We hear a lot these days about the drive to implement renewable energy solutions. Companies and governments alike are looking to solar and wind generation as a way to not only cut costs, but to help the environment. Wind farms are popping up left right and center across the United States, and people are getting excited about a possible future independent of fossil fuels.
Sadly, that enthusiasm is also running up against a very solid and very old wall; bureaucratic red tape and shoddy designs.
The current power distribution system set up in the United States is currently run by about 500 owners, is a hundred years old, and is designed around helping prop each other up in the case of emergencies. What it is not designed to do, is to take a large amount of power and safely store or transport it.
You would think this would have been a justifiable goal for a power distribution system, but I guess things were different.
What is worse is that the sheer amount of red tape that stands in the way of change is mind-boggling. Any change to the system would require the involvement of multiple power companies, multiple state and local governments, and a mass of permits.
As T. Boone Pickens told Congress, “If you want to do it on a national scale, where the transmission line distances will be much longer, and utility regulations are different, Congress must act.”
The New York Times ran an article recently looking, specifically, at problems such as the one facing the residents of Maple Ridge in upstate New York. The developers of the Maple Ridge wind-farm were hoping to make money by producing electricity, but the fluctuations in the power levels sometimes force the entire grid to be shut off, to save it from becoming too congested.
In other words, light to steady winds might be ok, but start turning the wind turbines a bit too fast, and the electrical generation will become too much for the system to handle.
The only option, and one that is not out of the realm of possibility given the environmental fervor these days, is for Congress to allow sweeping changes across the country. Expensive, sure, but in the long run, beneficial.
Image Courtesy Maple Ridge Wind Farm
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