Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More About Wind Power

The NY Times has a good article about the problems of transmitting wind-produced electricity from the Great Plains to the coasts. The sections that caught my attention:

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.


Unlike answers to many of the nation’s energy problems, improvements to the grid would require no new technology. An Energy Department plan to source 20 percent of the nation’s electricity from wind calls for a high-voltage backbone spanning the country that would be similar to 2,100 miles of lines already operated by a company called American Electric Power.

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 [emphasis added], no company or organization has offered to fight the political battles necessary to get such a transmission backbone built.

The problem with a political "philosophy" that says government is inherently bad, and not the answer to anything, is that some things -- important, our-survival-depends-on-it things, can only be done by a government. Cut government out of the equation, and it doesn't get done. If we haven't learned that from the failures of the "conservative revolution," we haven't learned anything.

There's more good information in the article.

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