Iowa is already one of the national leaders in wind energy, but a study finds the next step needed for a major expansion of wind power in Iowa is the building of more transmission lines. The Center for Rural Affairs is releasing a report called: “Connect the Dots; Transmission and Rural Communities.”
Report author Johnathan Hladik says there are more wind turbines out there that aren’t connected to the power grid. “There’s already 275,000 megawatts of actual turbines constructed, just not producing electricity because they’re not hooked up to lines,” Hladik says. “This problem is just going to continue as time goes on. It’s a great time to tackle it now.” Hladik says there is a need for a considerable build-up of transmission lines across the region.
He says, “We’ll need about 30 to 40,000 miles over the next 20 years or so, which is going to come out to about $12-billion to 16-billion per year as we improve this infrastructure.” Hladik says a public private partnership may be one way to get the investments needed to upgrade the grid.
“Historically, utilities have paid for all the transmission because they owned all the transmission,” Hladik says. Federal regulators issued a new rule about ten years ago saying utilities have to let other generating sources use the transmission lines. He says there’s also been an increase in private investors paying for transmission lines.
Hladik says over the past 25 years, electricity demand has exceeded transmission expansion by about 25-percent every year. He says each billion dollars invested in transmission results in nearly 13-thousand full-time equivalent years of employment. The Center for Rural Affairs is based in Lyons, Nebraska. The full report can be downloaded at: www.cfra.org
By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton