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 with the greatest wind development potential 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 that current transmission infrastructure in the ten states with the highest potential for wind development have only six 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 nine 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.
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