US Electric Grid Not Keeping Up With Renewable Energy Growth

maple ridge windfarm photo

Maple Ridge windfarm photo: David Laribee

The problem of the United States' electrical transmission capacity not be ready for a renewable energy big push, in particular the large-scale wind farms planned for the Great Plains, is a subject coming increasingly into the spotlight. The main issue is that the areas with greatest wind capacity are far away from the population centers most in need of the energy.

The New York Times is running a good piece describing the situation. In typical Times fashion, its very descriptive, so rather than trying to distill it for you I'll just pull out some quotes to tease you into reading more:

Maple Ridge Wind Farm Bumps Against Transmission Limitations

When the builders of the Maple Ridge Wind farm spent $320 million to put nearly 200 wind turbines in upstate New York, the idea was to get paid for producing electricity. But at times, regional electric lines have been so congested that Maple Ridge has been forced to shut down even with a brisk wind blowing.

A "Balkanized" Grid
The grid today, according to experts, is a system conceived 100 years ago to let utilities prop each other up, reducing blackouts and sharing power in small regions. It resembles a network of streets, avenues and country roads.

The power grid is balkanized, with about 200,000 miles of power lines divided among 500 owners. Big transmission upgrades often involve multiple companies, many state governments and numerous permits. Every addition to the grid provokes fights with property owners.

These barriers mean that electrical generation is growing four times faster than transmission, according to federal figures.

Windiest Areas Not Near Population Centers
Wind advocates say that just two of the windiest states, North Dakota and South Dakota, could in principle generate half the nation's electricity from turbines. But the way the national grid is configured, half the country would have to move to the Dakotas in order to use the power.

via :: The New York TImes
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