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Fortune 500 Companies Want to Wind Up Energy Grid for Wind

With North Carolina's wind-energy potential, there is extra incentive to see a national transmission upgrade to transport the energy generated. (Ian Muttoo/flickr)
With North Carolina's wind-energy potential, there is extra incentive to see a national transmission upgrade to transport the energy generated. (Ian Muttoo/flickr)
February 1, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina has more wind off its shores than any other state on the Atlantic coast. But beyond the hurdle of harnessing the potential from wind farms, there's the issue of transmitting the power they generate.

A number of Fortune 500 companies are calling for a major upgrade to the country's energy transmission lines. A report by the Wind Energy Foundation details renewable-energy commitments by large corporations willing to purchase 60 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2025. That's about 110 conventional power plants.

John Kostyack, executive director of the Wind Energy Foundation, said with the current speed at which corporations are pursuing renewable energy, the demand outpaces what the country's current transmission lines can handle.

"We have the ability with today's technology to build a truly national grid, where we can reach wind and solar resources wherever they are in the country and deliver them anywhere else in the country,” Kostyack said. “But it does require updating and modernizing our infrastructure. "

The demand for wind and solar energy is increasing because consumers want cleaner energy and because prices are falling.

However, transmission developers say upgrading the infrastructure is not an easy task. They see reliability as a challenge when it comes to assessing and delivering renewables to the market.

Rob Threlkeld, the global manager of renewable energy at General Motors, said they've recently announced their Texas, Ohio and Indiana facilities will be powered by 100 percent renewables coming from offsite winds.

"We really are looking at price stability as we look at our long-term planning for our manufacturing footprint,” Threlkeld said. “And doing so, there is going to be a point where we need additional transmission to really drive the efficiencies that bringing additional renewables to the grid allow when you look at cost and price stability. "

The Wind Energy Foundation report that was published in January found that under the 20th-century model for transmission planning, experts focus on electric reliability, not the need to transmit renewable power. According to Kostyack, there are only a few major transmission lines that are moving in the right direction by adjusting for the demand of renewable energy.

Stephanie Carson/Cynthia Howard, Public News Service - NC