The Problem: Wind farms located in the Great Plains will be a long distance from where the electricity they generate will be used. Wind energy is not a steady source of generation like coal or natural gas. A wind- and solar-based system will of necessity be located farther from population centers, requiring more power substations and more transmission lines. The tab for the upgrade to the nation’s electric transmission grid will be $130 billion, which in the old days sounded like a lot of money.
Obstacle: The states that must be crossed with the New and Improved Transmission Grid don’t stand to benefit much. Where once stood amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties, they’ll get giant raptor cusinarts and miles of ugly electric transmission lines.
The “Solution”: Federalize the siting of the New and Improved Transmission Grid. Take it out of the hands of state and local authorities.
Aug. 7 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama’s push for wind and solar energy to wean the U.S. from foreign oil carries a hidden cost: overburdening the nation’s electrical grid and increasing the threat of blackouts.
The funding Obama devoted to get high-voltage lines ready for handling the additional load of alternative supplies is less than 5 percent of the $130 billion that power users, producers and the U.S. Energy Department say is needed. …
The consequences of failing to improve the grid played out last year in Texas, the biggest U.S. generator of wind power with 7,907 megawatts, enough to supply about 6.3 million homes. When winds died in February 2008, utilities had to cut power to factories and offices as output dropped 82 percent. …
The outdated network led to the nation’s worst blackout six years ago this month. It cut power to 50 million people in eight states and the Canadian province of Ontario, causing about $10 billion in damages.
Obama targets 25 percent renewables by 2025, more than five times the current amount, excluding hydroelectric, the Energy Department says. That would add about 272,000 megawatts to the grid’s capacity of 830,000, further straining a transmission system largely built more than five decades ago.
Reality is worse than the article states. Most of the current renewable source of energy is hydro and geothermal. Wind and solar are only 1%. Energy demand will be higher in 2025, if only from increased population. We’re expecting electrical generation to grow by a factor of at least 25, notwithstanding the fact that installed megawatts can only be counted on to deliver one-sixth (1/6) of their design capacity.
So where are all of those new power lines going to go? Not to worry…
One obstacle is the lack of federal authority to choose locations for new lines. Investor T. Boone Pickens, who met with Obama in Reno, Nevada, last August, is helping lead the push to address that.
“I told Obama that it has to be like Eisenhower did in 1956 with the national highway,” Pickens said in a July 7 interview, referring to President Dwight Eisenhower’s expansion of the interstate highway system for economic development and national security. “You could solve this within 10 years. All we need is federal siting authority.”
Public enthusiasm for wind and solar energy is directly related to its reliability. Right now it is a 1% supplement to a system that relies on gas, coal, nukes, hydro and geothermal. Things will be a lot different long before we get to 25% reliance on wind and solar. We’ve all become spoiled by the world’s most reliable electrical energy grid. When the public starts experiencing regular brownouts and rationing, the enthusiasm is bound to wane.
H/T Cooler Heads Digest, the Competitive Enterprise Institute