Clearing the way for a renewable power explosion

Building high-voltage power transmission lines through empty country costs billions and requires state and local permits along the route. These barriers were attacked Monday in Park City, Utah, when federal cabinet officers promised Western governors they would get help.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the West has a huge potential to develop renewable energy from wind, the sun and tapping the tremendous heat that lies below the earth’s surface.
But “it doesn’t do any good to generate energy if you can’t get it to market,” Salazar told an Associated Press re-porter Monday during the annual meeting of the Western Governors’ Association.
Sec. Salazar also said that federal energy offices would be opened in California, Nevada, Arizona and Wyoming to speed the process along.
Federal initiatives on transmission lines in the West tie in with promises made years ago to up-grade the power grid in the New England and Great Lakes region following brownouts there caused by overloads and storm damage. Those promises were not kept — but should be now that America is finally getting serious about freeing itself from dependance on imported oil and doing its part on climate change.
An adequate power grid is as essential to America’s economic growth as are the Interstate Highway System and the rail grid. It is obvious by now to all who think about it that the needed high voltage transmission lines and the sophisticated monitoring and control system that goes with them are not going to be built by the private sector. Highways are built with public funds, so should high-voltage transmission lines.
There may be no infrastructure project more deserving of federal stimulus dollars.
It is equally apparent that renewable energy entrepreneurs will invest in wind farms, solar and geothermal projects where they can get the power they produce to markets that will buy it. This is, in fact, a case where if you build it, they will come.

MORE TAX dollars also should be devoted to subsidizing — probably with tax breaks — new renewable energy projects such as solar thermal and geothermal installations until they can fly on their own.
The same can be said for pricing plug-in cars within reach of the average motorist. Plug-ins run much cheaper than gasoline-powered vehicles. The cars themselves are more expensive be-cause production volume is low and the technology is evolving. Because plug-ins offer the U.S. and other Western na-tions the clearest path to energy independence, it would be a good investment to make that alternative available to as many as possible as soon as possible.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.