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A new report from the US Energy Department released this week has shown that even limited electricity transmission additions could have significant impacts for reducing the cost of expanding wind energy to supply 35% of the US electricity by 2050.

Clean Power

New US Electricity Transmission Additions Could Have Significant Impact For Wind Energy

A new report from the US Energy Department released this week has shown that even limited electricity transmission additions could have significant impacts for reducing the cost of expanding wind energy to supply 35% of the US electricity by 2050.

A new report from the US Energy Department released this week has shown that even limited electricity transmission additions could have significant impacts for reducing the cost of expanding wind energy to supply 35% of the US electricity by 2050.

According to the new report, Reducing Wind Curtailment through Transmission Expansion in a Wind Vision Future (PDF)which was published earlier this week and authored by the country’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), showed how even limited increases to America’s electricity transmission network could make possible a future in which the US sources 20% of its electricity from wind by 2030 and 35% by 2050.

Not only that, but the report concludes that consumer savings as a result could reach as high as $2.3 to $3.4 billion annually, paying for the cost of electricity transmission upgrades in under five years.

“As Congress and the incoming Administration look for opportunities to enable private investments in American infrastructure, electric transmission should rise to the top,” said American Wind Energy Association CEO Tom Kiernan. “Renovating and expanding our outdated electric grid aids national security while saving consumers billions of dollars and creating more ways Americans can earn a paycheck. And once built, expanded transmission opens new export markets for states like Wyoming, Montana, and New Mexico, who will be able to turn their wind resource into gold.”

The report modeled three transmission expansion scenarios, which included the addition of four new transmission lines with a total of 10.5 gigawatts (GW) of new transmission capacity. The four lines are the  Mountain States Transmission Intertie (MSTI), Zephyr Power Transmission Project, TransWest Express Transmission Project, and SunZia Southwest Transmission Project.

Map of the Transmission 1 buildout, which adds four new lines to wind-heavy states

The addition of these four transmission lines reduces annual curtailment by approximately half. The MSTI line would, for example, use on average 87% of its flow capacity in either direction (its utilization factor), and would be primarily exporting electricity out west. The other three lines have similarly high utilization factors: 70% for SunZia, 83% for the TransWest Express, and 82% for Zephyr.

“Congress and the Trump administration can open the floodgates for hundreds of billions of dollars in private investment to flow into modernizing our electric grid at no cost to the taxpayer,” said Kiernan. “To do it, they would start by fixing unworkable transmission planning and permitting policies that block private investment. Right now permitting gets in the way of business and that can delay needed expansion of our nation’s grid by nearly a decade.”

 
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