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AWEA 2017: Grid capacity expansion lagging behind wind growth

UNITED STATES: With wind power development outpacing the expansion of transmission capacity in the US, grid congestion challenges are likely to get worse before they get better.

There is only 35-47GW of new transmission on the drawing board to be built by 2020
There is only 35-47GW of new transmission on the drawing board to be built by 2020

With corporate buyers pushing that risk back on developers in power purchase contracts, it can expose wind farm operators to significant costs.

"At this conference, it seems to be one of the issues that is keeping people awake at night," said Hudson Gilmer, vice-president of commercial markets at the energy market data analysis firm Genscape, during a stand-alone presentation.

There is currently 136GW of wind generation in the US interconnection queue and only 35-47GW of new transmission on the drawing board to be built by 2020, he said.

Although new transmission has emerged as a key priority for AWEA, Gilmer is concerned about "a backlash from regulators and ratepayers, where they are not building transmission at the same rate they were and yet we're continuing to build renewables."

More robust analyses early in the development process could help developers avoid sites where congestion issue could emerge, and there are strategies available to help manage the risk.

There are also emerging technologies that can exploit the ability of transmission lines to carry more electricity than their rated capacity, he explained.

"Part of the challenge is convincing regulators and transmission operators that they shouldn't just reflexively continue to build transmission the way they have for the next 50 or 100 years, that the technology exists to do things in a smart way."

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