New Renewable Transmission Can Bring a CO2 Free Economy
March 29, 2016
We can do this.
Analysts have long argued that nations aiming to use wind and solar power to curb emissions from fossil fuel burning would first have to invest heavily in new technologies to store electricity produced by these intermittent sources—after all, the sun isn’t always shining and the wind isn’t always blowing. But a study out today suggests that the United States could, at least in theory, use new high-voltage power lines to move renewable power across the nation, and essentially eliminate the need to add new storage capacity.
This improved national grid, based on existing technologies, could enable utilities to cut power-sector carbon dioxide emissions 80% from 1990 levels by 2030 without boosting power prices, researchers report today in Nature Climate Change.
A $2.5-billion transmission line carrying wind power to the U.S. Southeast is coming — whether state regulators there like it or not.
On Friday, the U.S. Energy Department used a decade-old statute to clear Clean Line Energy Partners LLC’s 705-mile (1,134-kilometer) power line for construction over any objections from the states involved.
The Energy Department’s approval of the line, proposed to carry 4,000 megawatts of power from the wind-rich Oklahoma panhandle through Arkansas and into Tennessee, marks the first time the 2005 statute has been used to bypass state approval and push through an interstate transmission project.
“Moving remote and plentiful power to areas where electricity is in high demand is essential for building the grid of the future,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement. “Building modern transmission that delivers renewable energy to more homes and businesses will create jobs, cut carbon emissions, and enhance the reliability of our grid.”
The approval highlights a potential workaround for some U.S. transmission developers who have for years dealt with regulatory delays and roadblocks at the state level while trying to site new power lines. The statute gave the Energy Department authority to clear interstate projects co-sponsored by either of two of its four public power agencies. It’s just the latest twist in the battle over transmission siting between state and federal agencies as U.S. regulators push for stronger, multi-state lines capable of moving renewable power to where it’s needed.
“Moving remote and plentiful power to areas where electricity is in high demand is essential for building the grid of the future,” Ernest Moniz, the energy secretary, said in a statement. “Building modern transmission that delivers renewable energy to more homes and businesses will create jobs, cut carbon emissions and enhance the reliability of our grid.”
Clean Line Energy Partners will still need to acquire land where the line would cross. The federal government said it could use eminent domain if negotiations failed, under a thus-far unused provision of the 2005 Energy Policy Act.
Energy officials have been urging significant extensions and upgrades to the nation’s transmission system for years but there has been little new construction since the 1980s. And although the push to enhance the grid has gained urgency as renewables have spread, thousands of miles of long-haul lines have not yet gained approval.
Allowing the project, called Plains and Eastern, to go ahead could encourage the spread of low-carbon electricity and increase system reliability at a reasonable cost to consumers, the department said.
Michael Skelly, the president of Clean Line, said, “We are encouraged by the strong market demand for low-cost, clean energy and anticipate that interest will only increase now that the project has this essential approval in place.”
Carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation are a major cause of anthropogenic climate change. The deployment ofwind and solar power reduces these emissions, but is subject to the variability of the weather. In the present study, we calculatethe cost-optimized configuration of variable electrical power generators using weather data with high spatial (13-km) andtemporal (60-min) resolution over the contiguous US.Our results show that when using future anticipated costs for wind and solar, carbon dioxide emissions from the US electricity sector can be reduced by up to 80% relative to 1990 levels, without an increase in the levelized cost of electricity. The reductions are possible with current technologies and without electrical storage. Wind and solar power increase their share of electricity production as the system grows to encompass large-scale weather patterns. This reduction in carbon emissions is achieved by moving away from a regionally divided electricity sector to a national system enabled by high-voltage direct-current transmission.