WindFail: Congestion on Transmission Lines Hinders New North Dakota Wind Farms

A recent story in the Bismark Tribune states that wind developers in North Dakota are thinking twice about building new industrial wind facilities in the state because there is no room on the transmission lines needed to transport the power to population centers like the Twin Cities.

Wind and solar are often built further away from the areas that use the electricity, requiring a massive investment in transmission lines that routinely cost $1 million per mile. The cost of transmission is growing even more as many wind companies seek to build wind turbines in North Dakota and South Dakota, rather than Minnesota, due to higher wind speeds.

As a result, transmission costs are skyrocketing. The Tribune reported that it can cost tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade the grid to accommodate more wind on the system. In fact, preliminary estimates for the cost of building enough transmission for Minnesota to run on 100 percent carbon free sources of electricity by 2050 to be $12 billion dollars.

We saw this in our study, Doubling Down on Failure, where higher penetrations of renewables greatly increased electricity costs because renewable energy mandates would require a massive buildout of wind, solar, and transmission lines. These new investments dwarf new transmission expenditures that would be needed if the state pursued nuclear power, instead.

This article is just the latest piece of evidence that shows wind is a poor investment. Rather than spending billions of dollars on weather dependent resources like wind and solar, those who want to reduce carbon dioxide emissions would do best to embrace nuclear power, large hydro, and carbon capture and sequestration technologies, which operate affordably and reliably.

Otherwise, it is impossible to take their claims that climate change is an existential crisis seriously.