Power grid holding back renewable energy advances
Nearly the biggest problem today facing clean energy production lies in the ability to reliably transmit that energy from high renewable energy producing states to low producing states. Without being able to get wind and solar energy to the people and business that use it, no amount of production will help to meet future goals.
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.
That is a symptom of a broad national problem. Expansive dreams about renewable energy, like Al Gore’s hope of replacing all fossil fuels in a decade, are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.
The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not.
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.
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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......more