Tuesday, July 22, 2008
New High Voltage Transmission Lines - Needed or Not?
Yesterday the Wisconsin State Journal published an editorial in support of building new electrical transmission lines. While I don't agree with their damn-the-torpedoes-full-speed-ahead approach to the issue, they raise some important points.
Despite our best efforts at conservation, electricity usage will increase significantly over the next few decades as we move away from liquid fossil fuels. In twenty years most of us will drive plug-in hybrids or electric cars, and heat our houses with electricity.
Unfortunately, while the editorial mentions this increased demand, it misses the fact that increased electrical demand alone doesn't necessarily mean we need more transmission lines. Improved peak load control and distributed generation can let the existing electrical grid handle a lot more power, greatly reducing the need for new transmission lines.
But we're going to build a bunch of new transmission lines anyway. The main reason isn't demand, but supply. What the editorial gets exactly right is that increased use of renewable energy will result in significant geographical changes in electrical power generation. You build wind turbines where the wind is good, not next to existing power plants, and you need new transmission lines to get that green power to where it's going to be used.
This doesn't mean that every new transmission line is justified. But don't make the mistake of thinking that we're going to simply conserve our way out of this issue either.