Atlantic Magazine Deceives Americans

Atlantic Magazine Deceives Americans

The Atlantic published an article, Who Killed The Supergrid? that accused the Trump administration of killing the proposed Super electric grid.

As in other Atlantic magazine stories, the actual facts are interesting. 

The crux of the article is that Aaron Bloom, a representative of NREL, presented a study, i.e., Interconnections Seam Study, at a meeting in Ames, Iowa, demonstrating how the Eastern and Western grids could be interconnected to improve grid  reliability while enhancing the addition of wind and solar to the grid, but that the Department of Energy killed the study to ensure continued use of coal.

The Atlantic article made several points about the “Interconnections Seam Study”.

  1. The study was canceled and “blocked by Trump officials”
  2. Blocking the study set back actions “to slow climate change”
  3. NREL scientists were prohibited “from presenting the Seams study results or even discussing the study outside NREL”
  4. DOE edited published copies of the report to change terms such as “Carbon” … to “Emissions”
  5. The study’s analysis used Carbon Pricing for estimating savings

It’s obvious the Atlantic article was politically motivated and supported actions to slow climate change. It’s also clear that the Atlantic misrepresented the facts.

It so happens that the slides used by Bloom in Ames, Iowa, are on the Internet, so NREL hasn’t prevented people from knowing about the study and its conclusions. 

This negates the first three claims (1-3) made by the Atlantic’s article. The study is available for all to see. (See below for the link to the NREL Interconnection Seams Study.)

A review of the study establishes some interesting facts.

  • If the report was edited, it’s not obvious because the term Carbon and Coal are in the slides. The thin line for coal is still there.
  • Carbon Policy scenarios assume a carbon tax that grows at a rate of $3/metric ton per year to a price of $40/metric ton by 2038. These inflated costs are the basis for savings.
  • It appears as though costly storage is omitted from the study.

What is even more interesting is that the Supergrid relies on natural gas, a greenhouse gas, to provide 30% of our electricity. The use of natural gas is opposed by the Green New Deal. 

  • The Carbon Policy objective with a Supergrid would result in Natural Gas providing over 30% of the electricity in the US.
  • The green New Deal opposes the use of any natural gas. 

The study seems to ignore the need for costly storage which may be because so much natural gas is being used. (Natural gas power plants can back up wind and solar.)

That’s an interesting observation because storage is expensive while natural gas is cheap.

Another observation in the study was that: 

“Power plants across the U.S. could help California avoid heat wave-induced blackouts, if the U.S. power system was more interconnected.” 

California is now experiencing blackouts because of the lack of reliable reserve margin capacity. California is relying on solar and wind to provide the necessary reserve capacity, but when the sun sets, so does the reserve capacity.

It’s CAISO’s responsibility to have sufficient reserve capacity to prevent blackouts, and CAISO failed to do that.

Conclusion

The Atlantic article, Who Killed The Supergrid? is misleading, at best. 

For example, attempts by Independent System Operators (ISOs) in the Eastern grid to use wind and solar as reserve capacity, obviates any benefit of linking the Eastern and Western grids. (CAISO relied on the sun for reserve capacity, but the sun would already have set in the Eastern grid so no sun based reserve capacity would be available from the Eastern grid.)

This diagram from The Looming Energy Crisis establishes why using wind and solar as reserve capacity is dangerous. If all the new capacity is wind or solar, reserve margins disappear. That’s what happened in California.

The NREL study is available for all to see at https://bit.ly/2Qhm8Xa 

The study does not comply with the objectives of the Green New Deal: 

    • The study relies heavily on natural gas which avoids the use of expensive storage and is a fossil fuel that must be eliminated.
    • Many utilities and states are saying they will be 100% carbon neutral or carbon free by 2050, which means no natural gas.

The savings in the study are attributable to the use of a Carbon price, which is really a tax on Americans.

The Atlantic article is profoundly at odds with the facts.

Note: The above article was written before the recent Atlantic magazine article regarding Trump’s statements about the military.

. . .

The book, The Looming Energy Crisis, Are Blackouts Inevitable?, exposes the dirty little secret about how we are increasing the risk of having dangerous blackouts.

You can read the introduction and look at the Table of Contents at https://bit.ly/3gakFN0

or

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5 Replies to “Atlantic Magazine Deceives Americans”

  1. Donn,

    Am reading “The Looming Energy Crisis” and find it very informative. But, in the event you don’t already know, you might need a different book binder. I’m up to page 37 in my copy, purchased from Amazon, and, so far, pages xv, 3, and page 21 have simply fallen out onto my lap. Meantime, keep up the good work and I hope all is well with you and your family.

    Neil

    • Thanks.
      I’ll let Amazon know today that they have a problem. I can send you another copy from a different source if you want it. I have a different source for special orders or large volume orders and their bindings have held up well.
      Stay safe.

  2. I was entertained to see a proposal that Tasmania make a similar error to California. The Greens are pushing to have the hydroelectricity generated by Lake Pedder removed from Tassie’s grid because they’ve now built sufficient windmills to provide a reserve. Sigh!!

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