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Study says windpower not staying local

A report from the Center for Rural Affairs finds those giant wind turbines that dot the farmland skyline are helping power distant cities, not rural homes.

Johnathan Hladik , the center’s energy policy advocate, says major power lines are -not- connected to the areas where the wind power is generated.

Hladik says, “We’re finding that all of the important, big transmission lines that can move a lot of capacity, the kind of capacity we need, are far away from the rural areas that are home to all of our wind turbines.”

Iowa ranks third in the nation for wind energy production, behind Texas and California.

Under the old model of generation, power plants were located close to the population areas they serve. Now, utilities are finding it difficult to locate new plants in heavily-populated areas. Hladik says the study found only a few miles of the modern, major power lines are located close to the wind turbines.

“Only 6% of the lines 400 kilovolts and above are located in the top ten states for wind energy potential and most of those states are in the upper Midwest and the Great Plains areas,” Hladik says. “But even more importantly, less than 1% of the lines over 600 kilovolts are located in these areas. That’s only nine miles.”

Hladik says making a more efficient use of infrastructure now in place is a critical first step, and to make major improvements, it will take some creative partnerships. “It’s not only the job of individual utilities and public utility commissions in each state to recognize the problem and to recognize what we need to do to tap our wind resources, but the onus also falls on states working together, on regional collaboratives,” he says.

The utilities need to come up with plans to move more power over a more efficient energy grid, he says, to insure a clean energy future and more jobs. The Center for Rural Affairs is based in Lyons, Nebraska. Learn more about the report at: www.cfra.org