Originally, our nation's electric transmission system was designed to serve local load with local generation; that is, power was expected to be generated in one location and consumed nearby. But the grid today serves in a role for which it was not constructed – facilitating massive numbers of wholesale energy transactions across long distances. And over the past several decades, regulatory uncertainty has resulted in inadequate upgrades and expansions of the existing transmission system.
Today's increasing prevalence of renewable generation only exacerbates this situation. Typically, the best locations for wind and solar generation occur far from load centers, where the electricity will be used. This necessitates long transmission lines to carry the power to where it is needed.
Such was the case with Texas' Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) projects, which AEP Transmission helped complete in 2014 through its Electric Transmission Texas (ETT) joint venture. To enable power to be moved from remote wind facilities in west Texas to load centers to the east, we built all or parts of seven transmission lines and their supporting infrastructure, some 465 miles of double-circuit 345-kV lines. We also recently completed a 108-mile line in Kansas as part of another joint venture to incorporate wind energy into the grid.
Even when the electricity is produced in less out of the way places, like Wyandot, Ohio, we still have work to do. When the Wyandot Solar Project (10.08 MW) began construction, AEP Transmission was tasked with making improvements to the North Upper Sandusky Station to allow it to receive the power from the facility.
These projects will only become more common in the coming decades as increasing amounts of renewable energy are added to the generation mix to replace the retirement of fossil-fuel plants.
Did you know?
Because of the variable nature of wind and solar generation, steps must be taken to moderate the electricity flow from these sources to ensure a stabile electrical grid.