A Cold day in H__L

This is reputedly a photograph of a test from years ago regarding windmills and icing. Almost the reverse of what it has sometimes been used to represent.
BUT….

Did Frozen Wind Turbines Impact the Texas Freeze? Here’s the Data

BY BRYAN PRESTON FEB 17, 2021

As the graph plainly shows, wind generation choked down but natural gas compensated. Coal and even nuclear power generation dipped. Solar generation has been negligible due to cloud cover and several inches of snow and ice.

From StreetWiseProfessor: Who Is To Blame for SWP’s (and Texas’s) Forced Outage? “The facts are fairly straightforward. In the face of record demand (reflected in a crazy spike in heating degree days)…

…supply crashed. Supply from all sources. Wind, but also thermal (gas, nuclear, and coal). About 25GW of thermal capacity was offline, due to a variety of weather-related factors. These included most notably steep declines in natural gas production due to well freeze-offs and temperature-related outages of gas processing plants which combined to turn gas powered units into energy limited, rather than capacity limited, resources. They also included frozen instrumentation, water issues, and so on.”

So then Krugman rolls in from the NYT saying ‘Texas’ problem was Windmills is a Lie. ‘ Which itself, while not a lie in Detail, is a lie in Essence. As per some top line thinking in ManhattanContrarian in This Piece Points out:

Total winter generation capacity for the state is about 83 GW, while peak winter usage is about 57 GW. That’s a margin of over 45% of capacity over peak usage. In a fossil-fuel-only or fossil-fuel-plus-nuclear system, where all sources of power are dispatchable, a margin of 20% would be considered normal, and 30% would be luxurious. This margin is well more than that. How could that not be sufficient?

The answer is that Texas has gone crazy for wind. About 30 GW of the 83 GW of capacity are wind.

….sometimes the wind turbines only generate at a rate of 600 MW — which is about 2% of their capacity. And you never know when that’s going to be.

ManhattanContrarian

But/And it IS complicated. 1) You can install deicing systems on windmills but they are expensive to install and maintain and require INPUT of electric power to operate (Texas average weather makes this uneconomic to install.) 2) Texas did this to itself, it has an independent Grid because it IS a country sized state, the grid operator is actually a Bit Wind Crazy…why…because Texas has a lot of wind power. 3) This weather is a Combination of once in a hundred year cold AND snow/cloud cover, which systems are not designed to deal with other than in some degraded manner.

So one can only hope that because it is complicated and is fairly easily shown to be so that the cool heads will be left to work out some solution that prevents this sort of thing happening again. Because yes weather is unpredictable and while this was a 1/100 double header, it did occur and that says that the odds may not be what we think they are and so some mitigation is required. That mitigation is Not more wind, Not stored power, it IS more nuclear +better of all the above, AND better links to the broader national grid, etc, etc.

Myself, I’m planning a new house in the country. Big propane tank, backup generator, solar power, grid tied battery backup, ultra insulated house (for the region.) My prediction is that the grid is going to get worse not better and if you you can, you need to be able to survive without electric power from the mains for a week or more. I can make that possible, though I am in the few percent just because of location, situation, grace of the Infinite.

Point to point sub orbital

Preparing for “Earth to Earth” space travel and a competition with supersonic airliners From NASASpaceFlight.Com an important and fun source on space activity all around the world not just NASA/US

So this seems crazy but in all honesty it has actually been a thing for a long time. It is mentioned in a lot of sixties/seventies SF not focused on space flight. It was seriously studied several times as a sort of replacement for parachute insertion of military force. And like most of those sorts of efforts there was a commercial concept to support the technology since the folks in the defense industry understood that military programs cannot support a robust industry on its own.

Just look at nuclear power, there was a reason that nuclear power stations evolved as the Navy came to realize they wanted nuclear ships. And there is a reason that small aircraft carriers and non nuclear submarines are anathema to certain parts of the Naval establishment. They know that if non nuclear CVs and SSs became common the industry required to support the nuclear fleet would become unaffordable.

https://thehighfrontier.blog/2016/03/20/straight-back-down-to-earth-a-history-of-the-vertical-takeoffvertical-landing-rocket-part-1/

People have already talked about the DoD buying Starships and using them as bombers / hypersonic weapons platforms. This is just turning the model above around.

Back in medieval times freighters and warships were the same thing, they just tacked on some fighting platforms and went at it with bows, crossbows, catapults, swords, etc. Even the Vikings probably started out as traders though always ready to ‘raise the black flag and slit a few throats’ if that looked like the right business strategy.

Anyway…sorry for the side commentary, it’s evening and I had a good dinner so I’m wandering a bit.

So, again anyway…if you look at it, a craft like the Starship, which has the performance as a single stage vehicle to haul 100 tons 10,000 miles in less than an hour has some attraction on its face….but in reality?

  • To my mind the most value dense time sensitive cargo is people but that’s years out at the least.
  • In the meantime are there cargos that are so time sensitive that something like a starship might make sense?
    • Couriered documents. Maybe
    • Mail. Does not seem like it.
    • Medical supplies only if the ship could land almost anywhere and take off again.
    • High value tech like chips? Maybe but 100 tons is overkill.
    • In fact most of the above are not 100 ton class cargos and frequency and flexibility of landing seem critical.

So dead on arrival? No there are customers who might pay for a a limited 100 ton capability. I think it would need to be anywhere in the world which is more than 10,000 miles but is probably within the capability of a modified Starship with more fuel and less cargo…or maybe an extended tank Starship could do 100 tons out to 18,000 miles (my wag of anywhere in the world from anywhere in the world.)

A somewhat smaller starship could do 10 tons 18,000 miles and probably land at just about any port or airfield as long as you can supply LOx and LNG, which is not that uncommon.

Go back to the start. If you burn a couple of hundred tons of LOx/LNG what is the cost? Does it make economic sense? Is it safe, is it going to be acceptable?

  • Economics:
    • LOx/LNG are in the same $/ton range as Jet fuel, you are burning a couple of times the fuel since you have to haul up the oxidizer with you and pay for that as well so say 4x the fuel bill.
    • The hull is in line with a modern airline.
    • If you can do a trip a day or so with support costs in the same range as a jet, it would appear to me that for the right cargo you could make it work.
  • Is it safe?
    • Well not right now but once the tech is wrung out ?? I think so.
    • the big difference is much higher energies than a jet.
    • But…your exposure time is a fraction of that of a jet over the same range. Accidents in mid flight are rare but generally lead to complete loss. Exposure time is probably the most important difference…advantage Point to Point
    • Ok so the major threat time is when you are near the ground around take off and landing, Those are shorter for the Point to Pointer.
    • And to me the difference in energy involved is immaterial…dead is dead and most of the time accidents of any magnitude in those phases are not survivable.
    • Accidents on the runway often have survivors but that is eliminated in the Point to Point case…up and down…no in between…
  • Acceptable?
    • Only time will tell, my guess is YES.
    • It will be a bit like the glamor days of the early airliners I would expect point to point for certain segments to be a real elite punch card
    • Especially as near earth space becomes an exotic but achievable location.

Exciting times indeed.

Batteries Batteries Batteries 

A good artcle on batteries in Power Electronics, triggered by  the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Debacle, and the not to distant past mess with the ‘hover board’ craze. The article links to a pretty detailed recent study of coming high power density battery technologies.   

The eMagazine http://www.powerelectronicsnews.com/ is a good source on power electronics across the power and technology range. A good way to keep up on a rapidly changing field.

The article talks about a variety of battery chemistries including sodium as shown in the following graphic.

An enormous variety of sodium-ion battery variations are being considered by researchers worldwide as surveyed here regarding their operation voltages versus specific capacities for cathode materials (a) and anode materials (b) in order to find a combination that make them competitive with Li-ion. SOURCE: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

However the main reason I show this graphic is the incredible density of information that the graphic data presenter/artist at Macmillan Publishers was able to insert into a relatively small and simple chart. For me as a technologist this gives me the ability to data dive and compare and contrast very quickly when considering alternatives. My experience in buying reports or data repositiories of one sort or another is that the quality of this sort of chart is key to the value of the document

Interesting, a wind jammer for the 21st century

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The Norwegian Vindskip design from Lade AS uses a specially shaped hull to capture the wind and convert it into forward motion.

Natural gas fired Gas Turbines to get wind speed on the right ‘quarter’ and the combined wind speed provides a boost to get up to 60% fuel savings. All very well till you get in a real blow, it does look like it’ll be a bit of a handful in bad weather, it has big stabilizers like a sailing yacht so maybe it’ll work…anyway it’ll be a figment of computer simulation sthen tank testing for a few years yet.

Build your own device Motorola’s (Google’s) next cell phone play

Motorola Announces “Project Ara,” a modular phone hardware platform20131030-225519.jpg20131030-225530.jpg

Motorola has announced a free open hardware platform for smartphones called “Project Ara.” The goal is to create a modular smartphone that would allow users to swap hardware components at will. Motorola says it wants to “do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software: create a vibrant third-party developer ecosystem, lower the barriers to entry, increase the pace of innovation, and substantially compress development timelines.”

looks cool seems reasonable for the large geek, nerd, techie, metro, hip, individualist, contingents out there. Making it rugged and relatively ‘duh’ proof will be a challenge.

Too quiet to be a race car

Do we really go to the races for the visceral shiver a race car’s engine can give you, the aching memory frisson that the stink of castrol can trigger?
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Formula One dominator Sebastian Vettel gave short shrift Saturday to the new, electric Formula E series, saying it would be far too quiet and was “not the future”.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-10-vettel-formula-future.html#jCp

SpaceX, first try at a return much closer to a success than a failure!

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Falcon 9 first stage burns an engine during a controlled descent to the Pacific Ocean. (Credit: SpaceX)

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Falcon 9 first stage in a controlled descent toward the Pacific Ocean. At this point, the stage was about 3 meters (9.8 feet) above the water. (Credit: SpaceX)

“SpaceX then lit the center engine for a single engine burn. That relight also went well, however we exceeded the roll control authority of the attitude control thrusters. This particular stage was not equipped with landing gear which could have helped stabilize the stage like fins would on an aircraft. The stage ended up spinning to a degree that was greater than we could control with the gas thrusters on board and ultimately we hit the water relatively hard.

from the picture above it looks like it came pretty damn close! WOW!