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Study: Wind Power Economical With Grid Improvements, Marketing Incentives

itclogoWind-generated electricity from the upper Midwest will become cost-competitive with power generated from conventional fuel sources like coal, while providing significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions when connected to the nation’s electricity grid with new extra-high-voltage transmission lines, according to a new study by the Brattle Group.

The study, “Transmission Super Highway: Benefits of Extra High Voltage Transmission Overlays,” indicates that the current lack of extra-high-voltage transmission lines through the upper Midwest states, including North and South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota, is a significant barrier to harnessing wind as a viable energy source. The study, commissioned by ITC Holdings Corp., argues that renewable resources offer a cost-effective means to respond to rising energy demands with domestic energy sources.

The report also finds that extra-high-voltage transmission projects like ITC’s proposed Green Power Express are needed for accessing the nation’s renewable energy resources. The transmission project, estimated at a cost of about up to $12 billion, will traverse portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana and will ultimately include approximately 3,000 miles of extra-high-voltage (765 kilovolt) transmission.

The ITC project could result in the efficient movement of up to 12,000 megawatts (MW) of wind power from the upper Midwest states to load centers in the Midwest and ultimately to the East Coast, and eliminate up to 280 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions over a 10-year period, which represents the annual emissions of about seven 600 MW coal plants, according to the study.

Joseph L. Welch, chairman, president and CEO of ITC, spoke before the U.S. Senate and Natural Resources Committee March 12 to discuss the study’s findings. He stressed the need to facilitate renewable energy by updating the policies that govern America’s power grid, and new transmission development to enable states to meet renewable portfolio standards (RPS).

Some states already are finding that wind power can be more economical than power generated from conventional fuel sources. A start-up Maryland company is offering wind power to electric customers at a lower cost than they pay Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE), reports the WJZ-TV Baltimore website.

According to WJZ-TV Baltimore, BGE is required by Maryland law to buy electricity at the cheapest price, but only about one percent of that energy must come from sources like wind or solar. BGE’s winter price has been 11.75 cents per kilowatt hour, and in July, it will rise to 12.66 cents, reports the news station. But start-up Clean Currents told WJZ-TV that consumers can lock in for a year or two at 11.1 or 11.8 cents a kilowatt hour for half or all wind power.

Clean Currents buys its wind power from companies with turbines in Texas and the mid-Atlantic, and has about 250 business and 1,200 residential customers, according to the news report.

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