Transmission Challenges Slow Wind Energy Success

Joanna Schroeder

HarvestingTheWindThe wind energy industry enjoyed some success during 2009 despite the economic down-turn and the difficulty of obtaining private investment dollars. There are currently 31 gigawatts of wind in production throughout the U.S. that has reduced carbon dioxide emissions and water use. New projects have increased economic development and tax revenue and 35,000 new green jobs were created according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). Yet the continued growth of the wind energy industry is going to be seriously challenged by transmission limitations, said Susan Williams Sloan with AWEA during AG CONNECT Expo held in Orlando, Florida.

This is in part what has driven AWEA to support legislation that would develop federal policy on electric grid planning. However, what this policy doesn’t address is who is going to pay for the updated system. The obvious answer: us.

Steve Wegman, with the South Dakota Wind Energy Association not only stresses the importance of transmission challenges, but notes that our country will never see better policy without consumer participation. And without consumer participation, wind energy will be stopped in its tracks.

In the meantime, there is a growing movement to community wind projects. Lisa Daniels, with the Minnesota based non profit Windustry, explains that community wind is about keeping those energy dollars as local as possible. Daniels is especially excited about “renewable projects supplying power for renewable energy.” An example would be an ethanol plant using wind to power its facility.

While citing wind projects can be challenging, all the speakers noted that this shouldn’t be the case. “It shouldn’t take a superhero,” said Daniels. “We need supportive policies and standardized policies.”

Wegman concurred and left the audience to ponder an interesting definition of insanity from Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.” This, says Wegman, represents our country’s current energy policy.

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