Electric Power Transmission – Technology in Flux

We hear a great deal about partisan bickering in Washington, but according to a webinar I attended yesterday on power transmission, the governors of each state on the eastern seaboard of the US from Maine to Virginia are all in complete accord on the imperative to develop offshore wind. “There are a couple of extremely conservative Republicans in that mix,” one speaker noted. “But let me tell you, if I showed you each governor’s statement on this subject and removed the names, I would challenge you to tell me who made which statement.”

That’s encouraging.

So is the raw potential to share power across what are now regional grids. The cost of building out, integrating, and applying real-time intelligence to our grid is significant, but here are two interesting data points.

1) Only 20% of the electrical load in the US is monitored in real-time; the other 80% is managed by approximation.

2) On average, the current cost of transmission of power – sending it from generator to load — is only 7% of the electric bill.

What if we were to spend another fraction of a cent per kilowatt-hour to deploy 21st Century information technology to monitor the load in real time and develop the ability to distribute power generated in remote places to the population centers? All of a sudden, the fact that wind comes from the plains and oceans – and solar comes from the deserts – makes very little difference.

This is precisely what is happening over the next decade or so. Thus the name of the webinar: Game Changers: What you thought you knew about Transmission.

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