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US Short on capacity to fully exploit wind and solar

The US has inadequate transmission capacity to carry the energy that wind and solar power projects could produce, according to a report by two renewable-energy groups.

The wind power projects waiting to be linked to transmission lines could supply 20 percent of the nation’s electricity needs, according to the report issued by the Solar Energy Industries Association and the American Wind Energy Association.


The $787 billion legislation signed off by President Obama includes at least $14 billion in tax breaks for wind and solar electricity and establishes a grant program to help finance projects. It also devotes $11 billion in spending to new transmission lines and so-called smart-grid technology.

“President Obama has issued the bold challenge to double renewable energy generation in the U.S. in three years,” Rhone Resch, president of the solar industry group, said in a statement. However, he continued with a warning: “This will not be achieved without renewed investment in our electric transmission infrastructure to ensure that the regions with the best solar resources are connected to population centres.”

The report, which also calls for $50 billion to $60 billion in new grid spending, says the existing power grid is too old and that it forces communities to buy power from local plants instead of using renewable power from further away.

Furthermore, it urges greater federal authority over siting transmission lines that could carry power across state lines. Most state regulators have little authority or incentive to require ratepayers in their state to help pay for an intestate network, the report said.