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Upgrading Our Aging Power Grids–What’s The Plan?

The plan to upgrade our aging power grids

The United States power grid, built over the last century, is getting a major upgrade to handle the growing demand for electricity. The Biden administration is working quickly to improve the efficiency of existing power lines using new technologies. These upgrades are cheaper and faster compared to building new transmission projects, which often face long delays.

In Illinois, Algonquin Power received a $42.9 million grant to install devices that automatically shift power when lines are overloaded. Similarly, Dominion Energy in Virginia got $33.7 million to adjust power distribution based on grid conditions. These initiatives are part of a $3.5 billion program by the Energy Department to enhance the grid.

New Tech for Old Lines

“We need quick solutions, and deploying grid-enhancing technologies is the way to go,” said Ali Zaidi, the White House’s national climate adviser.

The push to upgrade the grid comes as electricity demand is expected to surge due to the rise in electric vehicles (EVs) and data centers for artificial intelligence. This is a significant change from the past two decades when demand was stagnant, and there was little incentive for power companies to modernize.

Innovative Solutions

Heimdall Power, a Norwegian company, is helping with this modernization. Their sensors, used in a pilot project by Great River Energy in Minnesota, can increase transmission capacity by about 40%. These “magic balls” measure real-time conditions, such as weather, to optimize power flow.

Replacing old power lines with high-performance wires is another solution. This could potentially quadruple the U.S. transmission capacity by 2035, according to a report by UC Berkeley and GridLab.

Climate Challenges and Renewable Energy

The U.S. power grid is already strained by extreme weather caused by climate change. With more electric vehicles and heat pumps coming online, the stress will only increase. Additionally, the grid will need to accommodate more renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

Future Projects

New transmission lines will be necessary to handle the increased demand. The Biden administration is working to streamline these projects. However, upgrading the current grid remains crucial.

In Illinois, Algonquin Power is working with Smart Wires, a startup that makes devices to redistribute power from overloaded to underused lines. This method is much more efficient than the old manual system.

As these projects advance, more utilities and regulators are expected to adopt these new technologies. “We need to put new technologies to work,” said Eric Holdsworth from the Edison Electric Institute.

In Sum

The U.S. power grid is on the verge of significant improvements. With the government’s push for modernization and the adoption of innovative technologies, the grid will be better equipped to handle future demands and challenges. For more details, you can read the full article on the WSJ website here.

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By evee Life Contributor

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