Electric Supergrids Gaining Traction

Greenpeace%20Belgium%20North%20Sea%20Grid%20Map.jpgIncomplete and constrained transmission grids pose a serious impediment to the use of renewable energy sources such as wind power. Proposals launched over the past week show that support for more lines is going mainstream.

Last week none other than Greenpeace called for an underwater power grid criss-crossing the North Sea to accelerate the installation of dozens of new offshore wind farms. In “A North Sea Electricity Grid [R]Evolution”, Greenpeace Belgium and Brussels-based environmental consulting firm 3E map out an offshore network composed of 6,200 kilometers of undersea lines. According to their models, this grid extension could add 68 gigawatts of wind power capacity by 2020 — enough to meet 13% of net power demand of seven North Sea countries.

Yesterday the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Competitiveness, an alliance of corporate CEOs, university presidents and labor leaders, lent its support to grid expansion, urging the next U.S. president to create a “national transmission superhighway.” The proposal is part of a broader “100-Day Energy Action Plan”. The Council would empower the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to determine when and where expanded transmission capacity is needed, overriding state authorities. “As with the interstate highway system and the information superhighway, our leaders must knit together the current patchwork of regulations and oversight into a seamlessly connected electrical power highway,” states the plan.

Proposals that need to be debated.

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This post was created for Tech Talk – Insights into tomorrow’s technology from the editors of IEEE Spectrum.

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