This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Dear Washington,

I know, we’ve started getting good at saving energy, and that’s a good thing – keep at it.  Except maybe wait a month or two.  You see, because we had a huge amount of snow this year we actually have too much energy – not a problem we’re used to having in our modern world.  Our dams are so full that not only has the Bonneville Power Administration (the folks in charge of these things) cut off coal and natural gas plants, but they’ve even started cutting off wind farms.  The issue is that unless we generate a whole lot of electricity using our dams, we’ll have to “spill” water, or allow it to bypass our generators, and that apparently oxygenates the water and is bad for fish.  Of course that’s a terrible deal for the wind producers who have gone and invested in a renewable power source just to be told to turn off their wind turbines for a while.

So, for a limited time only, don’t bother line drying your laundry.  Power wash the driveway like you’ve been meaning to for years.  Take a few long hot baths (assuming you have an electric water heater).  But enjoy it while it lasts.  Your local wind farmer will thank you.

(I actually think the best thing they could do is announce a statewide one month rate reduction.  That will keep those wind farms in business.  Or even better – use smart meters for real-time pricing, to let you know hour by hour what your electricity costs and let you – or your next generation super-smart dishwasher – base your usage on how strong the wind is blowing on the other side of the state. )

4 Replies to “This month only: feel free to use more energy”

  1. (engineer’s note) I love that picture. I hadn’t realized about the oxygenation issue before. Bringing all of that water down to the bottom of the dam would require a release of energy. Normally, they use this energy to create electricity. If they just let it coast down in a laminar way, that energy would turn into momentum – they’d have a fast moving current that would tear up the river bed. But by designing the dam such that the water becomes turbulent you turn much of that energy into heat. Of course the water would also absorb quite a bit of oxygen, since it would be well mixed with air. That’s what all of the white is in that picture – air mixed with water, crashing down and turning potential energy into friction and heat rather than velocity.

    Of course another way of setting the water down gently below would be by turning a turbine and using the energy to do, well just about anything. I would imagine Washington will be producing a whole lot of aluminum this month.

  2. Thanks for your feedback, Bruce. You can email me at “or” at “” if you have any questions about the site. I’ll look into adding a contact form in the meantime. :)

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