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Transmission Lines Reduce Regional Wind Energy Development
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by Steven Bruckner | 2009

Proponents of MAPP and PATH, the two proposed power transmission lines in Maryland, often justify the need for the lines with scary what-if scenarios. What if it’s a hot summer day in July and a piece of the grid goes down? Blackouts. Well, while we’re considering what-if scenarios, what if we built wind farms offshore in the Atlantic Ocean instead of transmission lines that imported coal-fired power to reinforce the region’s energy demand?

Proponents of MAPP and PATH, the two proposed power transmission lines in Maryland, often justify the need for the lines with scary what-if scenarios.  What if it’s a hot summer day in July and a piece of the grid goes down? Blackouts.  Well, while we’re considering what-if scenarios, what if we built wind farms offshore in the Atlantic Ocean instead of transmission lines that imported coal-fired power to reinforce the region’s energy demand? 

 

Did you know that:

·         The best wind resources in the entire country are available just off the Atlantic Coast?

·         Many of the East Coast states could meet their entire energy demand with offshore wind energy?

·         The water from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras is so shallow for miles out from the shoreline that turbines could be built with inexpensive, proven, existing technology. And they would be barely visible from shore.

·         The cost of Atlantic Coast offshore wind electricity is not only cheaper than new coal-fired power plants but also guaranteed to remain price stable over the lifetime of the wind farm?

·         A number of East Coast states have already established task forces to initiate offshore wind generation projects. Delaware has already passed legislation to give a company the go-ahead to get started. 

 

Eleven East Coast governors, in a joint letter (http://files.eesi.org/governors_051109.pdf) to Congressional leadership on May 11, 2009,  expressed their strong interest in using offshore wind for electricity generation in their states.  The governors  also expressed their concern that the building of long distance transmission lines that would bring cheap energy from outside the region would undermine their ability to develop these offshore wind resources.  Their chief concern was that the designation of national electricity transmission corridors for cross country transmission lines would have the effect of subsidizing electricity imported from wind farms in the Great Plains. These transmission lines would give remote onshore wind resources an unfair competitive advantage over offshore wind resources because the cost of the transmission lines wouldn’t be added to the cost of their electricity.

The East Coast governors would prefer to grow their own regional renewable generation capabilities, because their states would  get not only cost competitive power but  also  the business development benefits of tax and royalty revenues and good paying manufacturing, planning, deployment and maintenance jobs for an offshore wind industry.

The governors did not specifically call out the MAPP, PATH and TRAIL transmission lines in their letter even though those lines would have a more severe and immediate deleterious effect than the hypothetical cross country transmission lines they did cite. Because MAPP, PATH and TRAIL would lead to the importation of cheap electricity without also paying for transmission costs, they too would undermine the development of the Atlantic Coast region’s offshore wind energy resources.

However, unlike the clean wind energy resources from the Great Plains, the MAPP, PATH and TRAIL lines would import coal-fired energy resources from plants in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, among the dirtiest coal plants in the nation. The consequence would be a large increase in pollution and GHG emissions because PJM, the regional transmission organization, would be required to select the cheapest resource available—which in this case is also the dirtiest resource available. 

In summary, the development of offshore wind energy resources off the Atlantic Coast would provide a superior alternative solution for potential blackout problems. This solution would be cost competitive, cleaner, and better for the economies of coastal states.    n

 

Steven Bruckner is the Conservation Chair of the VA Chapter of the Sierra Club

> 2009 Table of Contents

   
   

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