Energy Transmission Woes

Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid’s Limits

When the builders of the Maple Ridge Wind farm spent $320 million to put nearly 200 wind turbines in upstate New York, the idea was to get paid for producing electricity. But at times, regional electric lines have been so congested that Maple Ridge has been forced to shut down even with a brisk wind blowing.

That is a symptom of a broad national problem. Expansive dreams about renewable energy, like Al Gore’s hope of replacing all fossil fuels in a decade, are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.

The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not.

Secret? It’s a secret that the electric power transmission system is at its limit and moving electricity to where it’s needed is a major problem? That’s a secret to exactly who?

This isn’t a problem limited to alternative energy generation either, though you can (sort of) put a coal, gas, or nuclear plant wherever you want while the wind, water, and sun-based generation has to be built in the correct environment.


Wind advocates say that just two of the windiest states, North Dakota and South Dakota, could in principle generate half the nation’s electricity from turbines. But the way the national grid is configured, half the country would have to move to the Dakotas in order to use the power.

Meanwhile, Tigerhawk has some thoughts on the issue.


  1. In case ya’ll weren’t paying attention. Al Gore did also promote the notion of expanding and improving the nations electricity grid in order to resolve this same issue.

    separately, distributed energy production systems (which ignore the grid problem) are getting increasingly popular.

  2. That is why LILCO tried to build a nuclear plant on Long Island. They simply can’t wheel enough power into NYC and the surrounding areas to keep everything running during a heat wave.

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