This article from the Times last Friday lays out in somewhat predictable fashion how some states have set goals for their percentages of renewable energy that they likely won’t be able to meet.
“I think we are really overselling how quick, how easy and how complete the transition can be,” said George Sterzinger, executive director of the Renewable Energy Policy Project, a Washington advocacy group.
More than half the states have adopted formal green-energy goals. In many states the policies, known as renewable portfolio standards, are too new to be evaluated. But so far the number of successes and failures is “sort of a 50-50 kind of affair,” said Ryan Wiser, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and co-author of a recent report on the targets.
At first I was thinking that this was merely an excellent ‘press’ story, because they love to set up pins and knock them down. Maybe we should have some PBA sub-designation and sponsorship. The article appears to be thought provoking when, in actuality its merely following a formula, or so it seemed.
The utilities cited a catalog of reasons for falling short. These include stop-and-start federal tax incentives for renewable power, problems finding reliable suppliers among the many young and fragile start-ups in the industry, and difficulty getting transmission lines built and obtaining permits to build solar stations and wind farms.
“Not every part of the country is equally blessed in terms of having locations for renewables,” said Debra L. Reed, president and chief executive of San Diego Gas & Electric, which is having trouble getting new transmission lines built to an area with a lot of sunshine.
Most of the actual people associated with Utiltity companies quoted in the article remarked on this problem – the need for new transmission lines. Maybe the reporters, straying from formula, are agitating for infrastructure spending for our electrical grid, especially collapsed onto so many other reports of the needs for, and Obama plans to enact, gigantic public works programs.
Transforming the system would seem to be a great way to put a lot of people to work, prepare for the non-carbon energy future and enable some potent, new technologies. More
The current grid is a stiff arrangement of one-way transmission lines, centralized generation facilities and aging substations. The recent emergence of large amounts of renewable electricity in markets around the country are creating new challenges for both the transmission and distribution sectors.
On the transmission side, the issue is whether there are enough lines to bring renewable energy onto the grid. Because many of the abundant renewable resources are far away from load centers, additional lines must be built to bring wind, solar and geothermal energies to market. If plans to construct lines are not on the table, developers will be hesitant to build large projects in these rural areas.
“This is what we call the ‘chicken and egg’ problem,” says Meyer. “It’s difficult to develop new generation without being certain that the transmission capacity is there or will be there. No one wants to be out front taking an undue portion of the risk.”
As planners look to build more of those lines, they may have some emerging technologies to consider; particularly High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) and wires based on nanotechnology.
HVDC transmission is certainly not a new concept — but it’s gaining ground in the U.S. as renewable electricity will have to be transported further distances with higher efficiency in the future.
The other technology still in the research and development phase is the “armchair quantum wire,” made from tubes of carbon 100,000 times thinner than a human hair, called carbon nanotubes. When these nanotubes are made into a larger wire, they can conduct electricity far more efficiently and over far greater distances than the copper wires used today.