Garth Ward – Transmission (2010.09.07)

Owner & Operator of Michigan Wind Power LLC
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Transcript : You mentioned this transmission line issue. From his perspective, this is going to be a big deal, this connecting all these wind farms to the grid as it exists already. How do you see that?

Garth Ward : When you get the amount of power that comes off these wind farms, now you’re into the, I believe it’s called ISO, and it has to do with the… Picture a large circuit board on your table with several batteries. And all these batteries, some of them will have more power than others, so you’ve got to dampen one battery, because one battery has more power. And it’s kind of like a balancing act across the nation with our grid. It’s not a very safe infrastructure, our grid as it stands. It’s like dominoes. If one falls, one unit, one power plant goes down, then the other ones have to jump in to make up for that. Now imagine that your electricity is water. All of you have tried to turn on and off a garden hose and heard that water slam, because all that water going down that tube you stopped immediately. There’s a bumping effect, a ramming effect to that. And that’s the same thing with electricity. When all of a sudden there’s no electricity in one spot and you have to feed electricity to that spot from several areas to make it up, you’re overpowering and bringing some of the units on the line to their maximum by trying to get all this power back down through there. So when I have all this power from one new wind farm that’s just gone up, I have something that I need a huge line to get the power to the other huge lines that go to your houses right now. I’ve secured the wind farm. Now I’ve got to secure a path 200 300 feet wide to it between there and a power line. And when you start doing that, now your big transmission lines, and you thought they were mad about the windmill, now they want to put a big transmission line over. So now the happy medium is, “Where can I put up a wind farm that’s already close to a high-power line?” I have 130,000 volts going at the back of my property, and I have 69,000 volts bisecting my property. I’ve got a good spot, but I really, myself, would not want a large windmill in my yard.

Even though I sell wind, I believe it’s a smaller scale. Tribal aspect of that is the tribe says that a big fire will not heat as many people as several small fires, and I kind of go with that. If I have one big windmill and it goes down, I don’t have any power from that big windmill. If I have 3000 small windmills working through the community to create almost the same amount of power, what’s the chance of 3000 windmills going down at one time? So my redundancy factor is up by splitting my dependency on one unit. When you get to the large wind farm, though, then you’ll have seasonal and topographical and wind related events that will drive your energy up and down. And that’s what is hard for the power companies, when the wind does blow through a place, now all of a sudden they have a whole bunch of electricity. What do they do with it? Use it or lose it. So they either do a colossal discharge, something like that, or they’ll take and try to feed it to the grid, but then somebody else that’s generating maybe with, what I call, black voltage from coal or anything like that, they can shut theirs down because the wind farm is pumping so much into that grid. So it’s kind of, like I say, a balancing act between it, but if we can get more wind into the formula, I really think that’s it. The co-ops are really on board with integrating the small wind into the grid. But if I had a choice and I was a businessman and I had a power company, if I had a choice of having people put up windmills that had to sell me the power so I could sell it back to them, or some people that put up their own windmills so they didn’t have to buy my power, what do you think the choice would be? It comes down to a point, though, like Michael Douglas said, greed. There’s a distance to go, and then there’s a distance where you’ve gone too far. And I believe the power companies have the right to sell power to anybody, but I don’t believe they have the right to hold me hostage with their power. And it’s coming right now to where the very utilities that supply our households across the nation, it’s a question. Do I go with the grid? Do I stay with them? Do I get one of the windmills that I sell? Because as soon as they come out with a newer battery, a better battery, now I can go off grid, and I can tell them to come get their telephone pole and go home. I’m tired of playing. Question: Will they let that battery up? That battery is going to do so much. I don’t want to get off wind here, but that battery is going to do so much with storage of wind power, automobiles. I mean that next battery step is going to be big in this nation. If we are allowed to have and use it, it will be a very powerful thing.

Topics: In-Depth Interviews, Transmission — September 7th by Garth Ward

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