This post looks at the message promoted by the gas industry that natural gas is the necessary complement to renewables such as solar and wind, because the latter are variable and thus need a backup power source that can quickly be brought on line. There are other and perhaps even better ways of addressing variability that also need looking at.
Wind farms up here in the Pacific Northwest may soon be shut down temporarily because there is no transmission capacity to move this green renewable power to where it is needed. A record snowfall in the mountains at the headwaters of the Columbia river system is about to begin melting and will send a surge of water down the river. Because this water cannot be sent over the spill ways without endangering already endangered Salmon and Steelhead fish it needs to be run through the turbines. There is just too much power for the regional markets and the existing transmission infrastructure to handle and thus wind farms are likely to be idled. What this exposes is the need for an improved Ultra high voltage long distance electric transmission network that is capable of moving surplus power from one region to another.
While other parts of the world are busy actually building national Ultra High Voltage (UHV) transmission infrastructure the US continues to do noting more substantial than litigate. A UHV super grid would be able to move renewable energy from where it is abundant to where people live and work, and do so at an economic cost. This kind of national electric energy infrastructure would enable solar, wind, hydro and geothermal generated electric power to reach market. It is a critical piece of the kind of future energy infrastructure we will need in order to continue to prosper. John goes into a lot of detail and provides numerous links to examples and more in depth reading on this very important subject.