Occupy Ottawa update II: it’s still possible to run on grid power

A lot of the criticism of the Occupy phenomenon has centred on its general incoherence on substantive policy. What do the Occupiers want? The movement started with Occupy Wall Street, which might suggest disapproval of the Wall Street bailouts from 2008 and 2009 and a belief that the Street brought the financial calamity on itself.

But walk through an Occupy site and you’ll see placards and slogans that indicate Occupiers are concerned with much more than just Wall Street. Anybody familiar with the organized street protests that have occurred in North American cities in the last few decades will see familiar themes: the environment, poverty, general inequality. They’ll also notice the same alleged culprits: big business, oil companies, banks, government. Occupy Ottawa is no different in this respect.

This is why I shook my head at the irony of a placard reading “Protect the Environment” while a gasoline-powered electricity generator noisily ran only a few meters away.

It is true that the occupiers had their power cut by the NCC, which owns the site.

But cutting the occupiers off the electricity grid doesn’t automatically force them onto the gasoline grid. There is equipment available that could easily wheel clean, cheap grid power to the Occupy Ottawa site.

This equipment is the chargeable lead-acid battery. Grid-charged batteries could easily meet Occupy Ottawa’s electricity demand.

As I pointed out on November 16, if the batteries are charged from the Ontario grid, then Occupy Ottawa could meet its electricity needs far more cheaply and cleanly than by using gasoline.

Even more so if the batteries were charged right across the river, in Quebec, where electricity is the cheapest and cleanest on the whole continent.

Come on, Occupy Ottawa. Show some due diligence. The sign says “Protect the Environment.” So practice what you preach. Prove that those who say you have no policy coherence are wrong.

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If you take into account the fact that a lead-acid battery,
while being discharged, heats itself hardly at all, while
a gasoline-burning generator set typically produces three times
more heat in the air around it than its electricity can produce
in a teakettle, you get one gallon of gasoline being replaceable
by, um, 550 pounds of battery.

So it’s cheaper if and only if a building supplies truck
with an on-board crane will frequently take away a pallet-load
of spent batteries, and come back and set the pallet back down,
charged. Or equivalent free infrastructure, such as numerous
Occupier volunteers willing to make frequent hand-truck runs
with one or two batteries.

8 years ago

As to the battery issue, we are *just* on the cusp of major change here. Li-ion (and li-po) battery technology is entering the steep part of the product development S-curve. LG has stated that prices of Li-ion will fall by a factor of 2 every two to three years until 2020. They also expect a doubling of capacity. So by 2020 the price/performance is predicted to be eight times better. At that point, lead-acid is dead.

And I say that as a guy that sources lead-acid batteries for off-grid and grid-backup systems.