Up and down the center of the country, winds rip across plains, ridges and plateaus, a belt of unharnessed energy capable of powering millions of customers, with enormous potential to help meet national goals to stem climate change.
And because the bulk of the demand is hundreds of miles away, companies are working to build a robust network of high-voltage transmission lines to get the power to the coasts.
If only it were that simple. In all, more than 3,100 miles of projects have yet to be built, in need of government approval.
One of the most ambitious projects, called the Grain Belt Express from a company called Clean Line Energy Partners, spent six years winning the go-ahead in three of the Midwestern states it would cross, only to hit a dead end in Missouri when state regulators voted 3 to 2 to stop the project. They were swayed by landowners like Jennifer Gatrel, who runs a midsize family cattle operation with her husband, Jeff, here in the northwestern part of the state.
She and other opponents made the usual arguments against trampling property rights through the use of eminent domain, obliterating their pastoral views and disrupting their way of life.
But they also argued something else: Why should they have to live beneath the high-voltage lines when there is plenty of wind in the East?
Now the whole project is waiting, putting the Gatrels in the middle of an emerging battle over how the nation should shift to renewable energy and meet ambitious targets in carbon reduction. The outcome will determine where and how green energy will develop over the coming decades.
Proposed Transmission Lines for Renewable Energy
Several companies are hoping to build high-voltage transmission lines to transport renewable energy from wind farms and hydroelectric plants to more populous regions of the country. One such company, Clean Line Energy Partners, has been denied permission by the Missouri Public Service Commission to run its Grain Belt Express transmission line across that state.
The transmission lines like Grain Belt Express, he said, would bring the electricity to where there is demand.
The push to enhance the grid has gained urgency as renewables have spread. Already, electric systems in areas like Hawaii and Germany are under strain as wind and solar power fluctuate and overload the wires. What is needed, proponents say, is a new infrastructure better suited to handle renewable energy.
Energy Department officials acknowledge as much, saying that the United States must significantly upgrade its transmission and distribution system to meet both the needs of the information economy and clean energy goals, an effort that would require an estimated $900 billion in investment by 2030.
A recent study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado, Boulder, found that with such a network, the United States could supply most of its electricity with renewables by then at costs near today’s prices and get close to meeting the goals set in the Paris agreement on climate change.
But opponents like Ms. Gatrel say that giant projects like the Grain Belt Express represent an outmoded, centralized approach to delivering energy. Just as it is healthier and more sustainable to eat foods close to where they are grown, the argument goes, so, too, should electricity be consumed closer to where it is produced.
The Latest on: Alternative energy transmission lines
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The Latest on: Alternative energy transmission lines
- Daily on Energy: Bill Gates-backed initiative seeks overhaul of ‘antiquated’ transmission lineson June 17, 2020 at 9:27 am
The American Council on Renewable Energy and Americans for a Clean Energy Grid ... ACEG’s executive director. Transmission lines are critical to transporting electricity from places, typically rural ...
- Minnesota Power Energizes Great Northern Transmission Lineon June 17, 2020 at 8:41 am
V line is now delivering 250 MW of carbon-free hydropower from Manitoba, Canada, to Minnesota Power customers.
- Renewable energy passes coal; advocates say it's just the beginningon June 15, 2020 at 11:41 am
Renewable energy — already supplanting coal on the basis of economics — could become the major power source 15 years earlier than expected, researchers said.
- Minnesota Power energizes Great Northern Transmission Line, bringing 250 MW delivery capabilities onlineon June 15, 2020 at 5:47 am
A line running from Canada and through two states — the Great Northern Transmission Line — came online this week, providing Minnesota Power customers 250 megawatts of hydropower-generated energy. © ...
- Great Northern Transmission Line powers up, bringing Manitoba hydropower to Minnesotaon June 11, 2020 at 7:47 pm
DULUTH – A 224-mile transmission line has started delivering Canadian hydropower to Minnesota homes and businesses after Minnesota Power energized the Great Northern Transmission Line this week. The ...
- Minnesota Power Energizes Great Northern Transmission Line to Move Company Closer to 50 Percent Renewable Energy by 2021on June 11, 2020 at 4:01 am
Minnesota Power energizes Great Northern Transmission Line to move company closer to 50 percent renewable energy by 2021 ...
- Minnesota Power Energizes Great Northern Transmission Line to Move Company Closer to 50 Percent Renewable Energy by 2021on June 11, 2020 at 3:41 am
"The seed for this renewable energy initiative was planted in 2008 when Minnesota Power proposed purchasing 250 megawatts of hydropower from Manitoba Hydro. Beyond the transmission line ...
- Minnesota Power Energizes Great Northern Transmission Line to Move Company Closer to 50 Percent Renewable Energy by 2021on June 11, 2020 at 12:30 am
Minnesota Power, a utility division of ALLETE Inc. (NYSE:ALE), has energized its Great Northern Transmission Line, bringing online an innovative delivery and storage system for renewable energy ...
- NY saw little progress toward renewable energy goals in 2019on June 10, 2020 at 10:52 am
New York made little progress last year toward its goal of boosting renewable energy production, the state’s bulk electricity grid operator said in a report ...
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