Our nation can make all the renewable energy, nuclear energy, or any power it wants but if it has no wires to get power to customers, it doesn’t matter.
The power system has three parts:
- Generation – solar, wind, nuclear, coal – make the power.
- Transmission lines are the big structures to deliver lots of electricity.
- Distribution lines get the power to customers’ homes and businesses.
There’s a problem. Over the past few years, the headlines from around the country point to activism against transmission lines.
- Maine Voters Reject $950 Million Power Line for Hydro Imports, said the Wall Street Journal on November 3.
- Seabrook plant dispute over NECEC power line could hinder clean-energy effort, Massachusetts says, according to the Portland Press Herald.
- Memphis, MLGW ask to intervene in federal dispute over TVA’s transmission lines said the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
The problem gets worse as time goes on because it can take years to plan transmission, much less build it.
It comes down to this headline, right: Unlocking transmission capacity is key to a renewable-energy powered future.
A crazy thing is that the nation may not need to build as much renewable energy capacity if it can only get it delivered better. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory published a report that clearly states this: “The study shows with increased intercontinental transmission that the system was able to balance generation and load with less total system installed capacity across each of the generation scenarios, due to load and generation diversity, and increased operating flexibility.”
Transmission lines are not sexy (unless you are an engineer). As a nation, though, we need to appreciate the allure of electric transmission if we are to truly open up our renewable future.