US Electricity Grid Not Ready for Renewable Energy Sources
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US Electricity Grid Not Ready for Renewable Energy Sources

The New York Times reports that the US electricity grid is not ready for energy transition. There is no single U.S. grid. There are three — one in the West, one in the East and one in Texas — that only connect at a few points and share little power between them. That makes it hard to build the long-distance power lines needed to transport wind and solar nationwide. The article says:

America’s fragmented electric grid, which was largely built to accommodate coal and gas plants, is becoming a major obstacle to efforts to fight climate change.

Tapping into the nation’s vast supplies of wind and solar energy would be one of the cheapest ways to cut the emissions that are dangerously heating the planet, studies have found. That would mean building thousands of wind turbines across the gusty Great Plains and acres of solar arrays across the South, creating clean, low-cost electricity to power homes, vehicles and factories.

But many spots with the best sun and wind are far from cities and the existing grid. To make the plan work, the nation would need thousands of miles of new high-voltage transmission lines — large power lines that would span multiple grid regions.

In recent decades, the country has hardly built any major high-voltage power lines that connect different grid regions.

Already, a lack of transmission capacity means that thousands of proposed wind and solar projects are facing multiyear delays and rising costs to connect to the grid. In many parts of the country, existing power lines are often so clogged that they can’t deliver electricity from wind and solar projects to where it is needed most and demand is often met by more expensive fossil fuel plants closer to homes and businesses. This problem, known as congestion, costs the country billions of dollars per year and has been getting worse.

If the country continues to struggle to build long-distance transmission, it might need to opt for more expensive measures to fight climate change instead, a recent study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found. That could mean building more advanced nuclear plants or gas plants that capture their emissions, which could in theory be built closer to population centers.

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