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Dealing with a power bottleneck

Last week the Independent reported that the operator of the power grid for most of the Midwest is warning that hot days and electrical demand could possibly lead to rotating blackouts this summer. Marshall Municipal Utilities General Manager David Schelkoph cautioned that the power grid warning by Midcontinent Independent Systems Operator (MISO) was just a notice and not an actual alert. He said right now, operations are normal.

During a talk to the Noon Rotary Club that week, Schelkoph suggested power companies could be making the transitioning from coal power plants to more green energy too quick. It’s a fair criticism to make. There has always been that concern that green energy is not at the point presently to replace other traditional sources of power to keep up with the power demand. Green energy critics argue that rapid transitioning to green energy leaves us in a vulnerable positioned when it comes to providing enough electricity to keep the power on.

But in Wednesday’s edition of the Star Tribune, we learned there is more to the story when it comes to transitioning to green energy. While wind turbines have been sprouting all over the state — especially in southwest Minnesota — the present power lines can’t handle the amount of electricity generated by that renewable energy.

“Southern Minnesota and our region does not have enough transmission capacity,” a Minnesota Public Utilities Commission member was quoted in the Star Tribune article. “Fundamentally, there is a bottleneck,” Joe Sullivan said.

The obvious solution to this problem is to build more transmission lines. However, the Star Tribune article points out that it takes about four or five years to get lines permitted and built. The article also states that the MISO board is getting ready to vote whether to approve 18 new power line projects for the Midwest at a cost of $10.3 billion.

That’s the good news.

The bad news — power users will probably end up paying for those new transmission lines through increased rates.

That’s the price to pay when you put the cart before the horse and approve hundreds of wind turbine farms before you figure out how to get the generated power to the consumer.

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