Real infrastructure for the future- hydro power

In case you wonder, I’ve been busy lately speaking in other cities about the future of the web and advertising- plus, short-handed at the office. It’s put me behind on my reading of Wired magazine- which I highly recommend.

So, while our “leadership” is talking about merged 911 centers, and the silly “ballpark village” as the end all and be all of “economic development”- here is what we should be looking at for capital projects in the near future: cheap hydro-electric power micro plants built into the low damn rebuilds and a possible white water park.

Why, well this article shares one of the main issues of the server farms needed for cloud/petabyte computing that the whole Internet economy is dependent on:

Wired 14.10: The Information Factories
If it’s necessary to waste memory and bandwidth to dominate the petascale era, gorging on energy is an inescapable cost of doing business. Ask.com operations VP Dayne Sampson estimates that the five leading search companies together have some 2 million servers, each shedding 300 watts of heat annually, a total of 600 megawatts. These are linked to hard drives that dissipate perhaps another gigawatt. Fifty percent again as much power is required to cool this searing heat, for a total of 2.4 gigawatts. With a third of the incoming power already lost to the grid’s inefficiencies, and half of what’s left lost to power supplies, transformers, and converters, the total of electricity consumed by major search engines in 2006 approaches 5 gigawatts.

That’s an impressive quantity of electricity. Five gigawatts is almost enough to power the Las Vegas metropolitan area – with all its hotels, casinos, restaurants, and convention centers – on the hottest day of the year. So the annual operation of the world’s petascale search machines constitutes a Vegas-sized power sump. In the next year or so, it could add a dog-day Atlantic City. Air-conditioning will be the prime cost and conundrum of the petascale era. As energy analysts Peter Huber and Mark Mills projected in 1999, the planetary machine is on track to be consuming half of all the world’s output of electricity by the end of this decade.

Google’s Hölzle noticed the high electric bills after taking his post in 1999. At 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, power dominated his calculus of costs. “A power company could give away PCs and make a substantial profit selling power,” he says. (At The Dalles, the huge protuberances on top are not giant disk drives, climbing to the rooftop for a smoke while the RAM below does the work, but an array of eight hulking cooling towers.)

The struggle to find an adequate supply of electricity explains the curious emptiness that afflicts some 30 percent of Ask.com’s square footage. Why is the second-fastest-growing search engine one-third empty? “We ran out of power before we ran out of space,” says search operations manager James Snow, a ponytailed refugee from an IBM acquisition. Not only does the Verizon facility lack a cheap power source, it struggles to get any further power at all; designed for the more modest needs of Internet switching, the building has already maxed out the local grid. Consequently, Ask.com’s Sampson has followed Google’s trail to the Columbia River, where he’s scoping out properties. Perhaps by moving farther up the river into the Washington headwaters he can get even cheaper power than Google will get in The Dalles.

With the local power company more interested in paying off the top-execs maybe we should be looking into muni-power to throw back onto the grid? Why shouldn’t we be generating power to run our street lights, municipal facilities, and even sell some back to DP&L. Dennis Kucinich understood this long ago when he refused to sell off Cleveland’s Municipal power plant and the powers that be drove the city into bankruptcy to teach the boy mayor a lesson.

It’s called power to the people- and it could be a key competitive advantage for the region in the years to come. Not only do we have bountiful clean water, we could also have good clean, cheap power. And with some of our dams starting to show signs of aging, we could be building new ones- with hydro-plants right in front of the old ones to slowly phase out the aged ones before we have to face a catastrophic failure.

What do you think? Just another crazy idea from Dayton’s masked man? Hi Ho Silver- away….

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6 Responses

  1. PizzaBill June 23, 2007 / 1:40 am
    David,

    Check out http://www.skystreamenergy.com, a maker of residential power-generating wind turbines that mount on a streetlight-sized pole (35 ft.) and are designed for residential use. The turbine costs around $5500 and full installation with pole, concrete base, and hook-up runs around $12,000. Although it isn’t a great return-on-investment product in our area, it’s a great start toward being less dependent on DP&L and fossil fuels.

    I’d love to install one at my home, but I don’t think zoning will allow it… So much for a reasonable start toward a smart energy initiative. (And I think Al Gore invented it, too!)

    Cheers.

  2. Jeff June 25, 2007 / 10:08 am
    Ballpark Village will nail the coffin firmly shut on the “old downtown”.

    Anyway, for your hydro-water power thingy.

    Would you believe…they did this in Dayton at one time?

    The very first electric powerplant in Dayton was hydroelectric, as was a nearby factory

    You can read this history at the Middle Riverdale thread at Urban Ohio…look for the section called “Dayton View Hydraulic”

    http://www.urbanohio.com/forum2/index.php?topic=12120.msg167077#msg167077

    Also, some of the old factories along the hydraulic canal and mill races along Patterson were retrofitted with small water-turbine powered generators, replacing turine or water wheel-driven belt drives with electricity.

    So there is enough flow in the rivers here to be used for small scale hydropower, particularly the Great Miami and the Mad River.

  3. Bruce Kettelle June 25, 2007 / 10:16 am
    Before you get too excited about hydroelectric it might be a good idea to find some expert advice. My recollection is that it takes a considerable amount of volume and pressure to drive a modern day turbine that will “pay for itself”

    It may divert all the summer flow in the great miami to make it spin. That will make it hard to have any white water left for recreation. Any experts out there?

    Bruce

  4. Greg Hunter June 26, 2007 / 8:41 am
    No expert, but hydro would not be the way to go! Go Nuclear or bust! The Dayton city leaders are smarter than we give them credit for as they are emptying out the city before the dams break!. Who knew that they cared so much!
  5. David Esrati June 26, 2007 / 9:16 am

    I’m going to start calling him “Nuke” Hunter-
    That’s exactly the point- build new damns in front of the old ones- much easier than fixing after the face (need an example- see New Orleans).
    Also- nuclear may be cheaper than coal- but hydro is a long term totally clean solution.

  6. Greg Hunter June 27, 2007 / 8:23 pm
    Hydro has a tendency too cause environmental stream degradation as well as a great deal of upstream problems. The problem is not energy, the problem is too many people competing for too few resources. Hydro has more problems than you have accounted. I only propose nuclear as a short term solution until population can come in balance with the resources. Sustainability is the word.

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