Sunday, November 6, 2011

Jobs and Electricity

Upgrading the system of power lines crisscrossing the US seemingly satisfies two prominent goals of President Obama’s jobs agenda – growing the renewable energy sector, and rebuilding public infrastructure. 

But as far as I’ve seen, no large-scale plans to do this are in the works. 

Last week I attended a lecture by an analyst from Bloomberg New Energy Finance who argued that wind and solar power from the middle of the country have the potential to satisfy much of our country’s energy needs. 

The problem? 

An antiquated electrical transmission system keeps this energy stuck in those relatively sparsely populated areas. 

Additionally, in an article from the New York Times yesterday, Matthew Wald explained that on certain stormy days in the Pacific Northwest, that region’s relatively new wind turbine sector produces too much energy and overloads the electrical grid.  As a result, the Bonneville Power Administration has had to recruit “consumers to draw in excess electricity when that happens, storing it in a basement water heater or a space heater outfitted by the utility.”

Had there been a state-of-the-art system of power lines, perhaps this excess could have, instead, been shipped to the south or east.

As always feel free to comment or provide links to more info about this topic!  And finally here's the news piece I wrote from last week's lecture by Jason Steinberg of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Renewable Energy? Focus on the shipping.
By Karl Baker
November 1, 2011
The United States needs to upgrade its electrical transmission system in order to maximize the renewable energy potential of the Great Plains and Desert Southwest, said Jason Steinberg, an analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
At a lecture in the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU, Steinberg outlined the capability of solar and wind power to satisfy much of the energy needs of US cities if new or upgraded electrical lines were installed between renewable-energy rich states, like Arizona and the Dakotas, and the coasts. 
“That’s really what we need, you can only put so much renewable technology on a transmission line and they might not be near the sources, near the desert sources for solar, or near the fields for wind,” he said.
Despite the current condition of this infrastructure, however, the US Energy Information Administration estimates the share of renewable energy use to grow to 27 percent by 2030, up from six today. 
Additionally, according to the Bloomberg analyst, as more solar and wind power plants are constructed the price of renewable energy is expected to match that of fossil fuels in the US by 2015.
Many oil companies recognize a potential move away from gasoline and, as a result, have shifted some investment to alternative energies.  BP and Chevron have directed cash toward renewables, while Exxon has moved into natural gas production.
Transmission lines, however, have not received similar infusions of money in the US.  But across the Atlantic, policy makers allocated funds to study the feasibility of constructing electrical lines stretching from the Sahara Desert in Africa to cities in Europe.
Steinberg argues that moving electricity long distances should be the focus in the US as well.
“The major takeaway is that there’s just nothing in the middle where we have all the wind,” he said.

No comments:

Post a Comment