Why one should have Engineers for Friends…

Random email I got today:

Here is an observation I made during the power down:

if 1 million people each cut 100 Watts from the grid, that is 100
million watts of load reduced.
Since all power that is generated must be consumed voltage should rise
as the load decreases.
The power companies (Power generators) will need to cut back on
production to keep the voltage from rising to high and burning things
out that are still drawing power from the grid (A bad thing).

So I decided to monitor the voltage with a very accurate meter at my
house during the 8 pm to 10 pm time frame. I stabilized the load at my
house before taking the measurements (I turned off most all loads,
Water pump, Water heater, Most lights, and anything else that could
cause a line voltage drop if it kicked on during the monitoring
At 8 pm the voltage was 120.1
At 8:15 pm 119.8
At 8:30 pm 120.4
At 8:45 pm 121.4
At 9:00 pm 122.4
At 9:15 pm 122.6
At 9:30 pm 122.2
At 9:45 pm 119.9
At 10:00 pm 120.1

All the voltages I measured were well within the acceptable range for
house hold use even during the event.
It was interesting (but expected) that the voltage went up during the
lights out time and returned back to near the 120 Volt range after the
This suggests to me that we (the people who decided to participate)
were able to make a difference by turning out the lights!

Today (Sunday) I have been monitoring the voltage throughout the day,
It has been in the 120 to 121 range all day.
If we did manage to reduce the load by 100 million watts (100
Megawatt), we actually saved even more power than that! Numbers vary
but between 20 to 40% of power generated is lost in transmission
between the power plant and the end user. That is why Obama is pushing
the “Smart Grid”. If the loss numbers are anywhere near close then the
total power reduction of 100 megawatts was actually more like 120 to
140 megawatt reduction when viewed from the generation end!

There is so much to love here – that my friend took 2 hours of his life to take semi scientific voltages measurements on a Saturday night, that he spent hours preparing for it, that he took more time to email it out, but mostly that he is just so damn excited about it all.

Give the Geek in your life a hug – they will likely save us all.

Be the Change.


4 Responses

  1. Thanks EJ.

    That view was an interesting read, but I have some serious concerns with it.

    But while the math is in your link may be legit, the assumptions behind it aren’t as rigorous if I am reading it right. In the blog post, the aussie on enochthred is assuming that we are all replacing ALL the lumens with candles …which is preposterous. Most of the people, like my friend, turned off a bunch of lights – we’ll call it 10 for easy math. That is about 9000 lumens (no one I know uses 40w bulbs as he does in his math so we’ll use 75w) In his math that would equate to 692 candles (9000/13= 692.3). Given the 10x figure enoch espouses, as long as the Earth Hour-ites were using less than 70 or so candles we came out ahead. Most used about 4. Let me know if I am off on this, I am only 1 cup of coffee into the day and my math brain doesn’t kick in until later.

    We have SO MANY problems we are facing. Why must we pull each other down on these niggling little details; why must we be so ready to pull each other down that we misrepresent the math to “prove” our point.

    Let’s celebrate the steps, however small, towards sustainability. For those that turned their lights off and talked to their kids about the need to conserve energy I applaud them. To those that spent the past 2 years building an off grid strawbale home that is heated with passive solar – I applaud you as well. For Christ’s sake people, this is serious and we need EVERYONE on board!

    For those that sit back in righteous inaction to sling mud at those taking their first tentative steps down the path to sustainability I say shame on you.

    The biggest change we have to make is in our minds. Be that change.


  2. Thanks for the insightful post and comment. On a related note, ranprieur.com says,

    “Online I’m seeing almost total cynicism, but this cynicism is justified by simple quantitative thinking, which, in a quantitative age, is lazy thinking. It’s true that the savings in energy and carbon emissions was trivial, but the real value of Earth Hour was as practice for organized mass action. When you begin to practice anything, you have to start with something easy, and nothing easy is going to be effective.” (March 29)

  3. “If we did manage to reduce the load by 100 million watts (100 Megawatt), we actually saved even more power than that! Numbers vary but between 20 to 40% of power generated is lost in transmission between the power plant and the end user. ”

    Seriously?? I don’t know where you got 20-40% from but its way off. Total losses in transmission and distribution were only 7.2% in 1995 in the US (http://climatetechnology.gov/library/2003/tech-options/tech-options-1-3-2.pdf) and since then with newer technology it would have improved.

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