NewEnergyNews: TRANSMISSION-TO-US INTERRUPTUS (CONT’D)

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    Thursday, February 28, 2008

    TRANSMISSION-TO-US INTERRUPTUS (CONT’D)

    Wind energy production grew 45% in 2007 and wind energy is now generating 1% of U.S. electricity. Up to now, wind energy producers have been able to mostly use existing high voltage transmission lines. To contribute higher levels of electricity, wind energy producers need dedicated lines.

    Texas has more installed wind energy capacity than any other state. By the end of 2008, it is expected to exceed existing transmission capacity by 65%. Just 30% of Minnesota’s planned 7,500 megawatts for the Twin Cities will exceed the 2,000 megawatt transmission capacity.

    This presents a chicken-and-egg conundrum: Turbine builders don’t want to install wind farms and then be forced to wait for transmission to be strung to them. But utilities cannot undertake the enormous expense of building new transmission without a commitment from the wind builders.

    Extra complication: The first wind developer in the area pays the biggest share of the cost so nobody wants to go where no wind has been built before.

    Cost of new transmission: $1.5 million/mile.

    Possible solution: Plans are being worked out to share transmission-line costs between wind installation developers and utilities in Texas, the Southwest, Minnesota and California.


    The North American grid. (click to enlarge)

    NewEnergyNews reported on the basics of this matter in June 2007: WINDPOWER 2007: TRANSMISSION-TO-US INTERRUPTUS?

    Wind energy confronts shortage of transmission lines
    Paul Davidson, February 25, 2008 (USA Today)

    WHO
    Stow Walker, analyst, Cambridge Energy Research Associates; Bill Bojorquez, vice president, Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT); Denise Hill, executive, Horizon Wind Energy; Clair Moeller, executive, Midwest grid operator; Paul Bonavia, head of utilities, Xcel

    Some U.S. transmission corridors are under renovation. All need upgrading. (click to enlarge)

    WHAT
    Wind energy’s astonishing growth may be hampered by the need for new transmission infrastructure and the prohibitive costs of building it.

    WHEN
    - Wind farms typically take 12 to 24 months to install. Transmission can take 5 or even 10 years to work out and construct.
    - Several Midwestern states may fail to reach legislative mandates for 20% of their electicity to come from New Energy sources by 2020.

    The U.S. grid has been growing overburdened year by year. Like so much other infrastructure, it has gone neglected. (click to enlarge)

    WHERE
    - Wind energy has expanded rapidly in rural areas of Texas, California and the Midwest. Electricity demand is growing fastest in cities.
    - Wind energy capacity Texas is expected to over reach existing transmission capacity by 65% by the end of 2008.
    - Planned wind energy development in Minnesota will exceed existing capacity to carry it to the Twin Cities by more than 3 times.

    WHY
    - Slowing wind energy growth may prevent states from meeting legislatively mandated levels of electricity from New Energy sources.
    - The inadequacies of existing transmission in Texas and Minnesota are also found throughout the Midwest, Southwest and in California.
    - Utilities don’t want to be burdened by costs for transmission if it serves neighboring states. They also don’t want to burden their customers with transmission costs to areas where wind farms are not ready to generate.

    It has only worsened in the last half-decade. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Denise Hill, executive, Horizon Wind Energy: "Clearly we don't want to build wind farms and have them not run…"
    - Paul Bonavia, head of utilities, Xcel:"You're committing $1 billion in capital in the hope the cost recovery will come, and that's a tough proposition…"

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