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Today’s business idea

We need something that uses electricity, where the cost of the electricity is the or a major cost, which produces something saleable and can be run on an intermittent basis.

This should also be possible at domestic scale.

So, mining bitcoin is an obvious one, tho’ that no longer works at domestic scale at all. Might be possible to imagine a net which does it tho’.

The electricity grid operator wants to pay people to use more electricity when supplies from wind and solar farms are abundant under an update of its “demand flexibility” service.

The system was launched in 2022 to help the National Grid lessen the risk of blackouts by paying families and businesses to use less electricity when supply was tight. Last winter 2.6 million signed up to use the service.

They will pay us to use electricity. So, we’ve a negative input cost. We can use that to make what? Note that it will be intermittent…..can’t, therefore run a furnace etc

34 thoughts on “Today’s business idea”

  1. This isn’t going to work at all. According to our green (sic) foreign minister, you just store the electricity in the network itself. Problem solved, just like that! Lots of solar in the summer to run your heat pumps in the winter.

  2. The problem is, many or most of the useful production processes that use electricity do so at elevated temperatures, so they need to be pretty much continuous to keep warm.

    Cannabis farms or other farm processes that need light could perhaps work intermittently on a daily basis though.

  3. Pure desperation!

    They seem to be finally realising the nature of the “anti-grid” their insane ideology is creating.

    In the real world this is about as realistic as a labour/tory manifesto.

    Business and industrial users simply cannot operate like this.

    Or is just intended for domestic users to con them into getting stupid meters? (Which does at least have a certain logic in their clown world)

  4. mining bitcoin is an obvious one, tho’ that no longer works at domestic scale at all

    Even with free electricity?

  5. The size of rig you might be able to have domestically will produce “a bitcoin” so rarely that it’ll be like the lottery. Would need to be part of a pool. Which could be done, obvs.

  6. They’re going to pay you for using electricity? FFS people! Think outside the box. Run an extension cable out to the garden & plug in any electric fires you have hanging about. For really coining it, scour jumble sales for more & have a 3-phase supply run in. There’s not a requirement to do anything useful with the electricity is there?

  7. They are hoping that people with more money than sense will buy battery systems. This distributed small scale is a very capital expensive way of storing electricity for a few hours, however the money comes from the consumers, so not a problem for the state. The big danger comes as all these small “generators” feed back onto the grid as they have to be load following not leading. The instability could take the grid down and be very very difficult to crank it back up again.

  8. As I understand it (and I only have a vague idea of how the grid works) there is a tipping point at which all added intermittent generation makes things worse and the risk of a cascading failure edges towsrds certainly.

  9. Martin Near The M25

    Needs a close look at the small print. I think by “pay you” they might mean “charge slightly less than the hugely inflated normal price at certain times”.

  10. I’d build a Musical Statues Dance Hall in every town. Start the music and disco lights when the bonus leccy comes on. I’d be coining it in.

  11. “We need something that uses electricity, where the cost of the electricity is the or a major cost, which produces something saleable and can be run on an intermittent basis.”

    No we don’t, we need a first world style power grid that supplies electricity on demand. Like the one that we used to have before these idiots screwed it up.

  12. @Paulthemanc – I have a swimming pool & variable rate electricity. I always use the heater & pump when electricity is cheap.

    @BiS – wasn’t there a scandal in Northern Ireland where subsidies for farmers meant -ve priced electricity so they just burnt as much as possible – & bankrupted the assembly?

  13. What you need is to electrolyse water and then take the hydrogen and mix it with some carbon (in some form) to make hydrocarbons or alcohols. You can then burn these in a generator / engine when the wind isn’t blowing,

    The tricky bit is combining the carbon and hydrogen (and optional oxygen) but you need to do that because storing hydrogen in raw form is a bugger.

  14. @Raffles.
    There was, and the Shinners used it to collapse the assembly, then extracted all sorts of unrelated sweeteners to bring it back (after three years). This was treated as fairly benign by the media.
    When the DUP collapsed the assembly for less time over the appalling Windsor Framework that Sunak lied about, this was seen as terrible and every day the media reported how bad it was.

  15. rhoda klapp
    June 12, 2024 at 8:07 am
    As I understand it (and I only have a vague idea of how the grid works) there is a tipping point at which all added intermittent generation makes things worse and the risk of a cascading failure edges towsrds certainly.

    The key to understanding how the grid works is – frequency. It MUST operate at 50Hz (60Hz in North America) +/- less than 1Hz.

    Imagine a bicycle with four riders/sets of pedals. The wheels must turn at a minimum rotation or the bike will fall over. Ideally each rider is putting in the same energy so the effort to keep the wheels turning is spread evenly. If one rider stops pedalling then the other three have to pedal harder to keep the bike upright. If a second stops pedalling, the remaining two must work harder.

    If the bike starts uphill, those two will have to work even harder, become exhausted and as the incline increases they won’t be able to keep the wheels turning fast enough and the bike will fall over.

    The bike is the grid, the riders power stations, the hill is increased demand. As power stations come off line, the remaining ones have to work harder to keep the frequency stable. With fossil fuel generators this is possible up to a point by increasing fuel burnt. They also have mechanical batteries – fly wheels – which store energy and add inertia to help keep frequency stable.

    With wind, as other generators drop out or demand increases, the turbines experience resistance from the grid, a braking effect which slows them, their frequency of output drops and safety relays will disconnect them from the grid. Since the wind cannot be ‘turned up’ to compensate, once disconnected they cannot return to the grid until the grid frequency stabilises. Solar is even worse.

    The more wind turbines added to the grid the worse the situation, because intermittency will increase, and there will be fewer fossil fuel generators to provide frequency inertia and stability.

    So it isn’t just about how much current can be supplied, it is the frequency that matters. And the frequency has to be balanced around the grid, so the ‘wind always blowing somewhere’ solves nothing, just increases instability.

    A few years ago when wind was 50% of the mix, a gas power station faulted and disconnected. This caused a frequency fluctuation which caused and wind farm to disconnect and the two events together caused a frequency drop which shut down a grid sector, which shut down another, then another.

    Had more gas stations been connected, their inertia would have prevented this.

    It is why no matter how many windmills are built an equivalent capacity of gas will be required to provide back-up and stability. Every GW of wind/solar will require a GW of gas. That means two parallel systems which is what in fact we have now. This is why prices have gone up and will continue to do so as more wind/solar are added.

  16. Could you use the windmills (with feathered blades) as at least rather short-term flywheel energy storage? Or is that an “out by several Fergusons” pipethought?

  17. @BiG
    If you were doing that, you’d want to be making the turbine blades out of cast iron not carbon fibre. Possibly lead cored.

    Surprised no-one else spotted that as ever in ripping someone off, the results of ones own actions have to factored into ones planning. The very fact that you’re making out like bandits out of their pay-to-use scheme will deter them from continuing it. So ideally one goes for the least capital investment deployed as quickly as possible to grab the money whilst it’s still available. Before someone else does.

  18. “They are hoping that people with more money than sense will buy battery systems”

    If they REALLY gave ‘leccy away for nothing I might think about using my home brewed emergency battery/inverter system on a more regular basis. The kicker (unfortunately), is I would have to get a Smart meter, something I’ve been holding out against.

    “Or is that an “out by several Fergusons” pipethought?”

    The vast majority of wind turbines are not “Synchronous” generators, but are connected to the grid via DC/AC inverters. This means they provide no “Inertia” like a conventional generator, and can’t provide any flywheel effect.

  19. Martin near the M25 has a point.
    British Gas is offering to halve the price of electricity when lots of unreliables are expected (they have to forecast an hour or two in advance) to generate low-cost electricity.
    The price of electricity is never going to be negative.
    This is the softer (private sector) version of demand management (British Gas have had half-price electricity on Sunday afternoon for months). I have pointed out on previous occasions that the UK doesn’t have enough potential Dinorwics for pumped storage to be a complete solution and batteries would lose most of their charge through leakage between the autumn equinox and the spring equinox. We have been co-operating (as far as seems reasonable) with British Gas because that seems far preferable to the arbitrary rationing that would follow from Caroline Lucas seizing power.

  20. Maybe it’s just because I work for a car manufacturer but the solution is is really, really f
    simple. Charge EVs with the excess. Bitcoin is all well and good but you’ll struggle to get a few hundred watts extra demand and your market size is tiny. EVs are pretty much government mandated from the next decade, and at least in my town, every fifth drive has one. Any company car driver has one unless they like paying tax or have an absurd commute, and they can suck up kW with a few clicks on an app. The energy demand from transport is huge, and can be incentivised very easily. Just look at the morons driving 30 miles to save 5p a litre at Costco…

  21. Sounds like someone in Russia will be looking round for a new job in couple of years. Hitching your future to yesterday’s technology brings career uncertainty.

  22. BiS is correct.

    The way things are going, I reckon the high tech personal transportation of the future is horses.

  23. “ They are hoping that people with more money than sense will buy battery systems. ”

    They’re not hoping, they’re forcing us to buy EVs. It’s now becoming obvious that it was always part of the plan to use them for grid storage. Next step, making it mandatory to connect them when the grid needs them.

  24. I’m no electrical engineer but I suspect that converting low voltage dc from your EV to high voltage ac to distribute through the grid is going to need some seriously expensive kit, sited on every street corner or the resistance losses will be unsustainable and the wires will fry from time to time. (Unless we open dozens of huge copper mines or find a way to make superconductors work at ambient temperature.)

  25. philip: The assumption may be that the EVs will be relatively local to where the demand is so the power will mostly circulate at the 11kV and 33kV levels. Of course those are also the networks that have the worse grid stability unless ramrodded from above by the high voltage grid. Glad I’m not a grid stability designer!

  26. @Steve
    The way things are going, I reckon the high tech personal transportation of the future is horses

    Given the ourage about a bit of sewage (99% water) in rivers, horses will be banned. Last time I was following military horses going back to Redford barracks from Tattoo they were followed by two road sweeper lorries

  27. BiND in Germany on the Dutch Border

    “ I’m no electrical engineer but I suspect that converting low voltage dc from your EV to high voltage ac to distribute through the grid is going to need some seriously expensive kit, sited on every street corner or the resistance losses will be unsustainable and the wires will fry from time to time. (Unless we open dozens of huge copper mines or find a way to make superconductors work at ambient temperature.)”

    About right, but that won’t stop them on the evidence so far – they’ll just mutter about the highs tech jobs it will create.

  28. Some bloke on't t'internet

    @ Stonyground
    The days of fitting supply to demand are over, “green” politics has seen to that. And I doubt it will come back any time soon. Don’t forget that a key feature mandated from the beginning in “smart” meters is the ability to do remote disconnects as a last resort for load management – i.e. a more granular version of the rolling blackouts some of us remember from the 70s.

    @ phillip
    We already have low voltage DC to low voltage AC and fed into the local grid – it’s in every consumer level PV installation, plus some small windfarms and hydro installations. And some EVs already include the ability to reverse power flow and export stored battery power to the grid.
    As Tractor gent points out, these largely just offset the local power demand, but if they do exceed it, then the local transformer will up-convert the 240V (or 415V in 3 phases) to the next level (typically 11kV these days) where it will offset demand in neighbouring local networks.

    As an aside, this has caused some issues for the local network operators. Traditionally, they’ve set the output voltage of their transformers to keep the supply voltage as high as possible (while staying within limits) as that reduces the current and hence the resistive losses in their network. When you reduce, or reverse, the power flow, you reduce or reverse the voltage drops – so they’ve had to reduce the output voltage tap on their transformers to avoid excessive voltages on sunny days.

    @ FrancisT
    Indeed, using excess lecky to generate hydrogen, and then use that to make other things (ethanol is a useful hydrocarbon) is indeed one way to do it. The technology already exists, but until we have significant amounts of excess zero-carbon generation then it’s of limited practicality (for which, read “economically viable”). If you could run most days of the year, varying output according to supply, then it’s probably viable – but who would invest massive amounts of money for something they’ll only be able to use for a few days a year. At the present, we simply do not have enough to get to a zero carbon grid for more than a few hours on a few days a year – when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing “just right”.
    Methanol is “easy” to make from atmospheric CO2 and H2 once you have a cheap and green H2 supply. You can store H2 without too much difficulty over short periods – so that gives you the ability to buffer the hour-by-hour changes in H2 output and keep the rest fo the plant running at a reasonably steady rate. Methanol is easy to store – and what’s more, if used as a road fuel we already have all the infrastructure to store, transport, and dispense it as it can pretty well replace petrol with some software changes (even old carbureted engines will run on it with jet changes, but then they can’t run on petrol).

  29. Make liquid plant feed, using lightning.

    To give more detail, get a bin of water with a spigot at the bottom, clamp a thick steel bar centrally above it, run in the electric current to the bar, get lightning which makes NO2 which drops into the water to make nitrates. Fill 1 litre containers and sell as tomato feed.

    Can be run intermittently, and at outdoor northern temperatures.

    Would need a nice grant to make pilot plant, refine the process, even if someone already knows the optimum conductor/water and other variables and will consult for you, still nice to have a grant.

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