What good is wind energy if we can’t transmit it?

Paul called my attention to this NYT article: Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid’s Limits. Notable excerpt:

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.

The basic problem is that many transmission lines, and the connections between them, are simply too small for the amount of power companies would like to squeeze through them. The difficulty is most acute for long-distance transmission, but shows up at times even over distances of a few hundred miles.

The antiquated electricity transmission infrastructure poses a classic Catch-22: we need alternative energy and the technology exists, but we can’t utilize it because the grid can’t handle it. An overhaul of the grid is needed – something which became very apparent after the NYC blackout and Hurricane Katrina – but it’s almost impossible to accomplish on a national scale because of all the competing interests.


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