A smart, green grid is needed to enable a near-term renewable revolution

Technology Review has an excellent new article, “Lifeline for Renewable Power: Without a radically expanded and smarter electrical grid, wind and solar will remain niche power sources.”

It is by David Talbot, their Chief correspondent, so no surprise that it is an excellent introduction to the key regulatory and technological issues. There really aren’t any technological hurdles to the rapid growth of renewable power in this country. But we do need 2-way communications to maximize efficiency (by using IT to remotely optimize building energy use from a distance) and enable full use of plug-in hybrids as a load management and load shifting tool (see “Plug-in hybrids and electric cars — a core climate solution”).

What we most need is a major federal-led effort to put in place a 21st century grid with major transmission capability from the Midwest and Southwest. And that probably requires a new federal authority. Fortunately, 2009 is likely to see the mother of all energy bills, and, even more fortunately, next year, both Congress and the White House will be led by people who understand both the technological and regulatory issues.

The figures above (from here) are “Left: Control room of one of the two frequency converting stations of the HVDC transmission line (1 800 MW) covering 960 km between Tianshengqiao and Guangzhou in China. Right: Thyristor ventilators of an HVDC line in China. Source: Siemens AG.”


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