Renewable energy is great-but the grid can slow it down

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Say you want Build a wind farm. You will find a beautiful empty hill in northern Vermont, where the breeze is breezy, and neighbors will not complain about the dirty scenery. (A sort of Damn Miracle,in other words. ) You line up investors, get the correct license, and are ready to install your turbines. Then you run into an obstacle: the power cord. The Vermont countryside is not enough; they are all in Boston, and there are people and their Teslas. So you have a problem.The wind is blowing here, But there is no way to get its green energy There.

Since 1889, the United States won the first long-distance power line (It traversed an amazing 14 miles), the grid is mainly built for energy consumption relatively close to the production site. There are exceptions—such as hydropower from remote dams to cities—but in most cases, coal and natural gas power plants have been linked to nearby residents for a century. But now, as wind farms dot the ridges and solar power plants spread across the desert, distances become more common.

The wires are not ready yet.Princeton University researchers estimate the country’s high-voltage transmission capacity Need to grow by 60% Achieve its clean energy goals in the next ten years. “The power grid we have is not designed for our current use, let alone what we want to use it for, and all kinds of renewable energy sources,” said Seth Blumsa, an economist who studies power grids at Pennsylvania State University. Ke said.

In many parts of the country, wind and solar are already the cheapest ways to produce energy, but transmission is a limiting factor. Kerinia Cusick, co-founder of the Center for Renewable Energy Integration, explained that the center is an advocate for the modernization of green energy grids. Non-profit organization. This means that in places like rural Vermont, wind farm owners are often ordered to shut down when a healthy breeze blows—a measure called “power curtailment”—because there is too much power being transmitted through wires.

For factories that have not yet been built, the situation is even worse, because grid restrictions mean that proponents must lay new lines and pay for them before installing turbines or solar panels. Every year, hundreds of renewable energy projects are in the pre-planning stage due to delays in transmission line upgrades and high upgrade costs.

Hudson Gilmer, CEO of LineVision, said: “There is a high risk of ruining your project.” Gilmer’s company solves the problem from another angle: existing The grid carries more electricity. Even if the plan for the new production line is approved, there is no guarantee that it will actually happen. No one wants to lay a lot of wires in their backyards or on the endangered wetlands. Therefore, Gilmer tried every means to get more power from the congested lines.

This is possible because the power cord is usually not fully utilized. Limits on how much power a line can carry are usually preset, and they are based on assumptions about physics and engineering decades ago. They are conservative-it is understandable, this is to maintain the lighting reliably and safely. But Gilmer and others believe that technological improvements allow line owners to monitor their systems more closely and drive more electricity. “We are not saying that we don’t need new high-voltage lines that transport renewable energy from Dakota or West Texas to urban areas,” Gilmer said, referring to two of the most productive wind power plants in the United States. area. For this, the country still needs a new electronic highway. But our idea is to get more benefits from bottlenecked production lines and make room for more renewable energy that is stagnating in the queue.

LineVision specializes in a technology called dynamic line rating. One of the physical limitations of power cords is that heat is generated when current flows through them. When the wire heats up and expands, the power is too large and the wire will begin to sag, which may cause sparks and cause a fire. But no one actually monitors every line. These restrictions are based on assumptions designed to avoid the worst-case scenario. There are other factors that affect the temperature of the line, such as the weather. Most days, a breeze blows through the wires, cooling them down—maybe only a few degrees, but theoretically enough to carry more electricity. Therefore, Gilmer’s company installed sensors and used lidar and other equipment to monitor whether the production line was sagging. It claims that the technology can increase the capacity of the production line by as much as 40%.

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