Sunday, April 20, 2014

America's "Worn Out" yet Underutilized Grid.

I just drove home from St. Louis for Easter weekend.   Most people probably don’t notice the high voltage distribution and transmission lines  in their travels.  Mike Skelly probably does.  He can probably tell us the extra capacity on every line Horizon Wind Energy feeds, the “low hanging fruit” as he calls it. 

Driving up Interstate 55 and Interstate 39 through Bloomington got me thinking.  There’s that one solo wind turbine on the south side of I55 and most likely within Normal city limits.  That turbine hasn’t spun for months and months.  It is kind of ironic, the wind turbine closest to the Illinois State University wind technology program looks to be broke down.   It will be interesting when that wind turbine starts spinning again. It is a nice view from the top of this turbine at the end of I39.

The remainder of those wind turbines to the north and west of Bloomington are what I really found interesting.   Outside of the CREZ overpriced projects in Texas, there hasn’t been many, if any, transmission lines built specifically for wind energy.  The majority, if not nearly all, the wind farms have piggybacked off existing underutilized transmission lines. 

Funny how the same people who say America’s grid is old and worn out have found so many   Seriously, how old is America’s grid if we’ve been able to add so much wind energy to the grid across the Midwest?  Seems to me America’s grid has had an amazing amount of over capacity with 100 megawatts here and 200 megawatts there.  America’s grid isn’t old and worn out.  It’s been underutilized.  Imagine how long we’ve been paying for unused grid capacity.
locations near transmission lines to site their wind farms.

Mike Skelly and Jimmy Glotfelty like to make references between America’s grid and the interstate highway system.  Unfortunately, FERC and the Department of Energy don’t even know the capacity of America’s grid.  It’s amazing it can even be determined when we need more grid capacity when they don’t even know the current capacity.

Heck, at least the we have a roadmap of the US highway system.  Civil engineers at the Department of Transportation know exactly how much capacity there is and when we’ve reach and peaked capacity of the highway system.  That’s more than can be said about the Department of Energy.  Next time you’re traveling the interstate and see a wind farm, look for the transmission line, then think about those transmission lines were there long before the wind turbines being paid through ratepayer cost allocation and wasting away.

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