Thanks for all the help from Inkstain readers – here, in private conversations and over on my Journal blog. My story on the Pickens plan is up. It’s by no means comprehensive, and I decided to zero in on two issues.
The need for transmission capacity to take advantage of wind resources. This is an issue of significant local interest here in New Mexico, and is one you’re likely to hear a lot about in coming years:
[T]he problem of wind in Eastern New Mexico offers a useful case study in the gap between available U.S. wind resources and our ability to use them.
Utility company PNM has a major transmission line running from the state’s east side into the Albuquerque metro area that is big enough to carry a rapidly growing base of wind generation being used to meet local needs.
But to export wind power would require far larger power lines, said Greg Miller, who manages PNM’s transmission system.
Developers have proposed far more wind power in eastern New Mexico than the current power lines could carry, Miller said.
The problem of scale associated with Pickens’ idea that we can shift natural gas to vehicles:
Kammen adds a common criticism of Pickens’ idea: that the second part of the Pickens Plan — shifting to natural gas to fuel our cars — is unrealistic without a large-scale natural gas vehicle fueling infrastructure in place.
Far more likely, said Kammen and others, is putting wind-generated electricity directly into our cars, in the form of battery-charged plug-in hybrids likely to begin appearing in the U.S. auto market in the next few years.
“The infrastructure costs are very high for natural gas fueling of cars,” Kammen said. Rather than building a new, large-scale natural gas infrastructure to fuel up cars, we should piggyback on the existing consumer electric grid to fuel our cars.
This has been a near universal criticism I’ve heard from the people who do large scale energy systems analysis. More over on the work blog on that point.