A Commentary On Alternate Energy Sources

By James Fox,

To backup and give credence to my column demanding a longer lasting solution to California's ongoing electrical power shortages, and my suggestion of spending the money to install tidal power stations instead of the 1,303,315,200 gallon-per-year, water wasting, natural gas gulping and short-lived gas turbine power generators; I'd like to present the following:

Site: Derby Tidal Power Station

Capital cost of tidal power stations varies between A$1 - 3 million per MW of installed generation capacity, dependent on site requirements, design and electricity demand. Tidal power stations require no raw material inputs using instead the energy available in daily tidal movements. Their 40 year plant overhaul interval and fully automatic operation minimize running costs.

Staffing Required

Tidal and run of river power stations are designed for fully automatic operation with minimal operation and maintenance personnel. Up to 6 personnel on larger sites may be required.


No special training requirements for tidal power station operational personnel exist other than that adopted by the electricity generation industry.


Special expertise is required at the development phase of any tidal or run of river power station. TEA may by agreement transfer such expertise to third party organizations.

This power station is scheduled to start producing May.

Tidal Energy Australia developed a unique double-basin tidal power station design generating constantly with Zero emissions a world first and over 450 kilometers of transmission lines. Its unique design features include barrage and sluice gate engineering and possible use of a novel turbine generator configuration.

The double basin design allows up to 48 MW of continuous electricity generation from the tides per hour. The turbine - generator technology may provide substantial capital and civil costs reductions being physically smaller and more readily available than conventional turbines. Converter technology use assures that variable water flows can be harnessed, producing uniform power output whilst computer models match power production-demand up to 2020.

TEA is keen to further develop its turbine-generator technology which is applicable to other low head hydro schemes such as 'run of the river' applications. The units are relatively compact by comparison to conventional turbines, capital costs are likely to be reduced and require only simplified civil structures. Thus technology transfer to other low head hydro electric opportunities is straight forward, whilst the potential for capital savings may turn marginally viable projects into viable commercial ventures.

The Tidal power station in France generates 240 MW of power, (almost the same as our High Desert Power Plant) while using no fuel and destroying nothing and costing very little to operate.

My point is this: California's Governor's efforts at solving the problem are a sham. This whole thing is about money involving the state, deregulated power supplier and fuel suppliers -- result the public health and welfare is at risk. What is required is a solution for the future. I think Tidal power stations are the answer for California with its hundreds of miles of coastline.

Wasted Energy

As a follow up on my recent column about utilizing our coastline and the ever-present tides to supplement our energy production, I'd like to offer the following additional suggestion for utilization of our California Aqueduct as a source that requires little modification to supply even more cheap energy.

Key features of the SWP include Oroville Dam---tallest in the nation---the 444-mile long California Aqueduct, San Luis Reservoir---largest offstream storage reservoir in the US---eight hydroelectric powerplants, and 17 pumping plants, including the A. D. Edmonston Pumping Plant, which powers water almost 2,000 feet up and over the Tehachapi Mountains, where the SWP crosses the mountains into southern California.

Lets take the Pearblossom station for a practical example for our local communities...last month, April 2001, the California Aquaduct delivered 50,000 acre-feet of water to the Pearblossom station. I won't illustrate the math., but the flowrate figures to be 377 gallons per minute if it flowed constantly 24 hours per day.

Now considering the width and depth of the aqueduct, a floating object wouldn't move very fast, but if periodic locks were installed where for a short distance the flow area was reduced to a pipe with a gate valve to control the flow, the velocity of the water being forced through the pipe would become more than enough to drive small turbines to produce energy in hundreds of strategic locations. along that 444 mile trip.

I personally feel that our so-called energy crisis is caused by either gross incompetence or by design. If you analyze the details, you might agree:

First, California power load is still 10,000 MW below peak delivery of last Summer.

Second, Slightly over 1/3 of the generation plants are down for "maintenance".

Third, There was an unplanned 500 KW outage, which was compensated for by shutting down the pumps of the California Aqueduct system temporarily.

(a) Blame is being placed on the early and extra cold winter. However, a quick perusal of the Farmers Almanac shows that this is expected and no surprise, or shouldn't be.

(b) The real blame probably rests on the head of the idiot that allowed so many plants to go on scheduled maintenance at the same time.

(c) Shutting down the aqueduct is real bad. Some of Bill Mullholland's design depends on siphon effect and if the siphon breaks it takes weeks of massive power usage in order to restore it.

They can't shut it down too long or it'll cost too much power to bring it back up. Leaving it down isn't an option, too many people depend on that water. It's looking more like a management screw-up and more people are beginning to realize it.

The deregulators were so busy deregulating that future usage planning was catastrophic. Forcing the local utilities to sell off their generators may not have been very smart either. Current power capacity scheduling was also bungled. The timing can only be either gross incompetence or cunning design.

My conclusion is that we must concentrate on local available sources of energy and we must get the profit factor out of the equation.