by John Crabtree, firstname.lastname@example.org, Center for Rural Affairs
Tapping America’s vast wind resources requires a commitment to building high-capacity transmission infrastructure. An improved electrical grid will create rural jobs in both transmission and wind industries, bring more wind energy online and help secure a clean energy future in regions rich in wind potential.
Unfortunately, the existing transmission network was not designed to penetrate lightly populated regions of the Midwest and Great Plains, a region brimming with wind-energy potential. Instead, the grid was designed to connect large, individual generating units with specific population centers. Consequently, states like Minnesota, with the 10th best wind-development potential among the states, are leaving too much on the table when it comes to economic development and energy independence.
Transmission lines of 400 kV or larger are needed in greater numbers if these states hope to integrate more wind power into their energy portfolio. But a recent Center for Rural Affairs report (http://files.cfra.org/pdf/OpportunityontheLine.pdf) found current transmission infrastructure in the 10 states with the highest potential for wind development have only 6 percent of such high-capacity transmission lines – 2,348 of 37,736 miles nationally.
Moreover, of the 3,710 miles of lines with carrying capacity greater than 600 kV across the country, only 9 miles are located in states that lead the nation in wind potential, accounting for less than 0.3 percent of the total. More efficient use of infrastructure now in place is a crucial first step, and commitment to an improved, expanded grid must come next.
The Center for Rural Affairs was established in 1973 as an unaffiliated nonprofit corporation under IRS code 501(c)3. The Center for Rural Affairs was formed by rural Nebraskans concerned about family farms and rural communities, and we work to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities.