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T'was the night before Christmas and all through the town
The temperature was dropping, going down, down, down, down
The weatherman said that a front was to blame
A high pressure ridge from Alaska he claimed

It sat like a lump on the hard prairie stubble
Refusing to budge, clearly looking for trouble
On the map it was grinning, toothy and blue
From Montana through Texas to the Long Island zoo

And under that dome of slow falling air
Grew a problem so nasty it hardly seemed fair
For the flags hung like rags across the mid-west
Not a whisper of wind to wake them from rest

Outside of the town the turbines stopped spinning
On the weatherman's map the cold front kept grinning
At the company office the manager frowned
As the power from the wind farms kept going down

A coal-fired plant was called and called fast
They'd always been there in a pinch in the past

"We can't help you out" was the somber reply
Our boilers have been cold since the 4th of July
It will take us all night with a talented crew
To get things in order and working like new

The manager hung up the phone with a sigh
He had one last option he knew he could try

He called up the plant that was fired by gas
"Can you give us more power?" the foreman was asked
"I would if I could but the answer is 'No'
We're going full out – any more and she'll blow!"

So he hung up again – no more numbers to call
All attention was fixed on the instrument wall
The manager watched as the meter hit zero
He knew the next day he would not be a hero

The grid creaked and groaned then it finally buckled
It seemed like the weather map grin actually chuckled

And now it spread out like a fast moving fire
The blackout was coming the outlook was dire
In no time at all the breakers were flipping
The wires were sparking, transformers were tripping

One after one the streetlights went out
In the blink of an eye there was clearly no doubt
That this was a night that we all would remember
As the coldest darn night in the darkest December

Now some folks stayed warm by a hearth that was crackling
But for most bitter cold finally made them start packing
And in thousands of homes linemen pulled on their boots
As they headed outdoors trying to turn on the juice

And back to the coal-fired plants went the men
That had kept the lights on since I don't know just when
They worked through the night and by noon Christmas Day
The dinners were cooking in the usual way

A few short days later the cold front receded
The wind farms spun up, coal no longer was needed

The utility manager decided to go
To visit a plant, maybe stop, say hello
They shared some bad coffee as they sat for a while
Then a grizzled old coal-man spoke up with a smile

"Now I'm a recycler and I love to hug trees
But wind without storage is just a big tease
Here is one thing that I know for a fact
You didn't quite get it when you called for the MACT"

"My dirty old cold-fired plant had to close
But when it comes down to it everyone knows
My coal-fired plant you can count on to run
No matter what happens with the wind and the sun"

"If you really want power through all kinds of weather
Treat coal with respect - we can work well together"

The manager left but what stuck in his head
Were the words that the grizzled old coal-man had said
Energy storage is something we need
Without it "green power" is useless indeed

We can launch a sleek rocket, land a robot on Mars
We can build hybrid engines to power our cars
A storage solution can surely be found
If we dare to think different, turn our thoughts upside-down

Taleb and Khosla have shown us the way
It's "Black Swan" ideas that are needed today.

 


P.S. If you think this poem is far-fetched, check out the weather map for November 22, 2013 or this one from January 7, 2015

Other blogs in this series are available at http://www.theblackswanblog.com/blog1.

Background documents used in the writing of this blog are at http://www.theblackswanblog.com/BSB_Library/index.html

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