A new type of wind power customer should factor into transmission planning

Transmission expansion is a constant topic of conversation throughout the U.S. wind industry. But the latest report from the Wind Energy Foundation (WEF) adds a new dimension to the discussion, and highlights an important oversight by transmission planners: demand for wind energy from corporate buyers like Google, GM and Nike.

Upgrading our nation’s transmission infrastructure is key to bringing the next generation of low-cost wind projects to market. However, planning and building new transmission lines is a very lengthy process – one that isn’t necessarily responsive to shifting energy preferences from consumers.

In WEF’s new report, we highlight one area of shifting and new demand that transmission planners need to account for: large corporate demand for renewable energy. Corporate purchasers have already bought over 9 gigawatts (GW) of renewables in recent years, and are making tangible progress towards reaching their goal of 60 GW of renewable procurement by 2025.

Writing in The Hill, WEF Executive Director John Kostyack and David Gardiner, President of David Gardiner and Associates, note that:

“Transmission capacity is needed, not just for the 51 GWs of voluntary corporate demand through 2025, but also mandatory demand from utilities needing to meet state-specific renewable portfolio standards as well as voluntary demand from utilities and non-corporate buyers such as universities and the military.”

Considering this demand, the report and column make two key recommendations:

“(1) RTOs and other regional planners must begin accounting for corporate demand … and (2) corporate buyers must begin communicating their plans to transmission planners and advocating for their inclusion in models of future demand.”

The column also highlights another key takeaway:

“Companies like General Motors (GM) that are making major wind power purchases are now becoming interested in transmission planning as well, as they see the connection between adequate transmission and meeting their renewable goals. We see a unique opportunity for GM, and other companies like them, to have an enormously beneficial impact in our nation’s future by helping ensure that we have the infrastructure we need to transition to a clean energy economy.”

Adequately planning for an updated grid that can accommodate new consumer demand for renewable is no easy task. As corporate buyers continue to make renewable purchases, hopefully the planning process will evolve to consider their needs as well.

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