Part 1: Prologue
Like all bases, mine started with steam. At this point I was paying little attention to the grid, simply adding more steam capacity when the power went out.
Then I discovered solar+accumulators. I learned that by using solar, my production was way up during the day and I needed the right proportion of accumulators to get through the night. So I simply added more solar+accumulators as needed.
Then I discovered nuclear. Nuclear fuel burns for a long time and once the reaction starts, you have to let it finish. So it's possible to use nuclear fuel inefficiently, as I discovered when I realized my nuclear reactor was activating in the early dawn and running throughout the day- almost all of that fuel cell was wasted.
Then I discovered switches and signals. I realized I could use the signal from the accumulator to drive 3 sub-grids via switches. During the daytime, when energy was surplus, combinators would flip ON the switch to my secondary bus. At night time, the primary and secondary buses switched OFF to preserve my vast walls of laser turrets.
Part 2: The problem
By this point, I had 1 nuclear reactor, a surplus of nuclear fuel and enormous solar+accumulator farms. With multiple reactors, I was able to deactivate my steam plant to limit pollution. My system worked great for a long time- until I ran out of nuclear fuel. My solar resources weren't enough to keep my lasers up all night and the biters nearly got me. I quickly reenabled my steam plant while I sussed out my nuclear fuel problem.
Using what I had learned, I realized that I could use signals to trigger the steam-plant as an emergency backup generator but it's also where I ran into trouble- steam engines already exhibit this behavior. You don't need signals to activate steam energy, as it scales up and down automatically according to need. If your grid can absorb more power, the steam engine turns. Otherwise, it just halts.
Part 3: Factorio mechanics as I understand them
If you are moving an item off an assembler and onto a belt, and that belt is already full, the inserter will halt. This will halt the assembler and ad infinitum. The same logic applies to fluids and pipe, and I suspect it's how the electrical grid works as well. Power suppliers insert units of electricity and these units are quickly routed to a machine. But just like the other transport mechanisms, if theres no room for additional electricity, the "inserter" halts, where in this case the "inserter" is a steam engine. It may be technically impossible to change this behavior. If so, please tell me!
Part 4: Network priorities
from the wiki:
Part 5: A modElectricity is provided on a priority basis. The demand for energy is satisfied by generators in following order:
Solar panels – Top priority; they always work at maximum performance available, unless they can cover all demand of the network, in which case they match demand.
Steam engines and Steam turbines – They match whatever demand solar panels cannot satisfy; note that Engines and Turbines do have the same priority, leftover demand is equally divided among both.
Accumulator – Last resort. They are only discharged when demand cannot be met by other means. They are also only charged when all demand is met, and there is yet more power available.
There may be situations where different behaviour is desired (such as solar panels combined with accumulators for night-and-day delivery), in which case clever use of a power switch and the circuit network is in order.
The goal of this screed is to explain my idea for a mod which removes these safe-guards, requiring the player to REALLY manage their grid. Electricity that is over-produced will simply be wasted. Boilers which are not disabled will continue to spew pollution, regardless of the electrical need. And accumulators now need to be controlled, switched between charging and discharging via signals. I would like full control of the electrical grid, without handrails.
But the real point of this post is to ascertain if such a mod is even possible
And if so, how difficult would it be?
Lastly, is my understanding of the grid mechanics accurate?