Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Energy
Department of Energy
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9/15/22  10:07 am
Commenter: Walter Mendenhall

Better Energy Alternatives

As an electrical engineer who has spent many years analyzing, designing and developing electrical power systems including substations and large scale electronic energy conversion equipment, I  support Governor Youngkin's decisions to stop RGGI, repeal the VA Clean Economy Act, and restoring SCC oversight over Dominion so rate payers are not paying for financially risky energy alternatives that otherwise would not be funded. Over many years of participation in IEEE Power Engineering Society meetings, I am aware of many badly incentivized and implemented Dominion Energy's and other utility's  projects that are  marginal productive at best and that were installed on sole basis of badly constructed financial incentives. As examples, acres of Dominion-owned solar panels oriented nearly flat to avoid more expensive wind-lift prevention structural support and the fixed tilt of panels to obtain peak energy capture in late afternoon with the intention of offsetting peak energy demand rather that peak energy efficiency. This is similar to that now infamous prediction called the "Duck Curve" from well over a decade ago that predicted peak solar energy production would have to be cut off (as it is in California today) because the demand does not line up with production and other energy sources such as nuclear and fossil would have to be throttled back out of their peak efficiency operating regions. There for the excess energy produced by solar is "dumped".

Thomas Edison designed and drove an electric car without any government subsidies or incentives. We need private investment to improve the 3 fundamental problems to make our energy cleaner. These are 1) energy conversion, 2) energy transportation and 3) energy storage. When government has been involved with any of these 3 initiatives we taxpayers have historically suffered waste, fraud, and abuse of our financial resources.

The fundamental problem with energy conversion from sunlight, wind, water flow (tidal as well as river) is that these sources are not where we need to use the energy or when we want to use it. One solution would be to use these resources to convert water to hydrogen. This process is underdeveloped and needs attention as well as the storage and transportation of this very small and difficult to contain molecule. But the benefit is that when it is consumed the byproduct is simply non-toxic hot water vapor. 

The technology available for the conversion of our grid to direct current (dc) that would provide much less loss in our distribution and transmission systems that has been implemented in much of the world, but very little in Virginia and the rest of the US. This technology (e.g. Tres Amigas project to link the Texas grid with the rest of the US grids is one example).  implementation of this type of system would be a large step forward for more efficient energy transport.

One of the best examples of energy storage in the world is right here in Virginia in Bath County where two large lakes use pumped storage of water to moderate the large swings between demand and production needs for Dominion Power allowing them to maintain their energy production resources that are designed to operated at a constant output to achieve peak efficiency. More of this please!

Often overlooked is the decades of development of very safe nuclear reactors that are modular and can operate very safely with Thorium instead of Uranium. These new reactors do not produce long life radioactive waste and can even be used to consume the old spent uranium based fuels reducing our costs to keep that material in safe storage.

Today's battery technology for electric cars is enriching China and damaging the people and environment of countries where cobalt and lithium are being mined.  Before any more tragic waste of our precious resources including capital, please consider a hard look at alternatives.  

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