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Grid Not Ready for Increased Demand for Renewables

Planned transmission expansion and upgrades may not meet the near-term public goals for corporate wind and solar energy procurement, according to the Wind Energy Foundation. (Pixabay)
Planned transmission expansion and upgrades may not meet the near-term public goals for corporate wind and solar energy procurement, according to the Wind Energy Foundation. (Pixabay)
February 5, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY – A number of Fortune 500 companies are driving the demand for renewable energy, and those same 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, says at the current speed at which corporations are pursuing renewable energy, the demand outpaces what the country's current transmission lines can offer.

"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, but it does require updating and modernizing our infrastructure," he states.

The demand for renewables is on the rise because consumers want cleaner energy and because prices are falling.

But transmission developers say upgrading the infrastructure is not an easy task, and reliability is still a challenge when it comes to delivering wind and solar.

Utah is one of the seven states with the best potential for solar power, along with Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas.

Rob Threlkeld, the global manager of renewable energy at General Motors, says GM recently announced its Texas, Ohio and Indiana facilities will be powered by 100 percent renewables coming from off site wind.

"We really are looking at price stability as we look at our long term planning for our manufacturing footprint, 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," he points out.

The Wind Energy Foundation report 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.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - UT