Submitted by New Energy News Blog

Finally, there is something good about the dark cloud of crash slowly moving over the bright growth of New Energy’s last 3 years.If conservative members in Congress hold true to their drill-or-nothing mentality and block extension of vital wind energy production tax credits (PTCs) and investment tax credits (ITCs), the booms in the solar and wind energy industries are likely to be dramatically truncated.

The silver lining: This might give power grid regulators a chance to take action.

In order to put New Energy to work to its fullest potential, the U.S. needs a $60 billion investment in new transmission infrastructure.

Matthew L. Wald, NY Times: “The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not.”

The U.S. grid is antiquated. It is often described as “…streets, avenues and country roads.”

With the U.S. wind industry aiming to produce 20% of U.S. electricity by 2030 and the U.S. solar industry aiming for 10% of U.S. power by 2025, the nation is going to need something better.

Suedeen G. Kelly, member, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; “We need an interstate transmission superhighway system…”

The U.S. grid: ~200,000 miles of wires with ~500 owners. Result: Upgrades involve multiple companies, multiple states, multiple permits and many backyards (as in Not-In-My-BackYard NIMBYs).

Catch 22: National leaders are aware of the need for a new grid but must defer to states on the issue. State leaders have better things to do with their budget funds than build infrastructure to send power out-of-state.

Within states, Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZs) are making progress possible. Texas has been aggressive about building transmission to deliver its own wind power to its own cities. California is moving on transmission to get its own solar power to its cities.

T. Boone Pickens, energy entrepreneur and wind energy advocate: ““If you want to do it on a national scale, where the transmission line distances will be much longer, and utility regulations are different, Congress must act…”

Yeah, well, good luck with getting Congress to take action on anything more controversial than lunch, Boone.

One possible way out of the conundrum: Renewable Electricity Standards (RESs) are now mandated in over half the states. The laws require utilities to get a certain amount of power from New Energy sources onto the grid by a date certain. Such statutory parameters could force the states to act.

Plans exist for adequate transmission. American Electric Power (AEP) drew up a transmission vision for a network of new 765-kV lines. (See BLACKOUT PLUS 5 YEARS: BETTER GRID, NEW VISIONThe trick is getting the plans built. Many in the “know” are not optimistic. Perhaps a time-out on the building of new generating infrastructure will give everybody a chance to take a look at the situation, especially under the ambitious eye of a new administration and a new Congress.The good news: Boone Pickens says the entire cost can be covered by entrepreneurs if legislators can free them up to act.

The bad news: Action will almost certainly require exercising the right of eminent domain.

Does the need for a 21st century transmission infrastructure justify taking someone’s private property? Does it justify taking YOUR private property?

Solutions: (1) Build new transmission in existing corridors. (2) Bury the new transmission. (3) Pay justly for the rights-of-way needed, making those imposed upon partners instead of opponents.

This CAN happen. It MUST happen.

The U.S. needs $60 billion in new, 765-kV “superhighway” lines in the next 2 decades. (click to enlarge)

Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid’s Limits
Matthew L. Wald, August 26, 2008 (NY Times)

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) (Suedeen G. Kelly, member); U.S. Department of Energy (DOE); American Electric Power (AEP)

Building the New Energy infrastructure of the 21st century will require a $60 billion investment in new transmission infrastructure.

The U.S. grid is a crazy quilt embroidered with NIMBY-ism. (click to enlarge)

– The U.S. grid was conceived at the beginning of the age of electricity, shortly after the beginning of the 20th century, to allow utilities to share their power supplies.
– Old lines carry less power and lose more of the power they carry as they carry it.
– Power generating capacity is growing 4 times faster than power carrying capacity.
– New York state has essentially not built a new power line in 20 years.

– Solar energy-generated electricity will need a better grid for 2 reasons: (1) solar power plants will be concentrated in the southwest and will need to deliver power to populations centers and (2) distributed rooftop generation needs special 2-way management.
– Wind energy-generated electricity will need a better grid to deliver its power from the Midwestern plains, the Great Lakes region and offshore installations of the Mid-Atlantic Bight.

– The $60 billion cost of new transmission can be spread over years and paid for by tens of millions of electricity consumers.
– Ex of the problem: Maple Ridge Wind farm in upstate NY, $320 million, ~200 turbines, frequently even during times of good wind, cannot deliver its generation due to tie-ups on the grid.
– Ex of the problem: Wyoming remains undeveloped due to the lack of transmission to deliver power to population centers in the sunbelt.
– Ex of the problem: After the 2005 energy bill gave DOE the power to act but when it designated Mid-Atlantic and Southwestern regional transmission corridors, 14 Senators ojected.
– Ex of the problem: States object because they fear the sale of their cheap power in other markets would drive their prices up.

Congress gave the right, DOE designated corridors and the states freaked out. (click to enlarge)

– Gabriel Alonso, chief development officer, Horizon Wind Energy: “The windiest sites have not been built, because there is no way to move that electricity from there to the load centers…”
– Kevin M. Kolevar, assistant secretary/electricity delivery and energy reliability, DOE: “Modernizing the electric infrastructure is an urgent national problem, and one we all share…”
– Bill Richardson, Governor, New Mexico: “We still have a third-world grid…With the federal government not investing, not setting good regulatory mechanisms, and basically taking a back seat on everything except drilling and fossil fuels, the grid has not been modernized, especially for wind energy.”

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