Iowa has joined with four other upper midwest states in a planning and funding effort for a regional electric transmission system. The chair of the Iowa Utilities Board, John Norris, says they’re trying to catch up with increases in renewable energy.
Norris says part of the problem of dealing with an increased electric capacity from wind generation is the constraints on the transmission grid, and trying to get more infrastructure to handle the potential for thousands of more megawatts of energy.
Norris says the current transmission system can’t carry all the power. He says the current lines were built 50 or more years ago and the lines haven’t been upgraded, because we haven’t needed it for wholesale electric sales. Norris says another problem is the midwest windmills are a long way away from the current transmission grid.
Norris says if the wind resources were by Chicago or Cleveland, you wouldn’t need more transmission, but the wind resources are a long ways away, and the current system is built to ship all that electricity thousands of miles. He says there are other issues that go with creating cleaner issues.
They are also talking about sequestering carbon from the coal-fired electric plants, and that will require a whole new pipeline system to carry the carbon. Norris says they will hold their first meeting in October, and start the process.
Norris says the goal is to make a decision within one year on the transmission system they need, and the cost allocation. He says they hope to "put metal into the ground" by 18 months. Norris says they will get a regional generation study in the spring of 2009 that will help them move ahead with their plans. Iowa joins Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin in the planning effort.