Power grid holding back renewable energy advances

electric power line towers

The New York Times has published an article on an aging power grid and the potential setbacks to wind energy and other sources of renewable energy.

Current electric transmission lines are not able to handle the load produced my massive wind farms such as the Maple Ridge Wind Farm in New York.  The 200 turbine strong wind farm, is being forced to shut down production at times to cope with fees that are associated with pumping too much electrical current into the power grid.  This bottle neck is limiting the advances of wind power and is one of the major drawbacks slowing down the implementation of a nation wide renewable energy grid. 

While wind turbines located in places like the Mid-West can generate much more power than the same turbines placed on the east coast, there is not yet a reliable way of transmitting the electricity needed across many states.  Since control of power grids is generally left to state governments, there is little incentive to provide better transmission to out-of-state facilities.  Within each state, transmission lines may be owned by many different companies, causing any upgrades to be a painstaking process.  The Energy Policy Act of 2005 allowed the U.S. government to extend approval of transmission lines in the event that states are not providing upgrades and maintenance, through this has led to little direct expansion and infrastructure upgrades, especially in relation to peak supplies of inconsistent energy sources such as wind power.
The issue of transmitting electricity throughout the United States is something that must be recognized and remedied before further goals of expanding our renewable energy base can be implemented further.  The problems facing the aging power grid are by no means new.  In 2001, North American Electric Reliability Council, was advising congress on the problems facing the current power infrastructure.  Seven years later we are still facing the same concerns but on a much larger scale.  Incentives for renewable energy are great, but the United States must realize that it means nothing if transporting electricity can not be carried out in an efficient, reliable manner.

Companies such as MidAmerican Energy, which happens to lead the country in generation of wind power, and American Electric Power are making steps to help improve transmission lines that will carry some of the renewable energy that is generated throughout the U.S.  This proposal shows that energy companies have something to gain by working together to transmit the power that they are producing.  Without partnerships like these, future renewable energy projects can not proceed at a profitable level. 

While, further development in technologies such as Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) and fuel cells, may allow temporary storage of electricity generated by renewable energy sources, transporting energy from state to state is still a needed upgrade to contend with the U.S. goal of energy independence.

Wind Farm

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