Monday, September 1, 2008

Follow-up on Grid Challenges

Recent posts on the somewhat sorry state of the US power grid made this article, on the how renewables implementations will be limited by the current grid, stand out when I saw it last week.

According to the NY Times' Matthew Wald:
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.
Wald then cites of FERC who says, "We need an interstate transmission superhighway system.” Only problem is that you only go interstate when legislators in DC make a coordinated decision, and that's not likely to happen anytime soon. Until now, they've left power transmission issues to the states and it doesn't seem like that's about to change.

As a reader of the Powrtalk blog recently pointed out, we don't need a national super grid to achieve big gains - but we do need to connect the power generation centers to the nearest big cities. And DOD could and should get more boisterous here, by demanding and helping finance direct renewables transmission connects to its bigger bases. Nellis (photovoltaics) and China Lake (geothermal) have bypassed grid woes by building their power on the bases themselves. But for DOD installastions not ready or able to build their own large renewable generators yet, solid connections to renewable power might be the next best thing*.

* Note: I'm sure I'm missing something here. How does a base take advantage of intermittent renewable power when it's available but retain the ability to switch over when it needs to draw from traditional sources? And how does it do this without depending on the local utility provider or providers?

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