The idea of exchanging our current processes of making electricity from non-renewable and harmful sources like fossil fuels, to more eco-friendly systems like solar or wind sounds amazing. These sources would solve the future energy crisis if our current dependence of fossil fuels remains, and best of all, its free and unlimited. However, how will we handle that power? Will we be able to incorporate the energy generated from these alternative energy systems into our current grid?
Many would answer that we currently do not have an advanced enough power grid to handle the excess amount of energy that these sources could generate. “The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not”1. The power grid in existence today is outdated. Designed decades ago and is no longer an appropriate system to handle our current energy needs. In order to remain running and “to avoid system failures, the amount of power flowing over each transmission line must remain below the line’s capacity. Exceeding capacity generates too much heat in a line, which can cause the line to sag or break or can create power-supply instability such as phase and voltage fluctuations”2.. In New York, the idea of increasing the use of wind power to provide for a large part of electricity in the cities has hit a wall. In order for this source of power to be in use and be feasible, the electricity generated from these turbines would need to be moved across long distances from the countryside where they are installed towards the coastline and into big cities. The grid’s limitation problem is not concentrated just in New York, but with many other places, especially where solar generated power in the deserts must be moved towards populated towns and cities. In Ontario, “about 20 percent of the distribution assets will reach the end of their expected life within a decade. Not only are many components reaching the end of their service life, but they also are not equipped for increasing levels of renewables on the grid edge that require a more dynamic distribution system”3. This means that in order for renewable energy to be realistic, the power grids and methods of electric power transmission must be updated. “The basic problem is that many transmission lines, and the connections between them, are simply too small for the amount of power companies would like to squeeze through them. The difficulty is most acute for long-distance transmission, but shows up at times even over distances of a few hundred miles”1. Therefore, with our current system, we cannot use renewable energy systems to their fully potential because of the limitation of outdated technology somehow still in use.
So how do we solve the problem of the energy grid? “Unlike answers to many of the nation’s energy problems, improvements to the grid would require no new technology”1. The cost however, will be high, needing more than 60 billion dollars to complete. In order for us to be able to take advantage and utilize our alternative energies sources, we must invest in our future and begin this renovation of old power grids, and bring our electric power systems up to the new century.