As observers of this column know, I’m not a big fan of wind-generated electric power, but I will confess curiosity about the Grain Belt Express, a 750-mile, high-voltage line to carry wind power from western Kansas to Indiana with a small amount for use in Missouri.
Transmission is one of the questions about wind power, but voltage from coal and gas plants is sent across long distances. Why not wind power? The Grain Belt Express would carry direct current subject to less loss along the way.
The project has aroused opposition from locals in Buchanan, Clinton, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Randolph, Monroe and Ralls counties where the line would run. In Ralls, a converter station would provide 14 percent of the load for use in Missouri. The Sierra Club has endorsed the line as a way to enhance the use of renewable energy. If the line were to carry coal-fired energy, it no doubt would be opposed.
So, the issue is the transmission line, not the source of generation. I reckon local land owners would be just negative, regardless.
A high-voltage line runs through my rural patch but not that close to my home. Had the proposal been to build the line right in my already occupied yard, I’d no doubt be as skeptical as folks in the affected counties.
For us far away in Boone County, the issue of generation looms larger. Can wind power be successfully produced, transported long distances and integrated with existing local generation to provide a viable alternative to coal, etc.? Coal will remain less expensive perhaps forever, but will wind, etc. be able to get in the game?
Wind still has environmental problems. I’m convinced over time we will become less and less enamored of huge wind farms polluting the landscape, and we don’t yet know how the cost and hassle of replacing worn-out windmills and turbines will figure in. But it does seem as if the challenge of transmission might be no greater for wind than for more traditional sources.
Maybe parochialism will keep the Grain Belt Express at bay, but this will have nothing to do with the viability of wind power. Shall we keep a slightly open mind while we learn more?
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