Wind energy producers face wall in moving power east

Posted on November 1, 2010. Filed under: Transmission, Wind |


From an article by Dan Piller in the Des Moines Register:

Iowa energy policymakers know that building the nation’s second-largest wind generating capacity was relatively easy compared with the next step of figuring how to transport surplus electricity to Eastern cities.

One thing appears certain: If plans don’t gel relatively soon on ways to move wind energy across state lines, the slowdown in building wind farms in Iowa will turn into a complete halt.

“Absolutely, Iowa will see wind energy development stopped if transmission issues aren’t solved,” said Roya Stanley, director of the Iowa Power Fund. She’s Gov. Chet Culver’s representative on multistate task forces trying to untangle the wires, literally, to build an interstate electric system.

Robert Loyd, manager of the Clipper Windpower plant in Cedar Rapids, said: “Everybody’s waiting for something to happen. If we don’t get the transmission issue solved fairly soon, we’ll hit a wall on new wind power development.”

Loyd laid off workers last year. So did TPI Composites in Newton, a company heralded as part of that city’s attempts to come back from the Maytag closing five years ago.

Wind already faces a stiff challenge from natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal and now is believed to be in much larger supply in the nation than previously believed five years ago thanks to huge discoveries.

Gas has a built-in advantage — a national network of pipelines. Wind-generated electricity doesn’t have a multistate transport system, and such a network will be needed if Iowa and the Upper Midwest expect to succeed.

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