacitors are used to store extra power. Reclosers are mounted along distribution lines to restore the flow of electricity when momentary short circuits occur.
To thoroughly defeat Biden’s dangerous and nonsensical plans, it is important that more of the public have a good grasp of the fundamentals of electrical power generation. To promote this understanding, we will be interviewing Donn Dears, a retired General Electric Company engineer and senior executive, on our radio program The Other Side of the Story this coming weekend. As Dears exposes in his 2020 book, “The Looming Energy Crisis – Are Blackouts Inevitable,” attempts to decarbonize America by eliminating fossil fuel use is threatening the reliability of our electrical grid and so endangering us all. We must fight this deadly threat to our national security by becoming more knowledgeable electricity consumers.
Note: Significant portions of this article have been extracted from the highly recommended 2020 book “THE LOOMING ENERGY CRISIS: Are Blackouts Inevitable,” with the permission of the author Donn Dears. Dears will be our guest at 11 am and 8 pm on Saturday and Sunday on The Other Side of the Story.
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