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Frontlines

DC power makes a comeback in this vision of neighborhood grids and fuel cells on wheels.
Fortnightly Magazine - October 15 2000

a price for this 'imbalance energy,' which is the inventory of electricity called upon by control area operators to balance the grid at three-second intervals.

"Three seconds," said Lively, "is how quickly the inventory of electricity turns over. So by the time of next fall's wheat harvest (one full inventory cycle in wheat), the electricity inventory has turned over thousands or millions of times. That's why a hot day today doesn't impact tomorrow's power price—just as a dry summer doesn't boost next century's wheat price, after the wheat inventory has turned over a hundred times. Next century is a futures market. And everyone knows how volatile futures markets are, and how they move on a whim.

"That is why electricity prices are so fouled up."

I thought I understood, but even Amory Lovins will concede the limits of engineering. "In theory," he says, "theory and practice are the same. But in practice, they're not."

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