Saturday, February 28, 2009

Grid gridlock

BLUEFUELENERGY.COM: It’s blatantly obvious that in order to incorporate renewable energy into the North American energy mix on a meaningful level we’re going to have to significantly expand and upgrade electrical grids. Presently, grids are archaic, fragmented, and not very “intelligent”. Politicians throughout the land are aboard the bandwagon on this one, beating the drum for all they’re worth. And why not? Unfortunately, it’s going to take a lot longer, and cost a lot more, than we all would like to admit.

Here in British Columbia, BC Transmission Corporation (BCTC) made a presentation on January 7, 2009 outlining their vision of how BC’s grid expansion should proceed. The presentation highlighted a few “challenges” presented by BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) and NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) revealed by a survey conducted by Innovative Research Group Inc. :

70% of respondents agree that new industrial developments should be built as far away from existing neighborhoods as possible.

47% of respondents agree that they like their neighborhood the way it is, and that they don’t want any new development.

Data has been redacted, but in general it shows that hydro generation receives the highest level of support and HV transmission lines less support than nuclear-generated electricity . . . among traditional power projects, nuclear is viewed as the most dangerous, with HV transmission lines a close second.

Major transmission projects take 2-3 times longer to build than new
generation – early regulatory approval of future projects is critical to ensure transmission needs of the province are met.

Subsequent to this presentation, a February 18 Marketwire report outlined how a BC Court of Appeal ruled that BC Hydro and BCTC’s proposed $700 HV transmission line from the interior of BC to the Vancouver area cannot proceed until First Nations are properly consulted and accommodated for infringements to their aboriginal title and rights.

A February 12 report highlighted the fact that grid upgrades are equally problematic in the US, and that there is a big divide between environmentalists who are focused on greenhouse gas emissions and those who worry about harm to natural habitats, whether caused by global warming or anything else.

The upshot is that, as we work to overcome the obstacles to grid expansion and upgrades, we also need to pursue other ways of incorporating renewable energy into the energy mix. From the perspective of Blue Fuel Energy, the most obvious way of doing this is to convert renewables to a liquid fuel that can carry this energy to load centers without the grid—which explains why we call Blue Fuel “liquid electricity.”

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