Wednesday, August 27, 2008

USA's Third World Power Grid

No leaders anywhere = demise of our nation. Indeedly doodly.

Portions taken from:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/27/business/27grid.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&hp&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1219863730-4AJhDuCRiKYR/GjwHhBqxw

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.

Transmission lines carrying power away from the Maple Ridge farm, near Lowville, N.Y., have sometimes become so congested that the company’s only choice is to shut down — or pay fees for the privilege of continuing to pump power into the lines.

Politicians in Washington have long known about the grid’s limitations but have made scant headway in solving them. They are reluctant to trample the prerogatives of state governments, which have traditionally exercised authority over the grid and have little incentive to push improvements that would benefit neighboring states.

Enthusiasm for wind energy is running at fever pitch these days, with bold plans on the drawing boards, like Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s notion of dotting New York City with turbines. Companies are even reviving ideas of storing wind-generated energy using compressed air or spinning flywheels.

Yet experts say that without a solution to the grid problem, effective use of wind power on a wide scale is likely to remain a dream.

The cost would be high, $60 billion or more, but in theory could be spread across many years and tens of millions of electrical customers. However, in most states, rules used by public service commissions to evaluate transmission investments discourage multistate projects of this sort. In some states with low electric rates, elected officials fear that new lines will simply export their cheap power and drive rates up.

Without a clear way of recovering the costs and earning a profit, and with little leadership on the issue from the federal government, no company or organization has offered to fight the political battles necessary to get such a transmission backbone built.

Wind advocates say that just two of the windiest states, North Dakota and South Dakota, could in principle generate half the nation’s electricity from turbines. But the way the national grid is configured, half the country would have to move to the Dakotas in order to use the power.

“We still have a third-world grid,” Bill Richardson said, governor of New Mexico, repeating a comment he has made several times. “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.”

8 comments:

mr_subjunctive said...

< pouty >But I don't want to move to North Dakota. < /pouty >

Les, Zone 8a said...

I guess we will have to wait for a national "interuption event" before any of this changes.

our friend Ben said...

Aaaarrgghhh. We're saving up for our own backyard-scale windmill. It could at least power a pump for our well!

Benjamin Vogt said...

Mr.S--Too bad, yer going. But maybe you could go to South Dakota, instead? Might be a FUZZ warmer in winter.
Les--Indeed. Like death.
OFB--Us too! Some day....

WiseAcre said...

40 miles from my house is the Robert Moses Power dam On the St. Lawrence Seaway. Guess where my power comes from. Niagara Falls, nearly 300 miles away.

Now you got me going. Our area was hard hit by the ice storm of 98. The damage to the grid would have been far less if the infrastructure would have been maintained but for decades it was left to rot. Miles and miles of poles and line went down under the weight of the ice that would not have been too much for maintained infrastructure. Those old lines were older than my mother and I'm pushing 60. So in the end the government paid to rebuild the grid.

Now a local mega dairy farmer, also a county legislator who didn't like the idea of the government giving a private company money to start a methane generating plant suddenly is granted a million $$$$ to do it himself. LOL he wants more before he'll commit to doing it because getting half of what it will cost isn't enough.

Benjamin Vogt said...

WA--I'd respond thoughtfully, but can't do so sanely. Our government is so f-ed up about this. My dad told me today oil lease exploration in North Dakota, he thought maybe oil shale, was going for $30k an acre (and don't get me started about how benign THAT endeavor would NOT be). If ND and SD were wind turbined up, we'd have enough power for the whole U.S.--but we have no infrastructure to deliver that energy. It's even limiting how many turbines we can put up, even though people and communities are willing to pay for them. !#^%@$^@^!@^!!.

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