Friday, February 26, 2010

Earth Hour 2010 Busted Again

It's almost time for the annual lunacy known as "Earth Hour." Last year's was a complete bust, as I wrote on here. Briefly, eco-nuts around the world thought it would be great fun to turn out the lights for an hour, and then tell themselves how cool they are and how they are saving the planet by not using electricity and not burning that horrid fossil fuel that everyone knows is making the global warming...err, climate change....nope, this week the correct term is climate weirding, or is it climate strangeness, or perhaps climate chaos? Nobody seems sure anymore, as they keep seeking a catchy phrase. Whatever the catch-phrase, the appointed Earth Hour time is 8:30 p.m. local time, on March 27, 2010.

Briefly, last year I managed to catch a screen-shot of California's power grid for the day on which Earth Hour occurred, and the graph showed absolutely zero blip in the smooth curve before, during, and after the so-called event. Then, I caught the same grid results for the following week, which had no power shenanigans and also showed no blip in the curve.

This year, on this blog post, I plan to capture the Saturday grid charts for California and post them here for the two weeks before, the actual Earth Day, and the week after. It should make for an interesting comparison. (UPDATE March 13, 2010: see below for Figure 1 and this Saturday's power consumption in California. No blips or dips between 8 and 10 p.m., just a smooth decline in power consumption.)

After all, California is the leader (or so they continually remind anyone who will listen) in going green, with a state law known as AB 32 that will vault California to the fore-front of economic prosperity, low unemployment, and almost zero carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. Or so they say. I, however, have serious doubts and have expressed them on this blog, and a few other places. The realities of physics and engineering win out every time, a lesson that California's government has not learned, apparently. Which is strange, because they have a large contingent of Civil Engineers - men and women who should certainly know better.

Stay tuned, and we can see how 4 eco-nuts turning out 2 light bulbs has absolutely zero impact on the vast power grid that powers California. By way of explanation, California's power grid usually peaks at around 8:00 p.m. on a Saturday night at the end of March, with approximately 26 Giga-Watts of power consumed. So, when the eco-nuts turn off their 2 light bulbs, each consuming 50 watts, is anyone really expecting the grid to notice?

In fairness, judging from the hilarious comments on Anthony Watts' blog last year, a fair number of people around the world compensated by turning on every light and appliance they had. Ah well. Earth Hour, theatre of the absurd.

UPDATE 2 March 13, 2010: We can see the impact on the state's power grid from millions of lights being turned off as the sun rises, at around 6:00 a.m. in Figure 1. No similar dip occurs around 8:30 p.m. (20:30 on Figure 1). [end update 2]

Figure 1 - power curve for March 13, 2010 in California

Figure 2 - power curve for March 20, 2010 in California

UPDATE 3 - March 28, 2010: Figure 3 below shows the California power consumption on March 27, 2010, which includes "Earth Hour" from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (see graph for 20 to 22 hrs, and the half-way positions). Pretty smooth, as usual, from what I can see. There may have been a very small dip right at 8:30 p.m. (20:30 hours), and another dip at 10:00 p.m. (22:00 hours). Still it was nothing like the dip at around 6:30 a.m. when the street lights and security lights are turned out.

Figure 3 - power curve for March 27, 2010 in California

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

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