Thursday, May 21, 2009

Clean Electricity Needs Power Lines, Just Like Fossil-Fuel Electricity

The electricity may come from a futuristic source, but transmitting it still depends on a 100-year-old technology: Put up tall towers and string lines between them.

And as new sources of electricity come on line, new transmission lines are going up or being planned. Which has several citizens steamed.

The Transmission Agency of Northern California (TANC) is planning to build a new 600-mile, 500 kV transmission line to bring solar, wind and geothermal energy from northeastern California to the Sacramento area. Some residents of Winters, Calif., about 30 miles west of Sacramento, have learned the power lines will run right next to their homes.

Utilities must build the new lines because the government may soon require them to get a third of their power from renewable sources by 2020, and the existing lines can't handle the extra power. Siting the new towers next to current ones would compromise security, so TANC is investing $1.5 billion in the new route.

A NIMBY sentiment has taken hold in several communities along the proposed course. While everyone's in favor of clean energy, they also want a clean environment. One that doesn't feature massive masts on their land.

Some residents are asking why the government doesn't put resources into smaller solar power projects that could serve nearby towns.

But utilities and energy experts say the erection of new power lines is inevitable. As a member of the California Energy Commission said, "If we are going to have to move away from fossil fuels, we are going to have build some transmission lines."

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