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Dark City, San Francisco?

timothy posted about 14 years ago | from the whistling-whistling-whistling-dark-dark-dark dept.

News 504

tavern writes: "San Francisco is going to start rolling blackouts today! I can see the headlines for the Onion tomorrow, 'United States Declared a 3rd World Nation'" The article reads like something out of Atlas Shrugged -- parts shortages and clogged intakes for power plants' cooling water are contributing to the energy strain. However, from this piece, it seems like the (intentional) blackouts remain potential rather than actual. Can anyone out thataway comment on the power situation as it affects you? (I'd be out buying a UPS right now ...)

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Re:Where are the Enviromentalists now?? (1)

Velox_SwiftFox (57902) | about 14 years ago | (#512364)

Uh, lack of cooling water.

That's why the fuel for the bombs was made in reactors on major rivers or near the seacoast.

Power Crisis Impact on Colleges and Universities (1)

Eharley (214725) | about 14 years ago | (#512366)

Firstly, there is a great web page at: http://www.cs.hmc.edu/~matt/power.html [hmc.edu]

It grabs numbers from SoCal Edison and charts previous power consumption with current power consumption and projected black-out times.


I'm an undergrad in college in California. We've been having regular power outages ordered by the power company since early this summer. The school saves money by electing to cut our power first in exchange for reduced (slightly) power rates. This power crisis has had the following negative impacts on our lives:

-If we have to keep the power on (Finals, presentation days, etc.) we pay 10x the rate we would normally pay. This translates into $4000 an hour if we keep the dorms lit and turn off the other buildings.

Note: if a stage 3 emergency is called, we still lose our power.

Besides financial woes:

-The chemistry department closes down because the fume hoods aren't powered. I'm all for noxious chemicals, but if you can't control them you're sunk.

-The library loses power. Lost research time.

-The cafeteria closes or only serves cold-cuts and fruit. Cafeteria food is bad enough, but to add insult to injury.

-Night labs have to be rescheduled. You can't collect data on a swinging pendulum in the physics lab without electricity.

-Without electricity to power the lights, homework is really hard to get done. The gym has an emergency generator, but it only accomodates so many people. And the more people working in one area, the louder the noise becomes, the harder it is to do work.

Re:Where are the Enviromentalists now?? (2)

jackal! (88105) | about 14 years ago | (#512369)

Let's try implementing things like solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal power on a large scale before we conclude nuclear fission is environmentally friendly.

Uh, well we have. Technology hasn't advanced enough to make solar practical (like destroying desert eco systems by covering them with solar collectors is anymore friendly), California has hundreds of motionless windmills in the altamonts, (we tried, we really did!). Let's see. Geothermal. I'm willing to give it a try. Ship us a volcano and we'll hook it up. Tidal power. Now this hasn't been tried on a large scale, true, but whether it's successful or not, the marine life is going to want to have a word with you.

I'm not a nuclear avocate (yet) but I get tired of people assuming those in favor of nuclear power are not ecologically conscious or informed.


More background info (2)

shaper (88544) | about 14 years ago | (#512370)

There is a lot of good detail, background and opinion on this whole debacle in the discussion over on kuro5hin.org [kuro5hin.org] about this issue. I'm still not sure who started it all though.

Re:Thank a Texan or Okie for this (2)

Russ Nelson (33911) | about 14 years ago | (#512372)

Who calls this a free market? It's not a free market, it's a "differently regulated" market.

what a scam.... (1)

lotussutol (304202) | about 14 years ago | (#512374)

If PG&E didn't have four billion over paid people they would be ok. If they had to run their company like all other companies and pay attention to customers and payroll they would be ok.<p>
Diablo canyon is at 20% Why? High Tides and shutdowns due to maintance.... hmmm.. sounds like a scam to cause a shortage so they can raise prices...

I have a solution to California's power problem! (2)

Preposterous Coward (211739) | about 14 years ago | (#512375)

We all know the reason California is out of power is because of all those energy-sucking PCs.

We also know that Americans continue to grow obese [psu.edu] at an alarming rate, and that sedentary individuals such as computer operators and programmers are particularly prone to gaining unwanted weight.

Ladies and gentlemen, you can solve BOTH of these crippling problems with one fantastic new product from Preposterous Corporation!

The Preposterous Power-Cycle(TM) is a specially modified stationary bicycle with an attached generator that produces electrical power as you pedal! Just hook the Power-Cycle(TM) to your desktop computer and voila -- not only can you burn calories and keep fit while working, you can help to reduce California's energy crisis by becoming an environmentally-friendly "human power plant"!

The Power-Cycle(TM) features a real-time display that shows how much power you are delivering to your system. Like a mountain bike, it offers 24 gears, so you can optimize your pedaling rate to your computer's energy needs. Planning to start a floating-point intensive calculation that you will make your Pentium III consume an extra 20 watts? Just upshift to a higher gear so you get more current with each turn of the crank!

The Preposterous Power-Cycle(TM) even includes a built-in 100 kVA uninterruptible power supply that charges as you pedal, so that your computer won't run out of power and crash if you need to step away for a moment to use the restroom. Trust us, the Preposterous Corporation has thought of everything!

Order your Preposterous Power-Cycle(TM) now, and lose weight while you save the environment! Operators are standing by!

And, if you order now, we'll even include a Preposterous Potato Battery [biglobe.ne.jp] absolutely free!

Don't wait -- CALL NOW!

*--Potato Not Included

Comment (5)

bdigit (132070) | about 14 years ago | (#512399)

"Can anyone out thattaway comment on the power situation as it affects you? " - No. My power will be out when it affects me.

Update: No rolling blackouts (5)

nicjansma (266771) | about 14 years ago | (#512402)

As quoted from the site: UPDATE: The California Independent System Operator has downgraded Thursday's Stage Three power emergency to a Stage Two emergency, ending the threat of rolling blackouts across the Bay Area.

Dumbass Regulators (5)

Aaron M. Renn (539) | about 14 years ago | (#512404)

The politicians are trying to blame the free market to cover for their own problems. They forcibly separated generation from distribution, de-regulated pricing on the supply side, enacted regulation that made it virtually impossible to build new capacity, and maintained strict control over retail rates. A recipe for disaster.

Look at what has happened to natural gas in the Midwest. My gas bill was over $400 this month because the price has quadrupled. But I don't have to worry about running out of gas. Supply and demand balances everything out. If gas rates were frozen at old low levels, no one would conserve - voluntarily - and we'd have rolling service interruptions too.

Put the blame 100% on the California legislature for passing this botchwork law.

Power problems nonexistant (1)

GeHa (144811) | about 14 years ago | (#512407)

Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Stanford remain unaffected as yet. Nothing the matter as far as I can tell. Vaporware news.

Nothing happened ... tonight (2)

nosferatu-man (13652) | about 14 years ago | (#512409)

The "situation" was fixed by an emergency purchase of some large number of megawatts from out of state.
Here's [sfgate.com] an article from the local rag. It'll be interesting to see what happens next time. I'd love the city to go dark, even if it meant a spendy cab ride (I normally take the local LRT home.)

Nice bonus: paranoia at work lead to all of the development servers being shut down. Counter-Strike all afternoon!


Where are the Enviromentalists now?? (2)

ldserpent (303311) | about 14 years ago | (#512512)

I would like to know where all those whining enviornmentalists agaist nuclear power are now... IN THE DARK!! I guess they just love the luxury of having power now do they? ----- "There comes a time in life when you must take a piss in the sink." -Peter Ovalsky, Second Poem

Major Clusterf*!*k... (2)

DESADE (104626) | about 14 years ago | (#512514)

The head of L.A. Power saw this crisis coming. He did not join the bandwagon to deregulate. Now, L.A. customers don't have to worry about the blackouts. Also, L.A. is producing power for the rest of the grid at super inflated prices. This is one time deregulation turned into a massive failure.

The core of the problem is basic business stupidity. All the new electricity resellers are bound by price controls. The high cost of of fuel means that they now have to sell for less than it costs to produce.

Hence, blackouts. What a clusterf%!k!

Nothing new (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 14 years ago | (#512519)

San Francisco is going to start rolling blackouts today!

So? Several years ago, when I lived in the Baltimore area, I remember having rolling blackouts during the hottest parts of the summer because people were using all the available energy on air conditioning.

The Onion wont be printed tomorrow (1)

SaxMaster (95691) | about 14 years ago | (#512523)

The Onion isnt produced over the winter breaks of University of Wisconsin system schools, or during the summer. I go to the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. You guys dont know what you're missing if you dont get the Onion IN PRINT. That paper is something of an institution here. It's in those "free publication" racks all over campus that are usually dominated by "rental guide" or "auto seller". I dont care if this is OT, but its cool. The Onion returns NEXT week.

My Experience.. (1)

dopeyman (304113) | about 14 years ago | (#512528)


Re:Major Clusterf*!*k... (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 14 years ago | (#512544)

> He did not join the bandwagon to deregulate.

One thing's for sure, whether for good or ill: the deregulation movement in the USA has been set back 50 years by what's been happening in California. This is the first argument that will be brought up by anyone who wants to block a bid for deregulation.


Re:UPS (1)

jdwilso2 (90224) | about 14 years ago | (#512545)

well... ummm... it won't hurt your filesystem, but running programs can still get fscked up if they get interrupted like that very often... and it also helps if you are in an area with not very predictable power: I get slight brownouts all the time that (without a UPS) are just enough to reset my computer... It really pisses me off, but a small UPS fixes it right up!


Re:Where are the Enviromentalists now?? (1)

Karl_Hungus (180893) | about 14 years ago | (#512551)

I would like to know where all those whining enviornmentalists agaist nuclear power are now... IN THE DARK!! I guess they just love the luxury of having power now do they?

They're only in the dark because they don't want to glow in the dark.

Re:Where are the Enviromentalists now?? (1)

amccall (24406) | about 14 years ago | (#512557)

I think the time is ripe for Nuclear research. All current nuclear power plants are rather old. Not to mention, that with modern day techniques, a nuclear power plant could be cleaner, and more efficient. Still it takes what, on average 10+ years to build a nuclear plant? So even if they started tommorow, California couldn't have a nuclear power plant until 2010 or so. Most enviromentalists seem so focused on the negatives of nuclear power and research, that they don't realize that it is one of the most enviromentally friendly answers to electricity out their.

(The nearest power plant to me btw, is a nuclear one... But noone seems to really no, or care.)

Dont' shut down the city of the geeks. (1)

burtonator (70115) | about 14 years ago | (#512559)

What most people don't realize is that most of the REALLY smart geeks from the 'Valley live in San Francisco. I would LOVE to see the loss of income associated with shutting down a city with such a productive population.


This is nothing new. (5)

.@. (21735) | about 14 years ago | (#512561)

Rolling blackouts happen. They've happened in Silicon Valley before, they happen in all major metropolitan areas.

I used to be the senior Unix admin for the largest nuclear power company in the US. Here's the abridged version of how these things happen:

1) There's a huge stock-market-like brokerage for energy across the USA.

2) Power companies are basically market players, betting on energy futures. They use data to predict the energy usage for a given day, and buy any they can't produce to cover the overage.

3) Power companies, like any other entity trying to predict a nonlinear chaotic system, fail miserably from time to time, and they end up eating into their reserves.

4) The power companies, in coordination with state and local governments, have contingency plans in place that ensure there's enough energy left in the reserves to maintain critical and emergency services, even though it may mean halting delivery to all other customers.

5) In the meantime, the brokers at the power companies frantically try to buy extra energy from the brokerages. But it's a free market, and last-minute ergs cost much, much more than those bought with foresight. Further, it's a finite resource...if there's bad weather regionally or nationwide, there might not _be_ any excess to buy. So you're stuck depleting your reserves, and hoping the hospitals, police, and other infrastructure components don't go dark longer than their backup systems can cover.

It's common. And it's going to get worse in all major metropolitan areas over the next 10-20 years. Get used to it.

Oh no.... (1)

Drew M. (5831) | about 14 years ago | (#512563)

Doh, one of my Linux boxes is up there in the Bay Area and it has an uptime of 123 days. It would have been up to 400+ days if it wasn't for those last 2 power outages and that RH6.0->6.2 upgrade :(

Re:Comment (2)

Dannon (142147) | about 14 years ago | (#512577)

Isn't that like asking "Everyone not here, please raise your hand?"


Realtime stats here (2)

BlueLines (24753) | about 14 years ago | (#512581)

I work in San Mateo (20 minutes south of SF), and we've been watching these [caiso.com] all day. Our major systems are all ups'd, but it would still suck to be without power.....

Got power. (1)

PMcGovern (13300) | about 14 years ago | (#512585)

I'm in Fremont, CA...and we haven't lost our power this evening. According to an article in the New York Times.....we squeaked by....barely. No rolling brown/black outs tonight.

Here's the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/12/national/12CALI. html [nytimes.com]

Battery power (2)

dattaway (3088) | about 14 years ago | (#512587)

I'd recommend wiring one of these to your UPS [attaway.org] when expecting long blackouts. Its a 12V, 125Ah marine battery and each one added should provide several hours of entertainment and lighting when the grid's out. Generators optional.

Re:Where are the Enviromentalists now?? (2)

Karl_Hungus (180893) | about 14 years ago | (#512591)

Most enviromentalists seem so focused on the negatives of nuclear power and research, that they don't realize that it is one of the most enviromentally friendly answers to electricity out their.

Let's try implementing things like solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal power on a large scale before we conclude nuclear fission is environmentally friendly.

Re:Comment (1)

whovian (107062) | about 14 years ago | (#512592)

"Everyone with telekenesis, raise my hand!" --The Doctor

Re:Dont' shut down the city of the geeks. (2)

.@. (21735) | about 14 years ago | (#512608)

Most of the *really* smart geeks live in parts of the Valley that don't charge $2k-$3k for 800 sq. ft. apartments with 3-year waiting lists.

They live in other areas of the valley, where that much money will get you a 1,000 sq. ft. apartment, with only a 1-2 year waiting list.

SF's nothing but web hacks and other New Media types. The engineers, admins, architects, and designers are on the Peninsula and in East and South Bay.

...and when the media says "SF", they mean "SF Bay Area". That includes /. See http://www.caiso.com/SystemStatus.html for details. NANOG-L held that the first would occur in RWC, home of MAPS, @Home, and others. But then, they were scheduled for 4-8pm PST, and it's 9 minutes after that deadline, with no outages.

Re:Power problems nonexistant (1)

Copid (137416) | about 14 years ago | (#512618)

Not reality until it actually bites you in the ass, eh?

Well, I can say that we've been getting calls at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory since at least the end of May asking us to cut back on our usage and notifying us of what stage electrical emergency California is in. (We use...well...lots of electicity. ;) It seemed like we hit Stage One just about every day over the summer. I was surprised at how quiet things were getting recently in the face of the shortage until a couple days ago when the announcements started again. We hit Stage Three today and were asked to turn off all electricity consuming appliances that were not directly connected with the function we were performing. Basically, servers, workstations, and enough lighting to scrape by were on in most offices that I saw. Otherwise, squat. Everything was pretty dark. It's really weird to walk through the hallways of one of the highest of high tech places and see people working in darkened offices with black hallways.

Well, at least they kept the computers on. Priorities, you know. ;)

Sanctimonious California (1)

Iron Webmaster (262826) | about 14 years ago | (#512619)

For years I have been hearing California lecture to the rest of us on "green" living. I have been watching them prohibit new power plants, conventional and nuclear.

And now it come time to pay the piper and they start whining about it.

I can wish them a few good power outages so they can learn to power their electrical plants with environmentalists.

Re:UPS (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 14 years ago | (#512622)

> I get slight brownouts all the time that (without a UPS) are just enough to reset my computer... It really pisses me off, but a small UPS fixes it right up!

I never realized how unstable my neighborhood power was until I bought a UPS. I bought it due to frequent thunderstorm blackouts, and it's only good for about 5 minutes. But it beeps whenever it cuts in, and tips me off to micro-brownouts that don't even make the lights flicker.

I get them like clockwork on summer mornings, a little earlier each day as it gets hotter, presumably indicating when enough air conditioners are on to make the reserve capacity have to kick in. But I get them lots of other random times, too.


Home-energy systems? (2)

2nd Post! (213333) | about 14 years ago | (#512625)

Can a energy cache be built and maintained?

Say, a ultra efficient flywheel that charges up at night(anytime, really, but at night when power is supposedly cheapest) and store energy for the household for the coming day?

Say, store X kWh.

Then, if X+b kWh is used, the next day start storing X+ b/2 at night.

And so on, iteratively.

If only X-d kWh is used, then only store X-d the next night. (This actually does decrease!)

X(we only charge X-d, but d is already in the system)
X-d(we only used X-d, so X-2d is charged...)

Anyway, gives us 1 day protection, and as the systems get more efficient, we can lengthen the charge period to, say a week, or a month, or whatever.

And if we want to, we can connect this to banks of solar cells, etc?

Geek dating! [bunnyhop.com]

Sort of the reverse of Atlas Shrugged (1)

geckoFeet (139137) | about 14 years ago | (#512628)

It's due to privatization. The government-regulated system used to work pretty ok. Not perfectly, but pretty ok. The 30 (mostly small) municipally owned power companies in California still work ok. One of them is very large, Los Angeles's; this is selling power to the rest of the state, but of course doesn't have enough to power all of California. It's precisely the private companies that the juvenile Ayn Randians (sorry about the redundancy) have such wet dreams about that aren't able to deliver the goods. They are slurping up huge profits, though.

Re:Where are the Enviromentalists now?? (4)

god, did I say that (253932) | about 14 years ago | (#512632)

I would like to know where all those whining enviornmentalists agaist nuclear power are now... IN THE DARK!!

Not necessarily a bad place to be. One of the results of the famous New York City blackout of a few decades ago was the ludicrous hike in that city's birth rate 9 months later :-)

Course, we're talking about San Francisco, here, which is a completely different basket of fruit.


The pause that refreshes (1)

fortunetroll (303786) | about 14 years ago | (#512647)

Refreshed by a brief blackout, I got to my feet and went next door.

You'd be out buying a UPS? (1)

ashpool7 (18172) | about 14 years ago | (#512650)

You mean you don't HAVE a lead-acid, heavy as hell, noisily beeping, hooked-to-your-serial-port, set-to-shutdown-your-computer, UPS?

What kind of geek ARE you?!

No Blackouts Say the SF Gate (1)

Cheshire Cat (105171) | about 14 years ago | (#512654)

The website of the SF Gate [sfgate.com] have this article [sfgate.com] on how rolling blackouts were avoided for San Francisco. Apparently they got a lot of power from the hydroelectric-rich Pacific Northwest.

As a personal note, I'm glad to hear this. I have to leave work at midnight. My building is on 17th and Mission. I'm sure anyone familiar with SF can understand why I'm not eager to walk thru this neighborhood in the dark.

Re:This is nothing new. (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 14 years ago | (#512657)

> It's common.

Yes, and thank you for the informative post.

However, there's no denying that what's been happening in California since deregulation is more than a bit out of bandwith for what traditionally goes on in the national grid.

I'd say there's a serious California-specific problem layered on top of the congenital national problem that you have described.


Re:Realtime stats here (1)

drsoran (979) | about 14 years ago | (#512659)

You know, they do a remarkably good job of forecasting what the energy usage will be. That's amazing. :-)

Re:This is nothing new. (1)

Wire Tap (61370) | about 14 years ago | (#512661)

It's common. And it's going to get worse in all major metropolitan areas over the next 10-20 years. Get used to it.

It may be common, but really, does saying "get used to it" solve anything? No. It is not a constructive way to deal with problems. What we need to do is find a solution, not just "get used to it."

update (1)

onShore_Jake (80260) | about 14 years ago | (#512672)

UPDATE: The California Independent System Operator
has downgraded Thursday's Stage Three power
emergency to a Stage Two emergency, ending the
threat of rolling blackouts across the Bay Area.

Re:Power problems nonexistant (1)

chakmol (88099) | about 14 years ago | (#512678)

Vaporware news.

Prices are way up but there's a shortage. I wonder how much of this news is spin, for scare value, and to prep the consumer for even bigger sock-it-to-yas!

Who ran off with all the money? It reminds me of the savings & loan dereg from years ago.

Re:Where are the Enviromentalists now?? (1)

Iron Webmaster (262826) | about 14 years ago | (#512680)

Let's try implementing things like solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal power on a large scale before we conclude nuclear fission is environmentally friendly

That has been done since Jimmy Carter. We know it is worthless to meet demands.

Silicon Valley on windmills, I can see it now. "Lack of wind shuts down chip production."

I live in Alameda, CA (across the bay from SF)... (1)

Akardam (186995) | about 14 years ago | (#512682)

... and I haven't seen any evidence of any power loss at all. During the entire "energy crisis", my APC's not even hinted to a load drop, much less a complete loss of power.

Now, while Alameda doesn't use PG&E power (we have our own company, Alameda Power & Telecom), still, none of my friends in PG&E territory have reported power loss at all.

Re:This is nothing new. (2)

.@. (21735) | about 14 years ago | (#512687)

What you're NOT seeing make national headlines at the moment is the *cost* associated with power in .ca.us. The scarcity is actually normal in adverse weather conditions (the SF Bay area's suffering from colder- and wetter-than-normal weather at the moment, along with much of .ca.us, in a high-usage period).

Deregulation has no effect on energy reserves or availability. What it _does_ affect is the cost per kWhr to the utilities, which is in turn passed along to the consumer.

This is why, for the past few weeks, PG&E has been threatening bankruptcy, succeeded in reciving approval for 9-25% across-the-board rate hikes, preparing to file lawsuits against the local and federal regulators for not giving them *sufficient* rate hike authority, and putting the BofA in a precarious financial position in terms of loans.

Were those blackouts? (1)

elroyjenkins (221758) | about 14 years ago | (#512689)

I seem to remember that as well, but I think they were brownouts where I live, about 20 minutes outside of baltimore. I just remember being about 14, and pissed because our lights had enough power to come on but I couldnt boot my machine and get on to the InfiNetwork BBS.

Assuming, of course, that I know what Im talking about.

Hello!!!! (1)

DAldredge (2353) | about 14 years ago | (#512705)

The reason the power companies in CA are buying power on the spot market is because the CA goverment PROHIBITED them from having short/long term contracts!

Re:Got power. (1)

Acrucis (132401) | about 14 years ago | (#512710)

Stockton here. Apparently at the last minute a large power plant was able to come back up. We were told to expect rolling blackouts but they haven't happened yet. The storm took out power at my place-of-employment for about 1.5 hours yesterday but our UPSes and generator kept our servers going with no problem. And I got to have the fun of everyone's oohs and aahs over the half-million candle flashlight that lives in my desk.

Re:Where are the Enviromentalists now?? (3)

Anonymous Coward | about 14 years ago | (#512712)

The science is there. The problems these days are political in nature.
First you have waste disposal, which is a much nicer problem with nuclear power plants than with say coal. Nuclear plants produce less waste and conveniently locate it in one place so that it can be properly managed. Coal plants, in contrast, spew their waste all over the place. The waste from a coal plant is a much _larger_ problem but one that's easier to ignore. And no matter what ignorant environmentalists would like you to believe, nuclear waste isn't inherently any worse, or more dangerous, than other kinds of toxic waste that we have to deal with all the time. The solution is to lock it up in the ground in an appropriate place, and there are lots of areas that are appropriate. The problem is entirely political; people don't mind so much a toxic chemical waste dump, but they're afraid of a nuclear one because of the word "nuclear". And for some reason I don't understand, they'd rather breathe toxic waste every day than have it locked up in the ground where it MIGHT, *possibly*,
one day, leak out and harm the water quality in the area (as if nobody would notice, and as if there aren't ways of resolving that).
As for newer, cleaner plants, the political problem there is that you end up with a lot more material that could be used to make nuclear weapons. It's as simple as that... fuel and waste from a conventional plant are almost totally useless in weapons production, and the modern reactors would produce some amounts of material that would potentially be useful for making bombs. Not that there is really much of anyone who has a real use for a nuclear weapon and doesn't already have it.
Thank you for your time.

good test for the few grand we pay for Co-Location (1)

ndfa (71139) | about 14 years ago | (#512713)

So i am guessing that all the folks down in the hosted web services space are getting pretty carefull with power!!! Lets see if our webservers stay up when the power is gone!!! Locally we are just going to take a day off (hence i am rooting for a brownout)... now if only it was not raining soo hard!!!!

Thank a Texan or Okie for this (2)

small_dick (127697) | about 14 years ago | (#512716)

Even though the blackouts have been called off for now, it's pretty tough to look at all the facts and not realize that energy corporations in Texas and Oklahoma have set this whole thing up to rape California.

Granted, California's idiot policies opened the door for them, but just cuz your neighbor is bending over doesn't mean it's an invitation for the humpty dance.

Wholesale energy costs up 25%, California's cost to buy electricity (from the plants it built and once owned) up 700%, and the corporations in Oklahoma and Texas have skyrocketing stock prices and profits.

Well, piss on them. When my state of california gets on top of this, your gonna pay, bastards.

Public infrastructure cannot be properly served by this ridiculous sham of a "free market".

Re:Where are the Enviromentalists now?? (1)

sid crimson (46823) | about 14 years ago | (#512718)

Let's try implementing things like solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal power on a large scale before we conclude nuclear fission is environmentally friendly.

Let's take a look:

Wind power -- been done in Tehachapi and Palm Springs (both California). They're ugly, loud, and need wind, use up LOTS of land... did I mention ugly and loud? There's no hiding those wind-powered generators behind trees. :-)

Solar power -- these plants tend to be big, ugly, and use up lots of land. Forget photo-voltaic for now... it takes more power to produce the cells than they produce in a year, not to mention the lack of efficiency -- they're up to, what - 17% now?

Tidal power -- well if there were another way to destroy our beaches any faster than a Tidal Power plant.... then I'd love to hear about it.

Geothermal -- Try convincing the environmentalists (or anyone) it's okay to plug Ol' Faithful to keep their Christmas lights on! :-)

So with the above choices, we can destroy more natural habitat to produce less power. Where do I sign up?

In all seriousness... I consider myself more "environmental" than not. I'd rather see lower power consumption than new Nuclear plants, BUT I'd rather see a single Nuclear plant than several "alternative" power plants ugly-fying the landscape.


Re:Comment (1)

Acrucis (132401) | about 14 years ago | (#512720)

No, some of us have UPSes and can stay online in the dark. Everyone knows 'net access is more important than lights, anyway. ;-)

Re:Sanctimonious California (1)

talks_to_birds (2488) | about 14 years ago | (#512721)

It doesn't have a damn thing to do with environmentalists; it has to do with whore-politicians who sold out to private interests pushing the idea of de-regulation.

Any politician who voted for the idea ought to be shot^H^H^H^H turned out of office.

And California's ability to conserve electricity is one thing that's saving their butts right now.

I think not; therefore I ain't®

Re:Where are the Enviromentalists now?? (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 14 years ago | (#512722)

> I would like to know where all those whining enviornmentalists agaist nuclear power are now.

Was this problem caused by the green demands of environmentalists, or by the deregulatory demands of capitalists?

I won't pretend to know what's going on in detail, but I've heard lots of smart people saying that the root cause is that California's power companies have discovered that the economics of shortage are more profitable than the economics of full supply.

The best way to make a profit in any system is to skim the cream off the top. Providing service from the cream all the way down to the dregs (if I might so mix metaphors) is not nearly so lucrative.

The traditional model of supply and demand never claimed that all consumers would get as much as they wanted. Or even needed.


Sanity Please (5)

cluge (114877) | about 14 years ago | (#512724)

Things to remember in these situations

  • If it affects me it's more important than anything else in the world, and someone better fix it!
  • If the TV/Paper/Radio tells me it's so and so's fault I will believe it
  • I want mroe power produced now GOD DAMN IT
  • No nuclear power please
  • No power plant within 500 miles of where I am cause thats my back yard
  • No hydro electric, and why you are at it tear down those stupid damns. The fish can't have sex
  • You May NOT under any circumstances burn ANYTHING to produce power
  • Oh yeah, and deliver my new SUV gasguzzler mobile with electric everything to the new house with 1.2million electric appliances in them

Uhm, gee sparky, lets do the math. Is anyone suprised that there might be a problem with atitudes like those above? Lets try to be a LITTLE bit sensible. AND by the way, the CA power situation was PARTIALLY deregualted. So saying that the free market is the problem is not entirely correct, saying that deregualtion is the problem is not entirely correct. Sayint that stupidity and ingnorance is the problem would be correct.

Re:Blame Sun Microsystems (1)

elroyjenkins (221758) | about 14 years ago | (#512725)

... not to mention how the reserves were already tapped because of the many man hours and cups of java that had to be brewed...

its a conspiracy, cant you see?

Sun owns stock in all of the energy distributors.

How else can you explain their servers power consumption! You dont see Sun buying stock in Transmeta do you? Hell no, because they want you to use/buy all the power you can, and they want to own that power!

For Chrissake, the name of the company is Sun!!

Re:This is nothing new. (1)

MrBogus (173033) | about 14 years ago | (#512726)

(the SF Bay area's suffering from colder- and wetter-than-normal weather at the moment, along with much of .ca.us, in a high-usage period).

This winter has been less cold and less wet than average. I hate to see what would happen if we really had a bad winter (1994?)

Re:Where are the Enviromentalists now?? (2)

sallen (143567) | about 14 years ago | (#512727)

I'm not saying nuclear is or isn't the way to go, but I agree that the problem is political. Whether nuclear or something else, it's been damn hard for anyone to build power plants for years, and calif has been at the lead in making things difficult. Secondly, many of the places that have been able to put on generating facilities for peak times have been forced to use natural gas, which has also peaked in prices because of the high demand (for generation as well as other purposes) and for constrained pipelines for distribution. People don't want power plants in their neighborhoods/state, don't want pipelines nearby, and don't want high tension wires crossing their land... yet the idea of conserving has also been ignored a great deal. (Those who clamor for almost free electricity are likely the same ones who yelled the NIMBY mantra anytime someone suggested a power plant or transmission facilities.) It's, collectively, their own fault. Deal with it. As for nuclear power, I don't ever expect to see another new plant and it's coming time for many to be decomissioned. (Though some are working to get extensions to their 'useful life'.) One reason? It's back to political. Utilities still haven't been provided the long term storage for waste that was 'promised' them by the gov't way back when plants were first being built.

Re:Where are the Enviromentalists now?? (1)

Gleepy (16226) | about 14 years ago | (#512743)

As far as life in western New York goes, only geothermal "kinda" works. The price tag of drilling that deep (typically $10 / foot) precludes that kind of investment except for the folks here with more money. But it is done.

Re:UPS (2)

sjames (1099) | about 14 years ago | (#512744)

Are there any reasons to put a UPS on a simple personal Linux server if it's running a journalling file system (e.g. ReiserFS)?

Several! For one, not losing unsaved work. For another, a journaling file system will not loose consistancy, but can lose data that was buffered and waiting in the queue for write. Also, dirty blackouts (where the lights flicker and flash) are really hard on a power supply.

Blame Sun Microsystems (1)

Skeptopotamus (303674) | about 14 years ago | (#512747)

A lot of the power problems in California can be directly traced back to the Java programming language.

Consider this: Java is such a slow, bloated virtual machine enviornment that it requires at least twice the CPU horsepower and memory to run the same applications written in a language such as C++.

Unfortunately many companys bought into Sun's lies about Java and implemented Java based systems, particularly on the server side. The result? Far too many servers eating up way more energy than they need.

DON'T USE JAVA!!!! People who use Java are contributing to the downfall of the California economy.

Re:Home-energy systems? (1)

NearlyHeadless (110901) | about 14 years ago | (#512751)

There have been a few proposals along this line, but I don't remember hearing about any actually being built. The proposals I've heard included pumping water uphill during the night so that you can run turbines during the day; or, pumping pressurized air into underground storage tanks/caverns/salt domes--they have to be airtight, obviously.

Re:Ehhhh... (2)

tzanger (1575) | about 14 years ago | (#512752)

Wouldn't most internet companies/backbone sites/universities have uninterruptable power anyway? If the net shut down everytime the power in CA did, we'd be in bad shape.

Communications equipment usually runs off of 48 volts DC. The fiber terminators and other telco equipment (LIUs, concentrators, etc.) usually run off of a few lead-acid batteries which are continuously float-charged. Interruptions in the grid don't even phase them.

As for generators: many facilities have them as well to cover critical equipment. Every hospital with an OR has one. Hell even we have one, but it's for testing our starters with transfer switches and the like. :-)

Re:Sanity Please (2)

cluge (114877) | about 14 years ago | (#512753)

And saying I can't spell worth a darn and meant to hit "preview" would be better. Sorry for the errors.

This is totally unfair! (1)

Go-seki (266552) | about 14 years ago | (#512754)

Auckland - New Zealand is known as the "Dark-City" since the infamous power outages during the summer of 1997/1998. Why would any city willingly try to usurp Aucklands crown? :- illegal Password / please re-enter

I got mine! (2)

The Original Bobski (52567) | about 14 years ago | (#512755)

I picked up a surplus honker of UPS. It cost me $600 to replace the crapped out batteries. Now I can stay up for three days with all my gear running! Woo Hoo!

Re:My Experience.. (1)

DAldredge (2353) | about 14 years ago | (#512756)

How are you going to REWARD the state goverment? Vote them out!

Re:Home-energy systems? (1)

wdavies (163941) | about 14 years ago | (#512757)

Well a common non-home energy storage system is Hydro-based - find a big mountain, drill a hole from the top to bottom, pump water up to the top when demand is low, release when demand is high :) Winton

Re:Where are the Enviromentalists now?? (2)

ldserpent (303311) | about 14 years ago | (#512758)

This can also be tied into Oil Refineries. There are about 28 in the U.S. running at 100% capacity, and no new ones have been built for over 20 years. Thanks to the Envoirnmentalists, they just been shutting them down now. Now, remember, just remember when the gas prices go up, part of it is becasue we don't have the refineries. Just thank the envrionmentalists for that.

Dumbass conservatives (1)

bcboy (4794) | about 14 years ago | (#512759)

That was insightful?

That was moronic.

If conservatives hadn't scrapped funding for alternative fuels, OR hadn't scrapped conservation measures, OR hadn't deregulated, we wouldn't be in this mess. But since they've had their collective heads 10 miles up their asses for the last two decades on all things related to energy and environment, well... Here we are, in a completely predictable energy crunch that could have been avoided at any time by simply voting for people who have a clue about energy, and who don't have a vested interest in fossil fuels.

Re:This is nothing new. (2)

MemRaven (39601) | about 14 years ago | (#512760)

Quite a bit of the Bay Area, at least my apartment, uses natural gas for heating. But that's only part of the problem.

Much of our energy reserves come from natural gas plants. Because it's been cold, natural gas prices have risen dramatically and supplies haven't. Which means that burning natural gas for heating or for electricity means little when everybody needs the same bit of natural electricity.

Now if I can only get the significant other to turn off the (gas-powered) fireplace. Loves the atmosphere....sheesh!

Re:Major Clusterf*!*k... (2)

Russ Nelson (33911) | about 14 years ago | (#512761)

  1. The core of the problem is basic business stupidity.
  2. All the new electricity resellers are bound by price controls.

Sentence #1 and sentence #2 contradict each other. If the businesses are bound by price controls, then they're not being stupid. Instead, they're doing what they can in a situation created by insufficient deregulation.


Brown outs a plenty (1)

phoebe (196531) | about 14 years ago | (#512762)

I live just south of South San Francisco and we're getting quick brown outs every night. I just invested in a nice UPS system to stop my computer barfing all the time - very handy. At work in Palo Alto (where the stage 3 was) we had to turn off all our lights and anything else we could to conserve power - one of the Hospitals put out a notice saying it was being affected!

Re:Dumbass Regulators (2)

mayonaise (29272) | about 14 years ago | (#512763)

Don't put 100% of the blame on the deregulation. How about the fact that in the last ten years, the population of California has doubled, but NO power plants have been built. There are many issues regarding why no new plants were built, but that'd be way too off-topic.

Re:Where are the Enviromentalists now?? (1)

rprycem (113790) | about 14 years ago | (#512764)

Here is the fix. Build about 5 Nuke power plans in Nevada where we did nuke testing in the 40's and 50's. The Environmentalists can complain too much about building them there because environmentaly that area is already mess up for quite a long time.

FYI: California ISO System Status (2)

antdude (79039) | about 14 years ago | (#512781)

1. System Conditions [caiso.com] : Current System Load, Today's Peak Demand, Today's Forecast Peak, and Tomorrow's Forecast Peak.

2. Current Active Notice(s) [caiso.com] : Will tell you any stage emergencies (it went to stage alert 3 today!) and other technical information.

Have fun! :)

so ... what can you do? (2)

small_dick (127697) | about 14 years ago | (#512782)

the pge and sce (http://www.pge.com http://www.sce.com) both have tips and pamphlets on how you can save engery in your home, as well as rebate programs for energy efficient appliances.

It's the geeky thing to do -- follow the tips and lower california's energy needs.

Dark City SF - It happened a couple of years ago (3)

sulli (195030) | about 14 years ago | (#512784)

I remember well when there was a real, unplanned blackout in San Francisco for about 6 hours. It happened back in 1998 [sfgate.com] - it was quite a surreal experience.

I was working from home that day and discovered that my ISDN line didn't work (used that at the time for telecommuting); but this happened frequently on my block (unreliable power [sfgate.com] ) so I figured I'd just go to the office. I went out to the car, and when I discovered that the electric buses didn't work, and the streetlights were out, it became obvious that nobody was going anywhere. My neighborhood coffee shop ran out of hot coffee very quickly, as EVERYONE needed some [sfgate.com] , and so I distinctly remember carrying home pre-ground french roast to make with my stovetop espresso maker.

It turned out that PG&E (that poor, suffering company in the news these days) had massively fucked up a maintenance job: [sfgate.com]

The problem, utility officials said, originated with a PG&E construction crew error during the installation of a new transformer at the San Mateo substation. The crew violated procedures and neglected to remove a safety ground wire before re-energizing that portion of the substation.

When the switch was thrown, electricity bypassed four 115,000-volt lines that supply power to the Peninsula and San Francisco and instead plowed into the ground.

Fortunately the circuit breakers did their thing and prevented all sorts of chaos (other than power loss) on the power grid. But PG&E certainly did not make a good impression that day!

A product of Deregulation? (2)

user_used (302757) | about 14 years ago | (#512785)

There are many who believe this is just a symptom of a much greater problem due to deregulation of the power industry. Its been said that our power grid is inherently unstable today as it was before the US began to regulate it in the late 40's. I would like to know from the people in the power industry if they believe this.

Re:Sort of the reverse of Atlas Shrugged (2)

Russ Steffen (263) | about 14 years ago | (#512786)

No, it's not due to privatization. It's due to half-assed privatization. There is a big difference. The media bandies about the word "deregulation" when in fact the power industry is anything but deregulated. Power companies can only buy and sell power one day ahead of time. All power is sold through a common exchange where every transaction occurs at the price of the last and highest bid. The energy exchange is rigged because the price of power generation is free to float up ro down but the price to the end user is fixed by law. (Okay, the power compaines agreed to that one, but government nerver should have proposed it. Never. Now the two biggest power companies here are bleeding cash faster than a dotcom could ever hope to.) Power companies have sever restrictions on how much generation capacity they can own. Power plants built to serve specific industries cannot sell any significant amount of their excess power to the general grid.

I don't know what planet you live on, but here on earth that is not deregulation or privatization.

Re:This is nothing new. (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 14 years ago | (#512787)

> What you're NOT seeing make national headlines at the moment is the *cost* associated with power in .ca.us.

Yeah, I've heard that combustibles are running about 3x the price that they're currently running elsewhere in the USA right now, which (if true) sort of demands an explanation in itself.

> The scarcity is actually normal in adverse weather conditions (the SF Bay area's suffering from colder- and wetter-than-normal weather at the moment, along with much of .ca.us, in a high-usage period).

Curious... Does CA use combustibles or electricity for heating? I know that lots of places down south use "energy efficent" electric heating, and folk up north LTAO at the idea that electricity is an efficient way to heat a box.


Re:Where are the Enviromentalists now?? (1)

rprycem (113790) | about 14 years ago | (#512788)

rotflol... that was very wrong :-p

Re:Dumbass Regulators (1)

ccmay (116316) | about 14 years ago | (#512789)

The politicians are trying to blame the free market to cover for their own problems. They forcibly separated generation from distribution, de-regulated pricing on the supply side, enacted regulation that made it virtually impossible to build new capacity, and maintained strict control over retail rates. A recipe for disaster.

Typical Santa Claus economics from a state full of liberal idiots. They want all of the benefits of free enterprise and liberty, but none of the risk or responsibility. Let them freeze in the dark.


Dumbass Lame Duck Politicians (5)

MemRaven (39601) | about 14 years ago | (#512790)

Uhm, hate to spoil you with this, but in my understanding, the energy market deregulation was a last-ditch effort by a bunch of people who were just (about to be?) turned out of office in droves.

The Republican-controlled state legislature AND governor's mansion have since been replaced with Democrat-controlled legislature and governor. When the legislation to deregulate passed, the GOP knew the writing was on the wall.

I hate to tell you this, but we knew not to trust the bastards, and they got us in the end. Blame that CA state GOP, not the voters.

Re:This is nothing new. (2)

.@. (21735) | about 14 years ago | (#512791)

True, it's been less cold and less wet *on average* to date this winter, but for the past week (the period of the current crisis, starting roughly Monday) it's been much more cold and wet than data would predict.

Hence, the shortage. Power companies buy and sell on predictions covering not only seasons, but weeks, days, hours, and even minutes. When you think about it, the fact that they come close to predicting minute-to-minute demand months in advance is rather impressive. And the fact that it's not 100% accurate gets annoying when it leads to possible or actual blackouts.

california power shortage = forced re-regulation (1)

mrWrong (175845) | about 14 years ago | (#512792)

it's been about a month now these power emergencies have been striking california. there were a few stage 2 emergencies in which they declared those who had elected to have their power turned off in exchange for lower rates would then have their power cut. no one has lost power. we then had a stage 3 in which there would be rolling black outs. no one has since lost power.
"coincendentally", shortly after that, california's leaders and politicians announced that they were in meetings to think about re-regulating the power supply, giving pg&e back their monopoly over the power market.
after that, i didn't hear anything else about power emergencies until just recently. maybe the politicans elected not to re-regulate so far, so pg&e managed another emergency.
i don't think it was any coincedence that we're having these problems one or two years into a deregulated open market.

Power goes out about twice a week (1)

v@mp (136150) | about 14 years ago | (#512793)

I am a grad student and systems admin for the University of California, Santa Cruz. I feel like I live in a third world country. Power goes out here about twice a week. It is flickering as I type this. It is incredibly difficult to do research when you are not even guaranteed that your computational cluster will even stay up for a weeks time.

What are contingency plans of big tech companies? (1)

Preposterous Coward (211739) | about 14 years ago | (#512794)

OK, say you're Intel... you have tens of thousands of employees and a bunch of multi-billion-dollar fabs, all of which are highly dependent on the continued supply of AC power to your facilities. The grid goes down. What kind of contingency plans do you have in place to protect against that? Obviously UPSs alone aren't enough; at the very least, I would assume they'd be backed by a bunch of honkin' diesel (?) generators. Or do any really big tech companies have their own micro-power plants using, say, gas turbines?

Is there anyone out there in the /. community who has real knowledge about the measures that big tech companies with mission-critical operations take to mitigate against grid outages?

Re:Sort of the reverse of Atlas Shrugged (1)

Cicero (11014) | about 14 years ago | (#512828)

Umm, no.

The problem is that with the "deregulation", there are still governement regulations restricting power companies ability to raise prices (even for reasons like rising costs) and build new power plants.

With the current situation, the power companies are having a hard time meeting demand, hence the possibility of rolling blackouts, and are having a hard time turing a profit at all.

This should help deployment of solar power. (5)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 14 years ago | (#512830)

While we haven't had blackouts yet, my electric bill is up about 300% since start of deregulation

To compare the cost of a solar power system (or wind or water power) to grid power:

- Design a system adequate for your needs.
- Compute its lifetime.
- Compute its cost, including purchase price, consumables, and maintainence costs over its lifetime.
- Compute the monthly payment if you took out a loan for that amount, running the lifetime of the system. (Don't forget tax credits and mortgage tax breaks if you finance it as part of your house.)
- Compute your average monthly number of kilowatt-hours generated.
- Divide the monthly payment by the monthly kilowatt-hours. This is your cost per kilowatt-hour.

The cost per kilowatt-hour of solar photovoltaic systems has been getting close to the crossover with respect to grid power. For some applications (like country houses or small-loads like illuminated billboards and traffic signs) where the instalation and fixed-costs of grid power are high it's already crossed over - which is why you see so many panels these days. It also beats diesel generators for portable power now.

A big enough jump in the grid's generation cost (such as the one in California, thanks to their shiny new centrally-planned socialized electric system) might push it over even for urban residences.

And California is a good spot for solar. At the latitude of the SF Bay area, for instance, insolation is about 5 solar hours per day. Once you're east of the coastal range (unless you're just downwind of a gap in it or on the west side of a still higher mountain) there's little daytime fog or cloud cover.

Re:This is nothing new. (1)

Tim (686) | about 14 years ago | (#512831)

"It's common. And it's going to get worse in all major metropolitan areas over the next 10-20 years. Get used to it.

It wasn't common until California residents decided that a deregulated power was the way to go. Nevermind that this "free market" was/is in direct conflict with Calfornia's ecological mindset (do you know how much $$ some of the new environmental compliance equipment costs?), and that basic economic theory will tell you that power costs will go up when demand exceeds supply (as it has for a long while in California).

What pisses me off, as a resident of Seattle (and former resident of Denver), is that the residents of western states who didn't make irrational decisions are paying for California's stupid mistakes. Like now, when the federal government continues to require that other electric companies sell California their "spare" electricity, even when those utilities have none to "spare" at all!

I say, SCREW 'EM. Cut 'em off. Give the residents of CA a few more days without electricity, and maybe they'll think a little more before giving their legislators the right to go off half cocked, fucking with industries that they demonstrably do NOT understand.

(Incidentally, planned "rolling blackouts" are not common in the east, and if there has been a downturn in electricity reliability there, it has been a direct result of deregulation efforts in certain eastern states...)

Re:Dumbass Regulators (2)

Velox_SwiftFox (57902) | about 14 years ago | (#512834)

Yup, the California legislature unanimously bleeped up in the vote. But part of the blame goes to the power companies themselves, who pushed for the law because they thought they could make a nice profit buying power for less than the rate it was and is fixed at.

At first they were doing pretty good raking in more than they had to shell out, due to power plants using nice cheap natural gas - which then got expensive. Bad business decision, it turned out. When your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall. Surprise!

Now, we get to see government dealing with the results of a damaging but very popular program, given surveys that say a majority of the end consumers/voters here in CACAland find it profitable to disbelieve in any shortage that might raise their utility bills. It'll be interesting to watch the antics.

Re:Major Clusterf*!*k... (2)

DESADE (104626) | about 14 years ago | (#512836)

Entering into a business where you have no control over the costs of production, but have no ability to increase the price you charge is stupid.

Re:What are contingency plans of big tech companie (2)

.@. (21735) | about 14 years ago | (#512837)

Cisco's got it's own substation on Tasman in San Jose, just past Zanker Rd.

But then, Cisco pretty much singlehandedly funded the SJ/Santa Clara/Mt. View lightrail, too.

Re:Where are the Enviromentalists now?? (1)

bcboy (4794) | about 14 years ago | (#512840)

Forget photo-voltaic? So the people I know with a solar house, that are selling power back to PG&E, I just hallucinated them?

Dumbass Liberals (1)

mrfunnypants (107364) | about 14 years ago | (#512841)

First you should read up on the situation before you speak, or in your case should I say speck. This was not a Deregulation any moron who believes that, ohhh I am sorry, any ill-informed individual who believes that should read the parent post, which partly explains what really happened, or do some more research, DEREGULATION NEVER HAPPENED. Second what kind of fool believes that Liberals are for any increase in generation of power. I would refrain from using the term "get your head out of your ass." Only cause you really need to get hit by a clue stick. The legislation which passed the current power fiasco was Liberal, trying to blame this on Conservatives is just an attempt not to take responsibility for Liberal actions. On top of all this is the fact, which has been pointed out, that for the last ten years nothing has been built to generate more power, yet the popluation in California has doubled. Again as stated this is because of many reasons, one of which I must mention is the very strict Enviromental laws but I am sure you knew that as well. By the way look at the people who "we" voted for did I mention California is about 60% democrats, isn't that intresting.
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