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Plenty of Power – With Nowhere To Go

Johnathon Hladik of the Center for Rural Affairs says we need to re-think siting of power transmission lines.
Johnathon Hladik of the Center for Rural Affairs says we need to re-think siting of power transmission lines.
February 22, 2013

LYONS, Neb. – The way electric transmission lines are built needs to change to take advantage of abundant wind power in the Midwest and Great Plains, according to a new report by the Center for Rural Affairs.

Johnathon Hladik, the author of the report by the rural advocacy group, says the electric power transmission network was not designed to take advantage of wind power. High-capacity lines capable of taking the power from the source just aren't there.

"Only six percent are located in the upper Midwest and the Great Plains, home to our best wind resources,” he says. “Those are the lines over 400 kilovolts. If you look at the lines over 600 kilovolts, less than one percent are sited in those areas."

Hladik says because of this problem, the states with the greatest wind resources are forced to leave a lot of power on the table when it comes to economic development and energy independence. He suggests that utilities need to address this issue to bring more wind energy online and create jobs in rural America.

He maintains the old model doesn't make sense in the 21st century, because the transmission system was designed a century ago to connect huge individual power plants with major population centers.

"We're slowly moving away from coal-fired power plants, and we're moving very quickly towards more of an investment in renewable resources such as wind,” he says. “So, instead of having those big lines serve those big population areas, we need more of those larger lines where our wind resources are the best."

Hladik says of the 3,700 miles of high-capacity electric transmission lines in the nation, only nine miles are located in states that lead the nation in capacity for creating wind energy. He says re-thinking the way high-capacity lines are sited would be a huge step toward building a clean energy future and would create thousands of rural jobs in wind energy generation and transmission.


Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI