Courtesy U. S. Dept. of Energy
Renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal show promise for breaking our addiction to oil. One big problem, though, is moving this new energy to energy users. According to a recent New York Times article,
many transmission lines, and the connections between them, are simply too small for the amount of power companies would like to squeeze through them.
The grid today 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.
“We need an interstate transmission superhighway system,” said Suedeen G. Kelly, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Our power grid, with about 200,000 miles of power lines, is divided among about 500 owners. Upgrading transmission lines often involves multiple companies, many state governments and numerous permits. Property owners often fight new power lines saying "not in my back yard".
"Modernizing the electric infrastructure is an urgent national problem, and one we all share,” said Kevin M. Kolevar, assistant secretary for electricity delivery and energy reliability, in a speech last year.
I recommend reading the Department of Energy report titled, "20% wind energy by 2030" (30 pg pdf). The United Sates plans to add 300 GW of wind power by 2030 (I figure that equals about 200,000 1.5 MW wind generators). They recommend an interstate power grid to carry electricity similar to how our interstate highway system carries cars and trucks.
In an 8 page pdf document titled, "Interstate Transmission Vision for Wind Integration" American Electric Power, working at the request of, and in partnership with, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), presents a "high-level, conceptual interstate transmission plan that could provide a basis for discussion to expand industry infrastructure needs in the future".
About two years ago I signed up for Windsource (click to see my Buzz writeup). Windsource is an Xcel Energy program that allows customers to have all or part of their electricity come from wind (click here for details about windsource charges).
I did not sign up for Windsource to save money. I was willing to pay extra for wind generated electricity because wind energy has multiple benefits.
Renewable energy credits have provided incentives for investments in wind energy. A federal production tax credit (PTC) has an expiration date less than five months from now. If you agree that continuing incentives for renewable energy is wise,
Click the link above for help on how to take action.
It seems that everywhere I look, energy is in the news these days. Here are a few more stories that caught my eye recently.
Delaware is considering building a massive windfarm in the waters off their Atlantic coast. Experts estimate this could generate enough energy to light 130,000 homes. But some people raise concerns about the damage this might do to migratory birds, ocean shipping, and the natural beauty of the view.
Nano solar panels
We’ve discussed how nanotechnology might revolutionize solar energy elsewhere on this blog. Now come word from Rice University of a breakthrough: an efficient means of creating molecular-sized semiconductors, an important component of high-efficiency solar panels.
Green fuel guide
Ethanol. Biodiesel. Hydrogen. Lots of new fuels are vying to replace gasoline as the automotive energy of the future. Popular Science magazine gives a run-down on the pros and cons of each.
All about CFLs
We’ve had a couple of threads here on Compact Fluorescent Bulbs and the advantages of replacing your regular bulbs with low-energy CFLs. For those who want to learn more, here’s a handy round-up, telling you everything you need to know about these bulbs.
Wind is usually stronger and more dependable at high altitudes. High towers are expensive, though. Why not use kites and strong string to capture power from high altitude winds?
This idea of using kites to generate electricity earned a 2006 World Renewable Energy Award.
The main idea of Kite Wind Generator is based on a vertical axis turbine whose blades are the flying airfoils. The plant is able to provide 1 GigaWatth/year, it is 25 metres high, it has a turbine radius of 800 metres and it requests ground wind speed of 3 m/sec to fully operate. The needed area is 4 km2, that is more than 80 times smaller than the area for the equivalent wind farm based on traditional eolic generators. The cost of this machine is around 300 Millions €, including transportation, installation, foundations and connection to the grid. World Renewable Energy Congress.
The way KiteGen works is to have a giant horizontal merry-go-round with kites attached to its perimeter. Sensors and controllers would fly the kites in a way that would spin the generators at its axis.(watch video simulation here).
Research by Sequoia Automation, the small company near Turin heading the project, estimates that KiteGen could churn out one gigawatt of power at a cost of just 1.5 euros per megawatt hour.
Outstanding questions about such a generator include location and possible bureaucratic headaches over permits for air space. Current speculation is that KiteGen may soar above the former Trino Vercellese nuclear power plant, already a no-fly zone, in the region.
Read more at Wired News.
Going to Minnesota's State air? Don't miss the Eco Experience in the Progress Center building. Look for the 123ft. tall blade from a 1.5 megawatt wind turbine. It is at the NW corner near Snelling. Like everything served on a stick, this could be "wind on a stick".
Minnesota Public Radio website has a slideshow of what you will see. The exhibits within have a strong emphasis on energy efficiency...how to use the energy you do use carefully. Below is a breakdown of topics and activities. Each link will take you to more information. Also here is a map (pdf).
The Eco Experience is an opportuity to talk with and learn from regional leaders in energy conservation. The University of Minnesota's solar race car is there as well as lots of ideas you can use in your homes. Maybe I will see you there. I plan to volunteer at the University of Minnesota – Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE) booth. The Minnesota pollution control website has links to other participant websites.