Regional Energy: Ain't Pretty, But ...by Editorial Board
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 9, 2006
It's hard to ignore the sight of electrical transmission lines cutting through Northwest forests, suburbs or cities. But it is easy to forget their importance to everyday life.
A new federal Energy Department report ought to focus greater attention on the need to maintain, upgrade and build major transmission lines. Economically growing regions such as the Pacific Northwest will stagnate without adequate, reliable electricity supplies. And overloaded transmission systems can lead to blackouts such as one that hit much of the West 10 years ago Thursday. The Energy Department says transmission along the Seattle-Portland corridor is one of its major areas of concern, right behind Southern California and the New York-Virginia stretch of the Atlantic Coast. The report indicated construction of new lines might be necessary in some of the areas.
Although power lines have been allowed to deteriorate for years nationally, the federal Bonneville Power Administration, which handles most of the Northwest's transmission, has undertaken a number of construction projects in recent years. Bob King, a BPA transmission official, said transmission construction decisions often depend on where new generators are built.
The BPA also has been looking at ways to better manage transmission during peak demand periods, with an emphasis on maintaining safety and reliability. An April white paper, "Challenge for the Northwest," focused on management steps that might improve the handling of peak loads while avoiding or minimizing the costs of construction.
If more Americans are going to use more electricity from renewable sources such as wind, the power has to get to population centers over well-maintained lines, whether existing or new.
On the Net: www.oe.energy.gov
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