Week 4 320 W2020

Electricity and The Grid Back to PSC 320 Main Website

Monday’s Class : The Electrical Grid

Before Class

  • Finish PS #3
  • Reading over the assessments, I noticed that most people don’t know what Environmental Justice means.they think it’s about the environment… but contrary to the name, it’s really about people. Please see this EJ website and at least read the definition. Thanks.
  • “The Grid” is the interconnected electricity generating facilities that carries this electrical power to all the consumers. The internet is to information as the grid is to electrical power. Read about it on wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_power_transmission
  • Please watch Electrical Grid video and see Grid Slides.
  • In understanding energy markets, it’s crucially important (consider assessments) for you to understand what is “marginal electricity generation” as opposed to the “average electricity generation.” While they talk about it in this article (which I invite you to read) I can’t find a good description on the web. So I’ll provide it here: Consider that the electricity on the grid comes from a number of sources: hydroelectric, coal power fired Rankin Cycle (but not in Cal), NGCC, solar (only in the day), nuclear (but not for much longer in Cal), Wind… etc. …. at any time, there’s a different mix of generation sources, costs and emissions. So you could imagine that you could find the average  cost of this electricity, and the average carbon emissions for this electricity, which changes over time. But what are you the consumer responsible for when you flick the switch to draw current? The moment you flick a switch drawing electricity, one of these sources has to be turned up to power this newly added load: to power the marginal increase. We call this electricity the marginal electricity, and the cost if its generation is the marginal cost of electricity, and its emissions are the marginal electricity emissions. Be prepared to answer this question, “should you be charged for the production of the average electricity, or the marginal electricity?” AND support your answer with reasons. Solar, wind, and nuclear are always running as much as they can produce, so they are never producing the marginal electricity. Why do most economists think that the consumer should be responsible for the marginal electricity rather than the average electricity?
  • Learn about how electricity is purchased with the video Electricity Markets and see slides from first part of Markets/Crisis/Smart Grid
  • Slides from Lecture 10 on Grid and Electricity Markets
  • You MUST check out the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) Webpage. Check out today and yesterday using the calendar.
    • Check out today’s demand, and compare it to the “hour ahead” forecast and the “day ahead” forecast. Do they predict the demand pretty well? Why do you think this is important?
    • Then click on “Supply” and look at the mix of electricity sources today and yesterday, and any other day you like… a sunny day, a rainy day, a windy day? 

During Class Hand in PS #3

After Class

Wednesday’s Class

Before Class

See video: California Energy Crisis and the Smart Grid with slides from grid video.

What is “the internet of things”, and what might it have to do with “smart grid”?

Think again about the California Independent System Operator’s (CAISO) Webpage . In particular:

  1. What portion of our electricity is from wind, solar, and other sources? How about yesterday? Do you see a day coming when we will have excess renewable electricity? What time of day and time of year will this be? Will it be on a weekday or a weekend? Is there a time when we will need to ramp up conventional facilities really quickly?
  • Take a look at these articles… you can read them briefly or intensely as you like, but certainly make sure you understand the California Duck Curve and what we are doing to mitigate the challenges to stabilize the grid with increasing renewable energy. Read The Duck Has Landed. Here’s a more recent article April 24, 2017… the Duck is Underwater! Consider the question, “what is the marginal electricity at 9 PM? in the middle of the day? Is it ever nuclear? Is it every solar?
  • Remember Gapminder.org ? Please see this popular video by the recently deceased Hans Rosling.
  • Want to see more exam questions? Why not see a past midterm at the 2018 PSC-320 Website?
  • Is thinking about exams stressing you out? Did you know that this can be good for you? Please see this TED Talk. If you recognize that stress is getting you ready for the “big game” (or exam) it may well help you rather than hinder you and make you healthier!

During Class

  • Discuss all this stuff and discuss the grid future

After Class


Friday: Meet in our regular classroom, AND there is no midterm,….as stated in the syllabus – please see main class website for access to syllabus.

  • I posted solutions to PS #3 on the main class website. MANY students erroneously used Celsius to find the efficiency of Diablo’s single Rankine cycle turbine claiming that Celsius and Kelvin are the same because we are just finding the difference… but the denominator in the efficiency equation is the absolute temperature… Note that using the equation with Celsius would allow you to generate electricity with more than 100% efficiency if the cold heat sink was lower than zero Celsius! Not possible. Please check solutions.
  • Take a quick look at the PG&E crisis update from Tuesday. 
  • I found this article outlining the rise of renewable energy in California. Please have a look.
  • Please see problem set #4, posted on the main class website.
  • Stay on top of the Keeling Curve!!! It’s updated hourly. Change the scales to look at the changes over the year, over the past century, and over the past 80,000 years… does it seem that the present rise could be explained as “part of earth’s natural cyclic changes”?
  • See this video about what causes climate changes CC Causes
  • See the Effects of CC … Can you distinguish climate change from the ozone hole UV problems? and CC Slides, also see the Slide of GHG Sources
  • Effects of CC are first physical, and then biological… in one extreme example: no male sea turtles?
  • Please read the GHG part of Arrhenius biography



Hey, check out the table I found with regard to our discussion of criteria pollutants in different fuels:

Burning Emissions.png

Note that natural gas is way purer than coal and oil.

After Class