|Martin, 9 (Christopher, Bloomberg, “Wind Promises Blackouts as Obama Strains Grid With Renewables” 8/7, http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=washingtonstory&sid=arbHcz0ryM_E)
President Barack Obama’s push for wind and solar energy to wean the U.S. from foreign oil carries a hidden cost: overburdening the nation’s electrical grid and increasing the threat of blackouts.¶ The funding Obama devoted to get high-voltage lines ready for handling the additional load of alternative supplies is less than 5 percent of the $130 billion that power users, producers and the U.S. Energy Department say is needed.¶ Without more investment, cities can’t tap much of the renewable energy from remote areas, said Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He serves as the administration’s top official on grid issues and recognizes the dilemma it faces.¶ “As we add more and more wind power, the grid will get more stressed, and there’s going to be a point where the grid can’t handle any more,” Wellinghoff said at an energy conference in Chicago. “The first thing we need is to build out transmission.”¶ The country’s electricity network sprawls over 211,000 miles (340,000 kilometers) of high-voltage power lines, a patchwork connecting substations and transformers owned by utilities and federal agencies.¶ Obama’s $787 billion stimulus plan to end the deepest U.S. recession since the 1940s dedicates $6 billion in the next two years to expand the country’s transmission system for renewable energy. By contrast, China is spending 23 percent of its 4 trillion yuan ($585 billion) in stimulus to make its grid ready for alternative sources, using advanced electrical technologies from Zurich-based ABB Ltd. and American Superconductor Corp.¶ Grid Gets Less¶ “China’s our fastest-growing market,” said Jason Fredette, investor relations manager at Devens, Massachusetts- based American Superconductor, which has outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index by 93 percentage points this year. “We’re not counting on U.S. stimulus money.”¶ The Energy Department’s latest round of loan guarantees, announced July 29, underscored the government’s emphasis on alternative energy over the transmission system itself. The department said it will provide as much as $30 billion for renewable projects, compared with $750 million to increase the reliability of the nation’s power network.¶ The administration is counting on private utilities and transmission developers to complement its investment, according to Wellinghoff. Yet a full refit of the U.S. grid would cost $13 billion annually over 10 years, compared with the $5 billion a year averaged over the last decade, said Rich Lordan of the Electric Power Research Institute, an industry-funded energy research organization in Palo Alto, California.¶ Consumer Backlash¶ The amount utilities will spend is limited by how much consumers are willing to pay for transmission work and alternative energy, said Keith Martin, a lawyer at New York- based Chadbourne & Parke LLP who represents developers of renewable projects. A new solar-power facility costs three times as much as a coal-fired plant of the same size, the Energy Department estimates.¶ “Five years from now, we could experience ratepayer backlash,” Martin said.¶ Encouraging alternative sources without preparing the grid heightens the risk of shortages, said Will Gabrielski, an analyst with Broadpoint AmTech Inc. in San Francisco. He ranked first in a Bloomberg analyst survey based on the 12-month accuracy of his calls on Houston-based Quanta Services Inc., the largest U.S. builder of power lines.
Overloads the entire grid
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