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About this blog: Climate change, despite its outsized impact on the planet, is still an abstract concept to many of us. That needs to change. My hope is that readers of this blog will develop a better understanding of how our climate is evolving a...  (More)

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Power Lines, Pipelines, and the Limits of Eminent Domain

Uploaded: May 31, 2020
Do you notice that you are seeing more protests against oil and gas pipelines in recent years? That’s because pipeline construction is booming. When fracking took off more than a decade ago, oil and gas production ramped up in areas without adequate infrastructure, like North Dakota and eastern Pennsylvania. The industry has also gotten more aggressive extracting oil from challenging sources like Alberta’s tar sands. The expansion is leading oil and gas companies to build more pipelines to move their products to urban areas and/or export terminals. To aid in that effort, federal and state grants of “eminent domain” allow them to seize property along their planned pipeline routes.

As you can imagine, that is not always popular. Although eminent domain requires that a project be for “public use” and that “just compensation” is offered, the reality is not always acceptable. The “public use” requirement was interpreted pretty broadly until about fifteen years ago, when a woman’s house was threatened to make room for a waterfront renewal project in New London, Connecticut. Her complaint reached the Supreme Court. (1) The “public use” the Court endorsed were the jobs and tax revenue that would result from revitalization of the area. Americans were upset with this generous application of eminent domain, and in the two years following most states restricted what qualified as a “public use”, precluding economic development. But pipelines and power lines continued to be considered core use cases for eminent domain.


This New London house was eventually relocated.

Fast forward fifteen years. Oil and gas companies are pushing to build pipelines across the US to support their new supply. Utilities and transmission companies at the same time are pushing to build power lines across the US to connect new renewable resources with demand. Landowners, property rights advocates, and (sometimes) environmentalists are joining together to push back on these projects, often targeting the use of eminent domain. As one Iowa landowner in the way of a pipeline lamented, “We are devastated. How can a Texas company be allowed to seize my family farmland for their profit?"

The question I want to ask here is, how do we push back on pipelines without limiting power line expansion? The arguments can look pretty similar. One opponent of a planned power line from Canada to Massachusetts complained that it would “turn New Hampshire into a giant extension cord to Southern New England.” Is the groundswell of opposition to pipelines going to hurt the effort to clean up our electricity?

The Pipeline Fight


Pipeline names can be very appealing

Inside Climate News has a good review of some of the recent pipeline fights. Gas pipelines are approved at the federal level, by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), so many of the fights happen there. (2) In practice, FERC has been a rubber stamp for pipeline requests. A recent House investigation found that virtually all requests are granted and almost all appeals are denied. The Hill summarizes the finding: “The committee found that in more than 99 percent of cases over the past 20 years, FERC has decided to give natural gas pipeline companies eminent domain; the move was approved 1,021 times and only rejected six times…. Over the past 12 years, when landowners have sought to appeal FERC’s decision to give companies eminent domain over their property, in every case the commission has issued an order extending its time frame to respond. The appeals were ultimately denied every time.”


The recent approval of the Jordan Cove pipeline to the Oregon coast is a sorry example of this. The state of Oregon has denied it multiple permits because of threats to waterways and coastal areas. And just four years ago FERC also denied approval, in part due to lack of contracts from buyers. But in March FERC approved the pipeline, granting eminent domain, having been shown a purchase contract, albeit one from a corporate affiliate of the pipeline company. Their mutual parent, Pembina, is a Canadian company that plans to ship Canadian gas through Oregon for export. FERC commissioner Richard Glick strongly disagreed with the approval. He is concerned that the contract from a friendly party doesn’t establish a clear need for the gas. And he adds that the numerous outstanding issues and delays make it “unconscionable for this Commission to permit a developer to seize private land for a project that has little chance of ever being completed.” An environmental group filed suit just a few days ago against FERC.

Intense opposition to pipelines from states, environmentalists, landowners, and others has raised questions about FERC’s fossil-friendly practices, and at least one of the commissioners agrees that change is needed. The sole Democrat on the commission, Glick, has penned a lengthy document explaining how FERC might fairly account for climate change within their existing authority, for example by considering climate impact when evaluating the public benefit of a project. FERC is taking some steps, but is unlikely to consider climate impact under the current administration.

We Need More Power Lines

With all this going on in the gas industry, the renewable sector is simultaneously looking to build long-distance transmission lines to better connect renewable supply with demand. Just as fracking in new areas led to the need for more pipelines, wind and solar in new areas are creating the need for more transmission. Wind power in the Great Plains needs to go east, while wind in the Intermountain West needs to go west. Solar in the southwest and hydropower in Canada need to reach demand-heavy areas. (3)


Large (345+ kV) transmission lines across the US. (Source: EIA using 2019 data)

The United States’ electric grid lacks capacity in the right places, and has inadequate connectivity. Even the well-connected regions often lack a single coordinated market, instead hosting multiple independent operators. (4) A more robust grid would allow us to make better use of renewables, since solar and wind are available only in certain places at certain times. California, for example, has inadequate nighttime wind to match our daytime solar. Until we can build out offshore wind, we need to import it from other places. (5)

But It’s Not Easy to Build Them


These may sound like trains, but they are power lines.

Power lines are not much more popular than pipelines. They can be more visible and take up more surface space. And while Congress has greased the skids for interstate pipelines by allowing for federal grants of eminent domain, power line approvals need to be done on a state-by-state basis. (6) Any one state that objects can block construction. If you are a state in the middle of a long transmission line, getting neither the jobs at the generators nor the power at the receiving end, you might well question what is in this for you and push back on that “public use” requirement. Moreover, environmentalists are not always in favor of power line construction, with some echoing concerns made about pipelines. As a result, many attempts to build power lines are failing, and that is hurting our ability to use our full capacity of renewable energy.

Can we Target Pipelines but not Power Lines?

Can we have it both ways? Can we support power line development while continuing to push back on pipelines? A recent development in that vein is promising. It recognizes that some of the worst problems with pipelines do not apply to power lines, which can make it easier to argue that (only) the latter provide a net public benefit. In a decision involving the Keystone XL pipeline, a Montana judge cancelled a nationwide permit for utility construction in US waters because of inadequate attention to endangered species. But he narrowed the ruling to apply only to oil and gas lines. Apparently pipelines leak a lot, and the company building Keystone XL has a history of leaks. This type of ruling maintains the status quo for power lines but makes it harder to get pipeline approval.

Richard Glick, a FERC commissioner, would like FERC to account for climate impacts before granting approval, including upstream (production) and downstream (consumption) emissions. But commissioner Bernard Mcnamee, a Trump appointee with a long history supporting fossil fuels, does not agree with this. With such opposing views on FERC, and a 3-1 Republican majority (7), a federal or even state-level carbon tax is probably needed to make this type of consideration feasible; costs are certainly within FERC’s scope. A new federal administration that is less under the sway of fossil fuel interests would also be a huge help. FERC can in the meantime take smaller steps. Part of FERC’s charter is to create incentives for investing in electricity infrastructure such as transmission lines. FERC is in the process of revising these to be more effective.

James Kolman, a law professor at SMU, and Alexandra Klass, a law professor at University of Minnesota, have suggested a number of ways that states can align their use of eminent domain with their clean energy policies. To begin with, states can define “public use” differently for power lines and fossil pipelines. A few states have already done this (e.g., Georgia and South Carolina when they were fighting the Palmetto oil pipeline). They can also reduce objections to power lines. For example, they can work to improve aesthetics (e.g., encourage burying lines) and compensation for landowners (e.g., have companies pay 150% of fair market value, attorney’s fees, even a stake in revenue). When a state through which the line passes does not see sufficient benefit, they suggest the Constitution’s Commerce Clause may help, since it limits the degree to which states can impede interstate commerce.

Conclusion

When I think about renewable energy, and particularly about reliability and cost, I tend to think about generation. Do we have too much solar, will drought hurt our hydropower, where can we put wind, how much do batteries cost? But many of the concerns about reliability and cost can be addressed with a robust grid. Adequate transmission is a big part of that, but it’s hard to get approvals for long lines. How will states meet their goals for clean power? It will be interesting to see what techniques they try to encourage construction of long-distance transmission lines, to watch how FERC evolves its incentives and approach to climate, and to follow how courts tackle issues with eminent domain and environmental impact.

Greentech Media lists seven transmission projects to watch in 2020. I’ll be keeping an eye on those, on the progress of oil and gas pipelines like Dakota Access and Keystone XL, and on November’s election.

Notes and References
00. Thank you to my daughter Emma for illustrating this blog. She finds the names of these pipelines and power lines pretty funny.


0. A good deal of background and content for this blog post came from an article called Energy and Eminent Domain in the Minnesota Law Review, by law professors James W. Coleman and Alexandra B. Klass. Coleman also wrote an illustrative short op-ed explaining the challenges that Iowa has both fighting its role as middleman for the Dakota Access pipeline while also advocating for transmission lines to distribute its wind power across neighboring states to distant urban areas.

1. I want to give a plug for a terrific class on Constitutional Law that I took through Stanford Continuing Studies a few years ago, where we covered this case (Kelo v. City of new London) among many others. I see it is offered again this summer, so check it out!

2. Curiously, oil pipelines, even when crossing multiple states, are still approved by the individual states. Gas is harder to move than oil, which can be transported more easily in more ways, so the Natural Gas Act of 1935 narrowly called for federal approval and grants of eminent domain specifically for gas, assuming a public need is demonstrated.

3. Greentech Media summarizes some of the current transmission projects.

4. The Western Energy Imbalance Market is pretty widespread across the Western Interconnect, but it only covers short-term power needs, or about 5% of the market. A regional full-purpose operator (like CAISO but across the West) would make the grid much more effective, but California wants to maintain control of its market in order to meet its climate goals.

5. The existing grid can also be made cleaner and more efficient by deploying new technologies, updating contracts to be more flexible (e.g., we should not be running fossil plants when renewables have negative prices), and so on. But at the end of the day, studies show that more power lines will be needed.

6. There is one exception to this. FERC has some ability to site and permit transmission lines in National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors, which span multiple planning regions. See relevant comment below.

7. FERC is meant to be a non-partisan, five-member commission. But with two vacancies open, rather than fill them as a pair (one Democrat, one Republican), Trump has bucked tradition and replaced only the Republican.

Current Climate Data (April 2020)
Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard (updated annually)

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Comments

 +   65 people like this
Posted by ASR, a resident of College Terrace,
on May 31, 2020 at 7:13 am


We need very carefully deliberated plans for new power sources with the consideration for Green energy.


 +   58 people like this
Posted by Power Lines, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables,
on May 31, 2020 at 8:36 am

Power lines have the negative that they end up killing many thousands of migratory birds annually. The exact number is hard to know because the major electrical distribution network is so diffuse and can't be consistently monitored for bird strikes.

The power and oil/gas distribution network have a fundamental difference in the interconnectivity of their networks. Oil/gas distribution is generally point to point. Basically, it moves the raw material to a port or refinery. Distribution to the end user is not done by pipeline unless it's natural gas. Even then, those gas lines are generally buried.

The power network gains more reliability as it becomes more interconnected. Instead of discrete point to point, the network connects many points to many points. The environmental effects of a single power line are low, but when the network is taken altogether, it becomes high.

From an environmental standpoint, producing power near the user is better. In this case, the power users on the coast should be pushing for offshore wind.


 +   58 people like this
Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest,
on May 31, 2020 at 2:03 pm

The political picture we all already know. The big oil and gas producers have lots of political leverage since they spend tons of money on elections. There's little sympathy for environmental issues among the rich-and-powerful.

It's not my domain, but I'm wondering if highly distributed, smaller, and many more nuclear reactors, made safer, and more cost-effective, would address the power production and distribution problems. Our antagonism to nuclear power stems from prior disasters and enormous cost over-runs. But, moving away from fossil fuel for ever-increasing energy demands is a challenge that renewables (solar and wind) can't totally meet by themselves.

I'd be grateful for your thoughts.

Cordially,

Martin


 +   57 people like this
Posted by does the fantasy ever end?, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on May 31, 2020 at 4:59 pm

geebus, is this fantasy endless?

> smaller, and many more nuclear reactors, made safer, and more cost-effective (ahh, the magic bullet)
> I'd be grateful for your thoughts.

Too expensive, takes too long to produce *any* energy, is good for ~20 years, then costs another fortune to wind them down, and it kills ratepayers.

Mr. Engel: please list the 'back-of-the-napkin' costs for the last 5 nuclear plants built in the US.

You may ignore the costs in the never-to-be-finished plant in South Carolina that was completely abandoned less than halfway through construction ($10 BILLION spent utterly wasted, with 9 ratepayer hikes proposed.) You may also ignore the ~$10 billion spent to CLOSE San Onofre a couple years ago.

Thank you.


 +   21 people like this
Posted by does the fantasy ever end?, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on May 31, 2020 at 5:07 pm

> distribution problems.

If distribution is a priority (it's arguable, but there's a good case for the discussion, imo) then nuclear goes against the "create power locally" mantra. You want one in your backyard?

Instead, put panels on top of every building and parking lot (see half of the local high schools) and make power where it's used. Storage will come along.


 +   21 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on May 31, 2020 at 7:34 pm

"I'm wondering if highly distributed, smaller, and many more nuclear reactors, made safer, and more cost-effective, would address the power production and distribution problems."

Then

"Too expensive, takes too long to produce *any* energy, is good for ~20 years, then costs another fortune to wind them down, and it kills ratepayers."

The distributed 24/7 zero-carbon-emissions compact generator solution has existed for almost seven decades: naval boiling water reactors in the hundred-megawatt class. There has never been an incident with the hundreds of US Navy reactors that have been operated.


 +   21 people like this
Posted by Sec. 1221, a resident of Esther Clark Park,
on Jun 1, 2020 at 5:51 am

FERC does not "define" NIETCs. It's the U.S. DOE that designates the corridors. Sec. 1221 of the EP Act of 2005 gives FERC authority to site and permit electric transmission inside a corridor designated by DOE only under certain circumstances, such as when a state cannot act, or does not act. A state that denies permitting in one of these corridors has authority. See Piedmont Environmental Council vs. FERC and California Wilderness Coalition vs. DOE. These two opinions effectively neutered Sec. 1221. NIETCs are no longer a thing, so quit hoping.


 +   21 people like this
Posted by does the fantasy ever end?, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Jun 1, 2020 at 6:00 am

> compact generator solution has existed for almost seven decades

Yes, interesting choice. Care to list any recently built ships that cost under a billion dollars? (please do that utterly useless exercise AFTER the cost of the last 5 nuclear plants exercise.)

Yet all that military research and experience has never led to cost effective energy at the commercial level. Instead, it's become even more incredibly expensive.

Why?

You're using, as an example of cost savings, THE FRIGGIN' MILITARY, the last place where one would hear the phrase "cost efficient." The one place in the world where money is no object. They truly don't care what the reactor cost is, as long as the sub can stay submerged for six months.

Please, I beseech thee, to look at any real life cost exercise. Then we can finally bury these nuclear time-wasting fantasies and move forward with real solutions for Climate Change.


 +   21 people like this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Jun 1, 2020 at 2:54 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Some great comments about the post, thanks!

@PowerLines: Yes, I agree 100% that offshore wind is a great way for California to go, to balance out our solar. I understand it’s a ways off, though.

Your point about redundancy is interesting. This post is mainly about the larger power lines, which I think are more “point to point”, as you describe it. But even there, I believe utilities like to have redundancy. Is that the case for pipelines? I don’t think so, at least for the big ones. Are there oil/gas outages? If not, is it because accidents are less common, or because there is redundancy, or because they have a lot of storage? I don’t know. Any ideas?

Re dangers of power lines, not to sound too harsh, but “thousands” of birds doesn’t sound like a lot. Do you have better data on that? I was thinking that the concern with power lines would be fire, especially out here. Burying the lines helps, but I think it’s much more expensive. I don’t know how much, though...

@Sec1221: Thank you for chiming in. I appreciate your straightening me out on that, and I’ll take a look at those cases. I’ll also see if I can fix the text so it at least doesn't say that FERC designates those corridors. Apologies for the mistake, and thanks again for addressing it.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 1, 2020 at 5:35 pm

> You're using, as an example of cost savings, THE FRIGGIN' MILITARY, the last place where one would hear the phrase "cost efficient."

Nuclear reactors on ships and submarines are cost-efficient. otherwise they would not be being used. Like solar power on space satellites. That is such a dishonest irrelevant argument. The technological lead the US has in the world has been about R&D in space and military technology coming down in price and finding consumer applications. that is how it is supposed to work.

The costs compared to what they do is well thought out, and as Curmudgeon noted they have worked well - an argument that you don't seem to be able to accept or counter, so you again repeat innuendo about costs with no comparison or context, and only looking back to the past.

The first transistor was not cost-efficient. I guess you would have everyone still using tubes? The first solar panels were not hugely expensive, and even today they need subsidies to be deployed. Solar only works for about 1/3 of the day, a 33% uptime, and the cost and toxicity of batteries seems to not be a worry for you. Nuclear is over 90% uptime available.

The more solar that gets deployed, the more natural gas fill in generation capacity that is needed - where is your cost figuring about that? Use solar - increase CO2 generation, get rid of nuclear, increase CO2 generation?

You either are incapable of speaking calmly and rationally about real costs and capabilities of all technologies, or their evolution into the future. that means you don't really want to look at solve the real problem - you merely are dedicated to nixing nuclear. Not really a helpful attitude.

Solar power itself costs are still too high for the average person without subsidies, or special circumstances, such as the consumer being off-grid and solar being the only alternative.

Again, no reply, but to change your name and re-iterate the same unqualified arguments - because so far, that has been enough to keep nuclear out of the question for so long. It is a tactic the oil and gas industry cynically use too to make sure nuclear doesn't get a fair chance to compete or evolve.

Essentially your incomplete and accusatory arguments are dishonest.

What about natural disasters I mentioned in the previous article, or in the case of offshore wind power in the pacific ... why is it that tsunamis are a huge factor when it comes to nuclear, but there is absolutely no thought given to a scenario of us being majorly dependent on wind power generation and then a tsunami hits and a substantial source of power is gone just as it is most needed?


 +   21 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 1, 2020 at 5:38 pm

"Care to list any recently built ships that cost under a billion dollars?"

Um, there's a bunch more to a ship besides its powerplant. Go look.


"Yet all that military research and experience has never led to cost effective energy at the commercial level."

Then it's about time Silicon Valley applied its know-how and enterprise to correcting that, don't you agree? Like, consider all those upfront R&D costs that won't be needed. It's a plug and play solution if there ever was one.

The ideal combo. Solar when the sun shines, wind power when the wind blows, distributed proven nuclear peaker technology to even it all out. Not a CO2 molecule anywhere in the mix. Only a hardcore climate change denier could object.


 +   21 people like this
Posted by Power Lines, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables,
on Jun 1, 2020 at 7:05 pm

@Sherry

Here's an USDA study done back in 2005 on bird deaths from power lines.
Web Link.

With respect to power lines specifically, the study says:
"Collisions with power transmission and distribution lines may kill anywhere from hundreds of thousands to *175 million birds* annually, and power lines electrocute tens to hundreds of thousands more birds annually, but these utilities are poorly monitored for both strikes and electrocutions."

The key problem to accurately assess how many birds die in a year is incredibly expensive when you consider how expansive the electrical grid is.

My point about the electrical grid was about reliability, which includes redundancy. Reliability also means electricity availability and load balancing. Electrical load has to be balanced so that the same amount produced as consumed occur at all times. When people flip a switch, they expect electricity.

If there's consumers of electricity that need more power, but not enough being put on the grid, then someone has to experience an outage. Or if a power producer has excess power to put on the grid, but the consumers don't have the transmission capacity to access it, those consumers will get an outage too.

And, of course, if a part of the electrical grid fails, then having a backup will prevent blackouts.

Managing electricity has a lot of real-time considerations, which gives it many different characteristics from an oil/gas pipeline. If a pipeline has to be stopped for weeks to be repaired, oil and gas will come from somewhere else. It's not a commodity that needs to be delivered 24/7, requiring balancing the amount produced with the amount consumed with a network that goes from producer to consumer in real-time.


 +   21 people like this
Posted by does the fantasy ever end?, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 5:59 am

> The first transistor was not cost-efficient.

Nuclear has been around just as long. Nice try. No silicon valley costs curve. Just bankrupt companies and terrible burdens on ratepayers.

> You either are incapable of speaking calmly and rationally about real costs and capabilities of all technologies, or their evolution into the future.

That's a flat out lie. I've listed numbers, you have not.

10 billion for a nuclear plant that will never open. 9 billion just to *close* San Onofre. A simple request for you to admit the ACTUAL COSTS of the last 5 or 10 nuclear plants built in th US.

Why are you unwilling to admit you performed the simple exercise? Simple. It utterly destroys the fantasy you hold onto for nuclear.

> The costs compared to what they do is well thought out, and as Curmudgeon noted they have worked well - an argument that you don't seem to be able to accept or counter

What cost data have you presented? Did I miss your costs link?

Where are your numbers (with links.) You've already googled the plants I've mentioned. I know it, you know it, the readers know it.


 +   21 people like this
Posted by does the fantasy ever end?, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 6:04 am

If y'all have such a plan - tell us how many nuclear plants it calls for in the US. Or the equivalent of current generation plants (isn't that a laugh? There essentially is no such thing as "current" - everyone gave up on nuclear.)

100? 200? 50? 10?

You've already seen my suggestion. You know how this ends for your nuclear fantasies.

Like Westinghouse Nuclear.

Bankrupt.


 +   21 people like this
Posted by does the fantasy ever end?, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 6:07 am

Wiki: On March 24, 2017, parent company Toshiba announced that Westinghouse Electric Company would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy because of US$9 billion of losses from nuclear reactor construction projects.

The projects responsible for this loss are mostly the construction of four AP1000 reactors at Vogtle in Georgia and V. C. Summer in South Carolina.[4][5] Westinghouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on March 29, 2017.[6]


Nuclear (financially) is like our president. Everything it touches........


 +   21 people like this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 10:34 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Ahem. This post is about power lines, pipelines, and eminent domain. It is not about nuclear power. But Fantasy alone has contributed six comments on nuclear power. The first was a response to Martin, but then five more? While I appreciate the passion, I'd prefer if comments stayed moderately close to the topic at hand. I will give a few folks a chance to respond to Fantasy, but other than that, I will be moderating comments about nuclear, since this happened on the last post as well.

@PowerLines: I'm curious now about gas outages, and how often pipeline problems lead to them. Gas powers much of our space heating, water heating, and cooking, not to mention many industrial processes. So it is important, even in some cases 24x7. I wonder if it's storage that makes a difference, or fewer accidents on the main lines, or something else (e.g., different failure modes -- you can have a little gas leak but not a little electric short).


 +   21 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 10:46 am

Interesting, 6 comments that all say the same thing [portion removed].

I get this is about pipelines, but pipelines will not go away until we get off petroleum. Power lines will probably always be necessary and eventually there may be technological fixes to protect birds.

Anti-Nuclear guy may think he is pretty clever repeating the same unqualified accusations, conclusions, costs over and over but it is not saying anything new [portion removed] especially when put out there ignoring questions. Building nuclear plants is a financial and political nightmare ... that is all your focus on costs means. None of it says anything really about the technology or the actual cost benefit.

The propaganda in the media, the disinformation from biased agents, the lack of honest comparisons - nothing he says has any bearing on the question of the use of nuclear power, yet 6 times he has said it louder and louder because apparently that is what sways anti-nuclear people.

The plants cited are being used in China to displace coal. As China get experience with these plants they will eventually take a lead in yet another area of technology - that will not stop because of these nonsensical non-arguments.

I also notice every post says the same thing and, never never actually processing, discussing or rebutting.

Sorry to sidetrack to nuclear again.

[No worries, you should have a chance to respond.]


 +   40 people like this
Posted by 24/7 Electricity = Most Important, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 10:54 am

"Power lines have the negative that they end up killing many thousands of migratory birds annually."

Does this cause power outages as well?

If so, I can see the need for underground power lines...not so much for saving a bunch of birds but for continuity in electrical services.

Besides, chances are that only flocks of larger birds (like geese) get killed by power lines as the smaller birds can fly between them.

Seagulls and crows...no big loss.


 +   21 people like this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 11:11 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@24/7: It's tens of millions of birds each year, not thousands. If you are interested in which species are impacted and why, read this. They say it's all sizes, but those that nest higher are more at risk.

Hundreds of millions more die each year on buildings, and another one or two hundred million on vehicles.

But what kills more than any of those combined? Look at this table.

Ugh, not a nice way to spend the day, reading about all the ways that we kill birds...


 +   21 people like this
Posted by LongResident, a resident of another community,
on Jun 3, 2020 at 2:09 am

LongResident is a registered user.

Local in home storage is increasingly affordable. Usage at night is generally less than during the day owing to lower air conditioning need. Heating usage of electricity only increases if natural gas usage declines.

It's not at all clear that it is essential to add to the grid. Remote transmission is inherently less reliable and more costly than rooftop solar with in home battery storage. The question is if large aggregate electrical generation, solar or wind, offers something superior to local geothermal or solar generation. There is a lot of money in operating these generation plants, so the knee jerk support might be to go for something more costly and less reliable and less efficient.


 +   21 people like this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Jun 3, 2020 at 9:58 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@LongResident. That is a fantastic point, and one I was wondering about as well. Aren't micro-grids and local energy a better way to go? Rooftop solar is a great use of land, battery storage prices are coming down and batteries are getting at least somewhat cleaner. Furthermore car batteries are becoming more prevalent and will one of these days be used as storage as well. And I still hold out hope for renewable hydrogen storage...

One thing you aren't mentioning are the increasing loads on the grid. You are focused on residential use, but we aim to convert *everything* to electricity, including industrial uses. And remember that all transportation will be electric (or hydrogen), which is another big load on the grid.

How does it all add up? I don't know, but I saw this sentence in the Coleman/Klass writeup (page 41), and mentioned it in this post: "Although some experts argue for a greater reliance on distributed energy and micro-grids to avoid the need for large-scale transmission investments, studies show that long- distance transmission will remain an important component of a reduced carbon electric grid for both the short and long term." You can see the footnote on that page citing studies. I didn't read them, but probably should have. But I think this is an important issue.

Another thing to think about, besides the huge transition we are undergoing (not just heating and cooling, but all of transportation, industrial use etc), is the variability of the renewable resources, not just day/night but seasonally and geographically. As one example, the Pacific Northwest is pretty reliant on hydropower for many seasons. What happens if there is a drought? What happens to all of the hydropower that California imports? Geothermal is the least variable of the renewables but it is pretty expensive and geographically limited.

This is why Martin was asking about local nuclear. And, no, this is not an excuse to bring up nuclear again :)

Anyway, thanks for the great question, I think it is an important one.


 +   21 people like this
Posted by Local power lunch, a resident of Community Center,
on Jun 3, 2020 at 11:46 am

Nothing is more local than solar and storage. No energy losses, etc.. unfortunately, with no entrenched interest to support local power. Entrenched interest only care for large centralized power that supports their investment structure. There will never be closet sized nuclear generation plants.

Putting panels everywhere will continue to drive down prices of renewables and storage.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Brian, a resident of Fairmeadow,
on Jun 4, 2020 at 12:08 pm

Very interesting read Sherry, thanks!

The issues of eminent domain have both benefitted society and vexed property owners for many many years. In most oil and gas producing states, pipelines generally go where ever the pipeline company wants them to go. As our energy sources evolve towards renewable electric power and away from petroleum, it is logical that the electric grid in the US would need to be upgraded and expanded for capacity. As the energy portfolio of the US shifts away from petroleum to renewable electricity, I would also expect a decline in the need for additional oil and gas distribution pipelines.

I read this article a few weeks ago Web Link in which the the author discusses what the future electric grid might look, specifically addressing the unpredictable demand for electric power to quickly charge electric vehicles as they gain market share and drivers are less likely to accept slow charging stations. He suggests that rather than build out the existing electric grid to accommodate the remarkably variable and occasionally exceptionally high demand for electric power to quickly charge EV's (likely requiring eminent domain), that a more economic solution would be to be able to store and later use locally generated renewable power as needed and avoid the need to transmit large amounts of electricity great distances to meet demand (maybe less need for eminent domain?). The technology to safely and economically store significant amounts of electric power are not quite prime time today, but I would expect the demand to eventually inspire practical solutions.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by 24/7 Electricity = Most Important,, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jun 6, 2020 at 10:01 am

>>> If you are interested in which species are impacted and why, read this. They say it's all sizes, but those that nest higher are more at risk.

^^ Sherry...I read your URLs and they were very informative. Yes, I agree that cranes and herons should be protected as they are a vital part of our natural ecosystems.

On the other hand, I could care less about the vast numbers of crows, seagulls and pigeons that get zapped along the way as they are little more than ubiquitous and mundane garbage eating nuisances infested with parasites.

All birds do not matter.

On the other hand, if underground AC can prevent periodic outages, let's do it!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Jun 18, 2020 at 12:44 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Interesting: I just read that some groups are proposing a national transmission system: https://www.utilitydive.com/news/clean-energy-groups-to-propose-ferc-rules-for-national-transmission-system/580040. The article says it will end up saving consumers a lot of money because of the more efficient distribution of cheaper renewables. I am glad they are taking another look at this! We cannot electrify everything on power with a large proportion of intermitten renewables without a really robust grid.


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