This month’s note is going to be a little different for me. What a crazy weather year! It seems that we started in a drought, moved to some wet weather, but not enough to take us out of the drought and now we are back to grasshopper weather; hot and covered in grasshoppers. This is the second year in a row where the grasshoppers outnumber everything else. I hope that you all are staying cool in your homes and are winning the battle against the grasshoppers. I am staying cool in the house, but losing the battle against the grasshoppers.
To stay cool in our homes, that takes what we call a base load. A base load is there to provide power and energy. Power is electricity needed to run an appliance at any given time or kilowatts (kW). Energy is the amount of power needed to run that appliance over a period of time or kilowatt hours (kWh). In today’s world, to have a base load Hill County receives its power and energy from two places. The first, and by far most of our power, is delivered via hydro power or a dam. The second is from a mixture of coal, wind, solar, and natural gas.
To be called a base load the power and energy must be available at all times. As long as there is water going through the dam and we have coal and natural gas available, we have a solid base load. You might ask, “why I did not include wind and solar in the base load equation?” While it is true that wind and solar can augment a base load, they are not reliable enough to be called on at any time to be considered as a replacement for hydro, coal, and natural gas.
In fact, when you think of solar, you must have access to the sun. In the summer, that is usually not too much of an issue, but solar does not work well when there are clouds. Given the geographic location on the planet in which we all live, it really does not work well in the winter — and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that solar never works at night!
When we think about wind, we think, well it blows almost all the time here in Montana, that should be a good supplier to the base load. Unfortunately, it is on and available between 14% – 18% of the time; only good for a base load if you want power and energy 14% to 18% of the time.
This is not to say renewables are bad. They are okay supplements for the grid, if they continue to get our tax dollars to supplement their creation and use. So, when you are running your air conditioner in the summer and your heaters in the winter, just remember that it is the base load that is fulfilling your needs at the time.
We will talk next month about what a peak is and what the answer is for sequestering CO2 emissions for the future and still having a base load available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week all year long.
As always, stay safe, be healthy and enjoy the fall as long as it lasts.