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Huffing and Puffing and Blowing the Grid Down

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As another reminder of the need to reconstruct America's power grid in order to move forward with renewable energy sources, wind surges in Oregon are forcing grid managers to shut off the wind farms.  Storms can cause production to spike so much that the power lines just can’t transport it all out fast enough.  When it’s more than customers are using, and hydro-power from federal dams can’t be slowed any further, the grid manager has to make the call on behalf of reliability, and cut wind output.

Wind farmers, who depend on producing energy whenever possible for their investment to be economical, aren’t happy about receiving that call.  Over the past three years, the amount of power produced by wind farms supplying Oregon, Washington, and California has doubled, and it will double again in the next three years.  The extreme growth in this region is outpacing the grid’s ability to transport that power where it’s needed.  Efforts to better coordinate the distribution of this power are being stalled by risk adversity and not wanting utility rates to increase.

California is buying lots of wind energy from the region because of its aggressive push on renewable energy standards.  The state is also having issues with receiving its share over interstate power lines, making them a major advocate for restructuring the grid.  Building new power lines is a big project, though, and it could take five to ten years, not to mention coordinating the financial backing.  It just isn’t going to happen fast enough.

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