Stories tagged transmission


Proposed power grid for wind and solar
Proposed power grid for wind and solarCourtesy U. S. Dept. of Energy

A national energy grid - good or bad

About a year ago I wrote about our need for a national energy grid. Many politicians are moving to block the lines because they hurt their local economies or because of environmental local impacts. Others claim more local improvements would be better and less costly. Read more in Technology Review's, "A Costly and Unnecessary New Electricity Grid".

A new national grid, which has been likened to the Interstate Highway System constructed in the 1950s, has been proposed by groups such as the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based think tank, and AEP, a large utility; elements of the plans have been included in recent federal legislation.

Last week, investor T. Boone Pickens said that he's halting his planned four-gigawatt wind farm in Texas in part because of a lack of transmission lines to carry the power from the farm to urban centers.

Learn more about the national energy "smart grid"

If you have 20 minutes or so, Center for American Progress has several complete primers on the issue:

Smart appliances save electricity and money

Last Tuesday, General Electric showed utility industry executives how their new appliances could reduce electric demand and save everyone money. Read about it in Are consumers ready for the smart grid?


Proposed power grid for wind and solar: clipped from American Electric Power document
Proposed power grid for wind and solar: clipped from American Electric Power documentCourtesy U. S. Dept. of Energy

Is our power grid ready for wind and solar?

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.

Upgrading our power grid faces multiple obstacles

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.

Dept. of Energy recommendation

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.

American Electric Power also has recommendations

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".


It seemed like a good idea at the time: But immediately after this photo was taken, the alien bored its way through her skull and nested in the right hemisphere of the singer's brain. We might learn something from this.
It seemed like a good idea at the time: But immediately after this photo was taken, the alien bored its way through her skull and nested in the right hemisphere of the singer's brain. We might learn something from this.Courtesy aymanshamma
The future of the human race, indeed the future of the planet Earth, has been foolishly gambled on the taste and temper of distant alien civilizations, some scientists say.

This week, NASA began to beam the Beatles’ song “Across the Universe” across the, er, universe. Well, not across the universe exactly—the transmission was aimed at the North Star, 431 light years away. Sir Paul McCartney was enthused over the action, and Yoko Ono had something to say (which I skipped over, because it was weird and boring). Ringo Starr, oddly enough, seems not to have been notified.

The transmission has also raised discussion over just what humans should be broadcasting to other planets, and what potential risks might be associated with such actions. This has been a particularly hot topic among SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) Institute researchers at the “Sounds of Silence” conference at the Arizona State University in Tempe this week. “Before sending out even symbolic messages, we need an open discussion about the potential risks," says one SETI member.

I agree entirely. I’m afraid, however, that the damage may already have been done. As the article points out, transmissions from Earth have long been washing across the universe. Military transmissions have already penetrated deep space, and, more worryingly, old episodes of “I Love Lucy” and “Star Trek” pass through an average of one star system a day. We can only hope that some of the more sensitive aliens haven’t been paying close attention to their television sets—I’m not sure how many aliens they can watch William Shatner punch out, or how cheerfully they can bear Lucy’s cough-syrup addiction, before they decide that the universe might be better off without humanity. Then again, maybe aliens are into that kind of stuff. They might just be on the edge of their seats (or whatever aliens sit on, if they sit), waiting for the next episode of Full House. What will happen to Comet? Is the family safe under Danny’s tentative grip on normal human behavior? And what about Uncle Jessie’s hair? Don’t laugh, people—you all know that things work out for the Tanners, but the aliens are way behind us.

Another SETI researcher sensibly pointed out to those who might harbor serious concern over the Polarisians reaction to “Across the Universe” that "the one thing we know about aliens - if they do exist - is that they are very, very far away."

Yes. That’s true.