Recently, the New York Times published an article entitled “The Intermittent Nature of Green Power is a Challenge for Utilities”. The article explores instances when the full potential of power produced by a wind farm in Vermont was not allowed onto the grid. However, the real issue soon becomes clear. The power grid isn’t as strong, flexible, or smart as it needs to be so it can absorb non-constant sources of electricity.
But, problems with the grid don’t stop there. The Obama administration recently released a report on the vulnerabilities of the grid. The report cites aging infrastructure and the increased threat of major climate change induced super storms to warn of increased potential for power outages that will affect more and more people across the country.
A system build 100 years ago is powering the United States. 70% of the grid’s transmission lines and transformers are over 25 years old and the average age of power plants is 30 years old. Therefore, it is no surprise that the grid isn’t a shining example of cutting edge technology.
However, the US is using cutting edge technology to install new sources of energy. Last year, 43% of new power capacity came from newly installed wind farms – the fastest growing source of electricity. This comes out to more than 13.1 gigawatts of new wind power capacity installed in 2012.
Additionally, the US is building more of those wind turbines at home. In 2007, only 25% of wind turbine components used for US wind farms were built in the US. Now, 72% of those components are built at home. Additionally, the US exports $388 million of equipment, up from just $16 million in 2007. Renewable energy is not just a clean source of power, but it also brings back those jobs that had been sent overseas.
As we invest in clean, innovative technology to power our country, it only makes sense to invest in the mechanism bringing that power to our homes and businesses. Beyond that, investing in the grid will help protect us from major power outages caused by increasingly intense storms. Although not the most exciting topic, investing in the grid is critically important for our future.