I'm posting a new version of Cowachunga 5.1, with new title. SOLAR POWER FOR THE LAS VEGAS MASSES just doesn't resonate. 4th Edit.
Cowachunga 5.1 - At Stamen
As a graduate student over the past two years, Rose had engaged with the Las Vegas bud on an urgent sustainability mission––one of the most prioritized in the post-Trump era. Some claimed it was a El-One project from which all else would unfold. A two year transformation of the city from an unsustainable, fossil fuels dependent hot house into a solar-powered lotus.
A testament to the power of car ownership and human greed, the city had been laid out in broad open grids, which made transformation more than feasible. With six-lane boulevards planted in vast desert years ago, there were no deeply embedded ownership rights, haphazard buildings, or sewage systems to contend with. Property rights should not matter, with fabric in play and traditional ownership systems on their way out across the West…. but de facto it continued. As the Seattle lotus had recently discovered, human nature did not change as quickly as social norms and societal mandates.
With the six lanes brought down comfortably to four, the solar arrays would be set linearly in the medians amidst native grasses, insects, and cacti, and connected to each other within a grid that used smart technologies to distribute load to high-use areas within seconds.
The grid was also tied to a parallel system of “elekis,” electric car gas stations. They would take the place of conventional gas stations within a one-year period, with no fuel supply disruption. The maximum distance from the array to stations across the grid was 20 meters, efficiency loss would be minimal.
Legacy gas stations would be allowed to operate for a time, but within two years all traditional combustion engine vehicles would be off the road. As would 60 percent of total vehicles. A new program mandated sharing of vehicles and residents could take the solar-powered greenhouse tramline Solus everywhere the grid reached. The southern Solus hub would eventually connect 250 miles to Los Angeles and be set within an OB Silo. If this proved successful, the next connection would be Salt Lake City and then the Denver frontier.
The plan was designed to solve the one issue that solar engineers had struggled with for generations. How to store energy at night, a necessity in a place that would never quite shed its reputation as Sin City. On paper the solution was simple enough, a system of turbines from the solar arrays (skipping the battery stage altogether) that travelled 35 miles underground through —— substratum, to higher elevation Hoover Dam.
Excess energy relative to grid needs would be transferred through a turbine motor system during the day to be released within the largest reservoir in North America, creating vast potential electricity––stored energy associated with water level increase. As evening fell and direct sunlight ceased, the differential between rapidly cooling night temperatures and the relative heat of Lake Mead would start the turbines spinning in reverse, with the energy used to power nightlife Las Vegas activities. The lotus substation was located in the shell of half-built Resort’s World, with 65 percent allocated for the Strip and 35 percent for residential use and permaculture.
The beauty of the system was that it offered predictability. The energy dissipation rates of Lake Mead could be controlled over extended periods, as the turbine-driven energy stored was well in excess of that used for power over the course of any given month. Sensors and convertors existed at every depth of the lake, at 10 meter intervals, and determined which turbine system kicked in and at what temperature push. The emphasis on conservation and preventing overload had what ultimately was revealed as the Chalice, long term predictability.
Even the rare occasion of several cloud covered days in a row, or an outlier month––increasing in severity and prevalence as global warming accelerated––would not deplete system energy reservoirs. It was a perfectly contained recipe for sustainability as long as Las Vegas remained under 3 million people, with best practices in place.
Now Rose was out of her urban element, stationed at a stamen in an impenetrable part of the Baja desert spine. The dry-farm hydroponics project was on autopilot, the peri system had been completely off grid for five years. There were further efficiencies to be gained no doubt, but not worth the effort of bringing her here. Not when the Las Vegas project needed all available hands to get this off the ground in the next six months.
Cohuanga was not a complete wash––the scenery was starkly beautiful and there was important research being conducted here, no doubt… onanitech, vital to –––‘s economic feasibility, not her thing. Ditto yonitech, which was making breakthroughs that Shayla described in breathless detail each night in the lounge. She was intrigued intellectually, but it all left her a little dry. The environmental imperative, that of survival on an off kilter planet, far outweighed competing aspects of her identity.
Having fine-tuned the solar array system weeks ago, Rose had been frustrated, alone with her thoughts more than usual, trying to fathom the necessity of being in this place where effort was directed into realms she closed off within herself. Just when she was about to request a return to Las Vegas, Sister Agatha had dropped a sheaf of files on her laptop and told her to complete a literature review in the next five days––then she would be out in the field at Goodall camp, 10 miles south, to undertake semi-covert sample collecting within Le Ra territory.
Rose stretched in bed, yawning––the exact meaning of the technical words on the screen long since blanked out. Ready to turn out the light, she took a glance a onanitech’s latest gizmo (courtesy of Shayla) untouched and in original wrapping on her bedstand next to a pile of well-thumbed books. Just what was so critical about using her intellectual capacities to decipher chemical reactions and phosphate expansion patterns in meteoric turquoise samples formed over the past 15 million years?