Report: Transmission tech key to enabling U.S. wind energy market

Framingham, Mass., July 14, 2010 — A new report from IDC Energy Insights describes the impact of current transmission constraints on existing and planned wind farms and the challenges encountered when new transmission lines are proposed.

The report, titled, “Business Strategy: Optimizing Transmission for Wind Integration,” examines the role of key transmission technologies in enabling the rapid growth of the U.S. wind energy market.

“Wind-based electricity generation has enjoyed rapid growth in the United States over the past 10 years, driven by state-level renewable portfolio standards and wind’s current status as the least cost, most scalable renewable energy option,” said Jay Holman, IDC Energy Insights research manager. “New wind farms must be located in areas with excellent wind resources and, unfortunately, these areas are often far from load centers and have weak transmission infrastructure.”

According to the IDC Energy Insights study, this creates a well-documented need for additional transmission capacity, which has been difficult to satisfy due to planning and permitting hurdles that can cause endless delays and cost escalations for new transmission projects.

However, IDC Energy Insights research indicates it is not always necessary to build new transmission lines to add transmission capacity, and technologies exist that enable increases in transmission capacity that cause little or no visible change to the existing transmission infrastructure.

Even in situations where new transmission lines are required, technologies are available that can minimize their footprint, helping to lubricate the planning and permitting processes.

While no single technology will solve all transmission related challenges on its own, together these technologies will play an important role in enabling the increased penetration of renewables, and wind in particular, on the grid.

The technologies include:

* Dynamic line rating
* High-temperature, low-sag conductors
* Voltage uprating
* AC to DC conversion
* Flexible AC transmission system devices
* High voltage DC systems
* Superconducting conductors

“The costs that transmission constraints have imposed on the energy industry through wind curtailment and wind project delays, cancellations, and size reductions have led to increased focus on technologies that can quickly and economically increase transmission capacity while helping to alleviate challenges associated with the planning and permitting process,” stated Mr. Holman.

The IDC Energy Insights study includes an overview of the transmission technologies that offer solutions to these challenges supported by examples and an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. Finally, conclusions are presented and recommendations made for industry stakeholders who want to take full advantage of existing and planned transmission technologies.


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