Our aging electricity transmission grid and renewable energy

The World Resources Institute reports on the growing problem with our electrical grid, which was never meant to handle renewable energy, where generation starts and stops quickly and comes from all directions too.

Renewable energy resources are location constrained and often available only in remote areas. Their energy must therefore be transported via connected transmission lines (the grid) to demand centers, such as cities. Second, because RE resources are typically intermittent, this energy must be stored or managed with other generation sources to provide a stable and reliable service to consumers.

Widely distributed power could help here, but the only practical way to do that is solar on rooftops. This means the grid must be able to handle power generation from thousands of sources that can generate furiously then stop within seconds, like when a cloud passes overhead.

United States electricity generation and transmission planning and siting are managed in a highly local and fragmented manner. Renewable energy goals are currently set by states, rather than by the federal government, complicating broader regional planning for renewable electricity generation and supporting transmission.

A national grid requires national policy. That’s what we need to work towards.


  • Jason Kim

    With one of the highest concentrations of wind generating capacity in Europe–if not the world–Germany plans to double the amount of wind energy to supplement overall demand and fossil fuel consumption – Jason Kim.

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