Earlier this year, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey introduced a resolution to the US Congress that sought to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and eventually power the “the two countries ” with nothing but renewable energy. Known as the Green New Deal, the plan is as grandiose as it is fraught with political roadblocks from both sides of the aisle. But even if the Green New Deal can find support in Congress, it will still have to grapple with its biggest political, economic, and technical challenge: transmission lines. Hundreds–perhaps thousands–of miles of transmission lines.
The fundamental challenge with integrating solar and wind energy into the US electrical grid is that the areas that are best for producing these types of clean energy are usually very remote. The Great Plateau is the place to harvest wind energy, and the Mojave Desert get sunbathed 360 daytimes a year, but these locatings are hundreds–if not thousands–of miles away from America’s biggest metropolis, where clean vigour is needed most. Piping this energy from gale and solar farms signifies improving more interstate high-voltage transmission lines, which are expensive, ugly, and loud. Unsurprisingly, most people don’t want transmission lines near their residences, so brand-new constructs often face rigid political defiance from locals.
The design and management of the US electric grid itself doesn’t help. The national grid comprises three main regions–the Eastern, Western, and Texas interconnections–and each of these regional grids operates independently of the others. Within the three interconnections, there are a number of regional transmission organizations and independent system operators, which are nonprofit entities that oversee the communication and production of electricity by utilities in their region. The Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an independent busines within the DOE, are responsible for identifying when and where brand-new dissemination is needed, but it’s up to the states to pick the patch of grime where the transmission lines are improved, while the utilities within the states decide who will pay for them.
Even in the composite world of energy policy, placing new transmission lines is a gordian knot. “The transmission issue is a hybrid of a federal publish and a nation controversy, which stimulates it challenging from the standpoint of policy, because you have different jurisdictions for different things, ” says David Hurlbut, a plan and fiscal investigate at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Furthermore, he says, transmission lines spanning various governments elevate complex questions about cost allocation, which requires determining who benefits most from the brand-new infrastructure. Given the financial and law complexities to become involved in interstate and inter-regional transmission, most of the new renewable energy sources that have been added to the US grid in the past two decades have been developed within individual states or fields. This simplifies the cost-benefit figurings and also represents ensure the permits required to build the transmission lines much easier.
Although neighbourhood renewable energy generation seems like an obvious solution to the problem of large-scale transmission jobs, a DOE report pointed out that in most cases it’s most economical to build transmission lines to pipe in the energy from regions where the renewable informant is cheap and abundant.( See Mojave Desert, above .) Distributing energy generation and transfer across states and regional boundaries has the added benefit of helping balance energy supply and demand, says John Hensley, vice president of research and analytics at the American Wind Energy Association. Even if the wind isn’t blowing at one generation facility, it’s probably blowing somewhere else, so being able to tap into far-flung renewable energy sources helps ensure the supply of electricity encounters the demand.
The benefits of building brand-new communication infrastructure to integrate the grid across states and regions are well known within the energy industry. “It &# x27; s kind of a universal conclusion that larger grids are better, ” says Paul Denholm, a principal energy analyst at the National Renewable Energy Lab. Although NREL and other laboratories have done a lot of work on simulating probable inter-regional transmission activities, and FERC has created policies that require transmission motorists to cooperate across mood and regional frontiers, these large-scale projects haven’t occurred. This has already led some private investors to make contents into their own hands.
Earlier this year, two European business announced they would be backing a $2.5 billion project to develop a 349 -mile underground transmission line that tubes wind energy from Iowa to Chicago. While underground transmission lines eschewed NIMBY naysaying, they also expense about twice as much per mile to build. In Wyoming, a company owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz is building a 3,000 MW wind farm and transmission system that would carry clean-living vitality to Los Angeles. Wads of cash from a billionaire’s pocket solves the problem of who will pay for new transfer, but the company still must assure dispensation from each state where the lines will be built. Indeed, the wind farm has depleted the past 10 times trying to secure the necessary permits to introduce the project to life.
The good news is that increasing the amount of renewable energy on the grid doesn’t depend on supportive billionaires constructing a continental high-voltage transmission system–yet. The sum of renewable energy resources on the US grid has doubled in the past decade without interregional cables. At this level, nearly 18 percent of electricity in the US is produced by renewable energy sources like breath and solar, but most of this renewable energy stays in the region where it was generated. In short, pushing US renewable energy use to 40 or 50 percentage, to say nothing of the 100 percent objective stated in the Green New Deal, will be needed more transmission lines to pump that clean vigour into the largest metropolitans. The footpath forward is clear, but one of the biggest obstacles to clean energy in the US is still a clear path for new transmission lines.