Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid’s Limits

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

“We need an interstate transmission superhighway system,” said Suedeen G. Kelly, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Read the whole article.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEnergy, Natural Resources

9 Comments
Posted August 28, 2008 at 9:06 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Chris wrote:

this is a very important article - it unintentionally highlights how the green energy people can’t be taken seriously at this point.  The want wind and solar but they are the same people who would object to an enlarged tranmission network.  NIMBYISM is just killing this country….

August 28, 9:16 am | [comment link]
2. BlueOntario wrote:

Don’t lay NIMBY at the doorstep of “greenies.” No one wants anything at full price and expects someone else to cover the discount.
Sometimes I think that’s the true American way.

August 28, 9:33 am | [comment link]
3. Br. Michael wrote:

We didn’t use to expect something for nothing.

August 28, 9:51 am | [comment link]
4. Chris wrote:

#2 - the don’t build anything, anywhere at any time mentality is part and parcel of the modern “environmental” movement in this country and it is disingenous for you to suggest otherwise.  See how Ted Kennedy and his pals killed off a wind farm on Cape Cod but because it would ruin their view.  Many other stories like that don’t make news since there’s no celebrity like Ted involved, but this sort of thing goes on all the time.  Virtaully any project can be tied up in the courts long enough to make that project economically unfeasible, and that is just plain wrong…..

August 28, 9:55 am | [comment link]
5. Laocoon wrote:

Chris, you’re tilting at windmills and making green energy people into strawmen.  Yes, some green energy people are nuts.  So are some of every group.  But your conclusion that they “can’t be taken seriously” is unwarranted and unhelpful.  Your point about NIMBYism, on the other hand, is very apropos.  We need renewable, low-pollution energy sources, and we also obviously need to invest in the infrastructure to deliver the energy to where it will be used.  We did it with petroleum; we can do it with electricity.  But it’ll be made a lot easier if each of the constituents (in this case the “green energy” people) can keep their alarmists’ objections to a reasonable level.

August 28, 11:09 am | [comment link]
6. Will B wrote:

Chris may be overstating his case a bit but there is real truth to it.  One of the most frustrating things about the renewed discussion, (or rather, the expanded discussion) about renewable energy sources and green fuels is the over simplification by people who say, ” we put people on the moon in less than one decade of effort, therefore we can solve our energy issues tomorrow”, and the downright hypocrist of people like Teddy Kennedy and the Democratic party who have had a fun time this week spouting platitudes about renewable energy and eliminating our dependence on foreign oil while they block efforts to do things like building wind farms off the coast of Massachusetts.  And the fact is that while we all might say aint it awful and ramble on about global warming, very few are willing to have a substantial tax increase to expand the energy grid; to invest in re-tooling our energy systems; or converting to cleaner fuels.  Sadly, as Chris pointed out, about the only renewable or eternal source of “energy” at this point is hot air!

August 28, 1:37 pm | [comment link]
7. libraryjim wrote:

‘Greenies’ have announced that they will block development of a refinery in North Dakota near the giant oil strike there and also block T. Boone Picken’s plan of the wind corridor saying it would go through envionmentally protected eco-systems.

August 28, 2:39 pm | [comment link]
8. Katherine wrote:

libraryjim gives evidence for what my husband, who is in the energy industry, has been telling people.  Large wind farms will be opposed by people who are concerned about birds and bats, and there are some bases for their concerns.  Also, even if the huge wind farms were set up in the Great Plains as T. Boone Pickens has suggested, the energy would have to be transmitted to where it’s used.  People become hysterical about high-voltage transmission lines, over both aesthetics and purported health risks.  Huge new transmission networks from the Great Plains would meet massive opposition.  And, of course, although we desperately need new refineries, nobody wants a refinery nearby.

The shorter-term solutions are more oil production, more refineries, and regional nuclear power production.  When economical fuel cells, solar, and other alternatives become available, they’ll be readily accepted.

August 28, 3:37 pm | [comment link]
9. Chris Hathaway wrote:

The real problem here is the tendency of the people to be scared by all sorts of potential problems. The scare of high magnetic fields around high voltage lines is but an example. People don’t behave rationally. If they did they would realize that we live within the biggest magnetic filed on the planet…because it is the planet’s magnetic field. But it’s easier to be scared than calmed, and the environmental movement has a good deal of blaim in this. They have participated in the scare game, and now every REAL solution to fossil fuels and toward cleaner energy is faced with fears over what these solutions might do.

August 29, 8:47 am | [comment link]
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