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Bill Gates Urges High-Voltage, Long-Distance Power Lines for Clean Energy Future

dimanche 5 février 2023, 22:55 , par Slashdot
Bill Gates is calling for 'high-voltage transmission lines that can carry electricity long distances,' calling them the key to a clean-energy future:

[M]any of the best places to generate lots of electricity are far away from urban centers... so to maximize clean energy's potential, we're going to need much longer lines to move that power from where it's made to where it's needed.... Beyond being old and outdated, there's another big problem making everything worse: Our grid is fragmented. Most people (including me a lot of the time) talk about the 'electric grid' as if it's one single grid covering the whole nation from coast to coast, but it's actually a complicated patchwork of systems with different levels of connection to one another.

Our convoluted network prevents communities from importing energy when challenges like extreme weather shut off their power. It also prevents power from new clean energy projects from making it to people's homes. Right now, over 1,000 gigawatts worth of potential clean energy projects are waiting for approval — about the current size of the entire U.S. grid — and the primary reason for the bottleneck is the lack of transmission. Complicating things further is the fact that new infrastructure projects are typically planned and executed by hundreds of individual utility companies that aren't required to coordinate.

Gates calls for new federal funding and policies, but also faults the permitting processes at the state level as 'long, convoluted, and often outdated.'

As a result, we don't build lines fast enough, and we're slower than other countries. Some states — like New Mexico and Colorado — are doing innovative work to speed up the process. But there is a lot more room for policymakers to work together and make the permit process easier.

Although transmission is primarily a policy problem, innovation will help too. For example, grid-enhancing technologies like dynamic line ratings, power flow controls, and topology optimization could increase the capacity of the existing system. Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which is part of the climate initiative I helped start, has invested in new technologies like advanced conductors and superconductors — wires that use cutting-edge materials to get more energy out of smaller lines. But these technologies aren't a substitute for real systemic improvements and building lines in places where they don't already exist.

'By the 2030s, we need to build so many new lines that they would reach to the moon if they were strung together,' Gates says in a video accompanying the article. 'And by 2050, we'll need to more than double the size of the grid, while replacing most of the existing wires.' But noting today's power grid problems, Gates writes optimistically that 'It doesn't have to be this way.'

And he ultimately believes that modernized power grids 'will lead to lower emissions, cleaner air, more jobs, fewer blackouts, more energy and economic security, and healthier communities across the country.'

Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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