Iowa's electricity monopolist Midamerican Energy has written a bill to let it "monopolize the sun"

It’s almost like there needs to be some kind of centralized system funded by everyone that can then be used for distribution by a variety of companies that can compete with each other across state lines… :thinking:


The situation is kind of like how governments fund roads. Most roads are largely funded by gasoline taxes, which theoretically puts the financial burden on the people who get the most use out of the roads.

The problem is that if everyone starts riding bikes, taking transit and driving electric cars (all things that we should encourage) then the funding for the roads goes away. The current funding scheme is incompatible with our long-term goals.



Cool. Are you guys from the Des Moines office or out of Davenport? Or just contractors?


Oh, if only we could figure out a way to store energy for later use, but sadly, we can’t…


Well in your example the government can shift funding sources to adapt to the future use, and support the infrastructure across the nation.

In the electric grid reality they should be able to do the same, but that would be socialism or something.


Creating batteries on a scale large enough to store enough power to run entire regions isn’t impossible with current tech but it’s still a daunting engineering problem. I think the Tesla battery array in South Australia is the biggest to be built so far.

Other engineering solutions that have been explored are things like “use excess energy to heat liquified salt to superhot temperatures during the day and then use that heat to run turbines at night.”


Glad smart folks are working on this issue.

Just want to note, that we put men on the moon pretty recently and we split the atom (historically speaking). If we can crack those, we can figure out storage for solar/wind power. Quite frankly, we don’t have the luxury of NOT doing so…

So, yes, it’s a tough problem (which some of the technology already there, theoretically speaking), but given the stakes, we don’t have a choice here.


There are issues that even batteries can’t solve with current technology - however, there’s also no (good) excuse why solar and wind is only 12% of our power generation.


Pump water up hill. Yes, it’s wildly inefficient, but if the power would otherwise be dumped to ground then it isn’t really all that inefficient after all.

Yes, that assumes presence of water. And hills. And granted that may not be valid in the Midwest, but you know what? There are loads of different renewable generation solutions - including hydro, solar, wind, geothermal, and loads of different storage solutions. Will one solution fit all contexts? D’uh. Of course not. Will a blend of solutions fit each context? Answers on a postcard …


Even those we can likely crack and as I said, things are getting critical. We don’t have a choice but to get to alternatives, or that’s the end of humanity…



And my point is that we don’t need that solution right this second to vastly improve our renewable energy sources. The end of “we can’t solve all our problems with solar energy…” shouldn’t be “… so let’s keep using natural gas turbines.”


For some values of “inefficient”. A quick google search says it can have a recovery of 70-80%. I didn’t find Tesla’s utility battery, but the Powerwall has a 92.5% round trip.

At 70-80% that definitely isn’t “great”, but it’s not in the dumpster levels either. :slight_smile:

And, it’s been around forever. For some values of “forever”.

“The first use of pumped storage was in the 1890s in Italy and Switzerland. In the 1930s reversible hydroelectric turbines became available.” and “The first use of pumped-storage in the United States was in 1930”.

A different article from 2012 said there were 38 facilities in the US.

I kind of remember watching a documentary about one in West Virginia maybe. A really large one.


It’s like a butcher shop trying to sue a vegan restaurant for their loss of business.


Hi-Im just a guy with an amateur interest in this stuff for the past 40 yrs; had some passive solar houses and few sol.panels.

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It’s not very inefficient, really, compared to batteries. The big hydrostorage plant in Bath County (Virginia/West virginia) is 80% efficient, which is only a little less efficient than the absolutely best large-scale battery technology.


One could easily argue that, likewise, the power generation from a solar-equipped home costs the traditional power company much less in terms of emissions regulation costs and maintenance, which is a major contributor of their non-transmission line costs. As for transmission lines, it has been pointed out above that they don’t wear unevenly due to the direction of the electrical flow.


Catch-22: You probably aren’t allowed to take your house off-grid. (Other states have laws like that.)


You can still run into capacity issues that way. For example, you might be able to use surplus solar power to pump enough water uphill into a reservoir during the day to keep your city running through the night, but you probably won’t be able to store enough water/superheated salt/battery power to keep your city running through weeks of unexpectedly cloudy weather. So any system that depends on renewables has to include a lot of planning for emergency redundancy.

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Sure. Bath County, though, can power 1/3 of the Eastern Seaboard! It’s pretty amazing.


You joined to post this. Thanks so much for the utility lobby angle. I bet the gig pays well?

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