Clean energy needs transmission

Posted on July 22, 2008. Filed under: Transmission, Wind |

An editorial from the Wisconsin State Journal:

High-powered transmission lines don’t produce energy. They simply move it around to help keep people’s lights on.
Big transmission lines also can transfer clean energy just as easily as they can carry power from the dirtiest coal-fired generators.

Those are points many opponents of a 32-mile to 55-mile, 345-kilovolt line from west of Middleton to eastern Dane County seem to be missing. Higher energy use in Dane County doesn ‘t have to increase pollution or the carbon dioxide emissions blamed for contributing to climate change.

Just look at Texas.

The Lone Star state is already a national leader in generating power from wind. Just last week, Texas utility officials gave preliminary approval to spend $4.9 billion on big transmission lines to carry a huge amount of wind power from gusty West Texas to big cities such as Dallas. The lines would supply enough energy to serve an estimated 4 million homes.

That means the transmission lines are great news for the environment.

“We have all these wind plants up and operating. What we ‘re asking for is the superhighway to get the energy to the cities, ” said Tom Smith, director of the Texas chapter of the consumer group Public Citizen. “This will send signals to manufacturers all across the world Texas is ready to be a world-class player in renewable energy. ”

Wisconsin is similarly striving to create more renewable fuels. Wisconsin is not an especially windy state. But leaders are exploring erecting wind turbines on blustery Lake Michigan.

Wisconsin also enjoys a huge supply of material such as wood chips, corn stalks, manure and even paper factory waste that can be turned into biofuel.

In addition, some environmentalists are open to erecting a high-powered transmission line across southwestern Wisconsin to connect to wind power in Iowa and Minnesota.

The ongoing controversy over whether to allow a big transmission line around Madison is more complicated. The debate is essentially over how much energy Dane County will need in the future.

Conservation is important and will help reduce demand. But conservation alone won ‘t offset our growing region ‘s appetite for power. That ‘s especially true if plug-in automobiles eventually replace our gas-guzzling cars.

What Wisconsin needs more of is clean energy. And as we develop more of that, we ‘ll need to move it around just as before.


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