A View from David Talbot
Holding Back the Wind
A new report says that wind power can’t grow without extensive new transmission investments.
Stock market aside, there’s one area with possible 750 percent growth in the next 10 years: wind power. While lower oil prices and tight credit are hurting alternative energy investments in the short term, today the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC)–a nonprofit established by the electric utility industry–predicted the huge growth of wind power in the United States and Canada through 2007. But it also warned that the transmission system to bring wind power to market is lagging. While more transmission investments are expected, they’ll be outpaced by the growth of new power plants, including wind farms, according to NERC’s new report on the state of the nation’s transmission system. In a statement, Rick Sergel, the CEO of NERC, put it simply: “We need more transmission resources to maintain reliability and achieve environmental goals.” He added, “Faster siting, permitting, and construction of transmission resources will be vital to keeping the lights on in the coming years.” Today, less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity comes from wind. But projects are planned for Texas, the Midwest, the mid-Atlantic, and western states and Canadian provinces.