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Wind power growth no breeze

Transportation -- of both giant wind turbine parts and the electricity they eventually generate -- remains the biggest hurdle to continued growth of wind power, an Iowa utility official says. Neither an extensive network of farm roads in a state like Iowa nor the existing corridors of high-power electric lines match the expanding needs of wind farms.

Transportation -- of both giant wind turbine parts and the electricity they eventually generate -- remains the biggest hurdle to continued growth of wind power, an Iowa utility official says.

Neither an extensive network of farm roads in a state like Iowa nor the existing corridors of high-power electric lines match the expanding needs of wind farms.

That's the view from MidAmerican Energy Company's general manager for wind development, Tom Budler, who spoke Thursday night to the Omaha/Offutt chapter of the American Meteorological Society.

The Iowa company is the nation's leading rate-regulated owner-operator of wind power in the United States.

Over the past six years, its aggressive wind power program has helped propel Iowa to the No. 2 spot nationwide for wind-generated electricity.

The foremost obstacle to adding more wind power in Iowa, as in most states, Budler said, is the existing electric grid. There aren't enough high power lines in rural areas where strong wind is abundant and land is available.

MidAmerican has about 1,300 megawatts of wind energy in Iowa, plus state approval to build up to another 1,001 megawatts. MidAmerican will be able to transmit part of that 1,001 megawatts at... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Transportation -- of both giant wind turbine parts and the electricity they eventually generate -- remains the biggest hurdle to continued growth of wind power, an Iowa utility official says.

Neither an extensive network of farm roads in a state like Iowa nor the existing corridors of high-power electric lines match the expanding needs of wind farms.

That's the view from MidAmerican Energy Company's general manager for wind development, Tom Budler, who spoke Thursday night to the Omaha/Offutt chapter of the American Meteorological Society.

The Iowa company is the nation's leading rate-regulated owner-operator of wind power in the United States.

Over the past six years, its aggressive wind power program has helped propel Iowa to the No. 2 spot nationwide for wind-generated electricity.

The foremost obstacle to adding more wind power in Iowa, as in most states, Budler said, is the existing electric grid. There aren't enough high power lines in rural areas where strong wind is abundant and land is available.

MidAmerican has about 1,300 megawatts of wind energy in Iowa, plus state approval to build up to another 1,001 megawatts. MidAmerican will be able to transmit part of that 1,001 megawatts at a reasonable cost, Budler said. But in general, the transmission cost for wind projects is becoming more expensive.

The problem isn't confined to Iowa.

An electric industry study, called the Joint Coordinated System Plan, has estimated that it would cost $80 billion in transmission upgrades to provide the eastern half of the United States with 20 percent of its electricity from land-based wind farms.

As an example of rising transmission costs in the Midwest, Budler compared the cost of integrating into the grid the first 1,300 megawatts of wind energy that MidAmerican built in Iowa to the estimated cost of adding 1,500 megawatts in the future in the Midwest.

That first round required about $50 million in upgrades. This next round is expected to cost about $930 million in transmission improvements.

That's true virtually across the country for wind power expansion.

The reason? With existing wind farms, MidAmerican and other utilities have generally relied on upgrades to existing lines. But future wind farms will require building new power lines, a costly and controversial undertaking because of land and construction costs.

"You'll be hearing a lot about transmission and the allocation of those costs in the near future," Budler said.

The key to protecting Iowa ratepayers from a spike in their rates to fund those power lines will be to spread the expense among all users of the electricity generated by the new wind capacity, Budler said.

Wind power generated in Iowa is consumed not only by Iowans, but also by out-of-state utilities.

Budler said Iowa's utilities and regulators are working with others in the industry and in other states to come up with a proposed rate structure for spreading the cost of power transmission. Other states also are looking at how to apportion costs.

To a lesser extent, the existing network of roads limits the amount of power a wind farm can generate because the roads limit the size of the turbines being built, he said.

It's not that there are a lack of roads. Iowa has an extensive network of rural roads hearkening back to the days when family farmers, especially dairy farmers, had to get their produce and crops to market quickly.

But because the blades on the wind turbine fans are so long, MidAmerican has had to shave off the tops of hills and fill in the low spots of some rural roads so the lengthy blades don't scrape the road.

And land-based windmills are smaller than those situated along ocean coastlines. Off-shore turbines probably could be built to generate 5 megawatts to 10 megawatts each, Budler said. The current maximum capacity of a land-based turbine is probably 3 megawatts.

MidAmerican's existing turbines in Iowa generate 1.5 megawatts to 2.3 megawatts each.


Source: http://www.omaha.com/articl...

MAY 21 2010
https://www.windaction.org/posts/26385-wind-power-growth-no-breeze
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