TechPublishing Now MS Certified

TechPublishing Now MS Certified
Professor Robert McMillen, MBA Microsoft Certified Trainer and Solutions Expert

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Your New TV and Electric Car May Blow Up the Grid

Your New TV and Electric Car May Blow Up the Grid

By Robert McMillen, Koin’s Tech Guru
California made big news last week when state energy regulators stated that there may be a ban on large flat screen TVs. Apparently, the old Cathode Ray tubes (CRT) were far more efficient in bringing you your favorite shows than the new electricity guzzling TVs. What does that mean for Oregon? Well, the way California goes, so goes the nation.
Just look at the dozens of new laws in the past twenty years and you’ll find many of them originated in California. The demand for their resources is so much higher than ours that when they start running out of things, we all get nervous that someday the rest of the country will as well.
As far as electricity goes, there are two big problem products on the market. Besides flat panel TVs, the new electric cars are also going to cause a strain on the electric grid. The Chevy Volt is probably going to be a big seller when it’s officially launched, so we need to plan for this before it becomes a problem.
So let’s break this down to actual costs and usage. According to the LA Times, 10% of all home electricity usage in California is from TVs. If your electric bill is $150 per month, then it costs roughly $5 per month per TV  to watch three TVs on old fashioned CRTs, or flat screens 42” or smaller. The average TV larger than that size costs roughly three times that much, or $15 per month to use. These are not exact numbers, and your mileage may vary, but without getting into a needless discussion about volts, watts, and amps, these are the numbers we will use. If you have three of these TVs then it will cost $45 per month to watch them. You may be able to afford such luxury, but your neighborhood transformers may not.
You know those big battery looking things on top of the telephone poles on your street? On average, there is one of these for every 12-15 homes. Sometimes when the power goes out in your home, the house across the street may still be lit. That’s because they’re on a different transformer than you. These transformers have a certain amount of capacity, and very little room for growth. If everyone throws out their smaller TV sets and replaces them with big flat screens, then the capacitors will be stretched to the limit. One more hair dryer and “POOF!” no more electricity. Since the price of big TVs has gone down dramatically and CRTs are nonexistent on store shelves, it’s just a matter of time and math before that happens.
25% of the current TVs on store shelves are considered unfit for sale by the new proposed California standards. Can you imagine getting arrested for smuggling in a 58” TV from Nevada? It’s almost laughable, but there’s no doubt we are headed in that direction.
Electric cars are even more of a threat to your neighborhood when it comes to the electric grid. Electric cars use so much electricity that the grid can only handle one per transformer. So if we all do the “green” thing and buy an electric car, we will either have to find an alternative way to charge them up at night, or we will have to triple the capacity of the transformers. That will cost a lot of money.
According to the Mercury News, we could easily absorb ten million electric cars without adding much more than 1% to our total electricity usage, but if more than one car per block gets plugged in at the same time, especially in an older neighborhood, then the block goes dark. How would you like to explain that to your neighbors?
Help is on the way with the new smart meters. Many of our Portland area homes have already been converted to these marvels. The big fear of them being hacked and messed with is still a reality. The geniuses had foreign workers in Asia write the software to save money. Good thing they are all friendly to the U.S., oh wait…
Risks aside, there is lots of great innovation that comes with the smart meters. One of these is the ability to tap into the energy highs and lows of the grid and to remotely turn electric devices on and off based on usage. That could buy us more time, but the smart money is on quick recharging stations. These could use the new super capacitors that are currently in the works and not affect the local neighborhood transformers. Besides, if you want to go more than a hundred miles from home you don’t want to be stuck on the highway holding up a plug hoping someone will give you a charge.
Kermit the frog said it best: “It ain’t easy being green.”
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Published Monday, September 28, 2009 10:40 AM by Katatkoin