This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

June 19, 2002

U.S. Struggles to Upgrade its Electrical Transmission System

The U.S. electrical transmission system - sometimes described as the largest machine in the world - is an engineering marvel, providing a reasonably reliable source of power, with multiple backup systems, to the entire lower 48 states. When it works as planned, it tends to get taken for granted, but when it fails, it gets people's attention very quickly. One part of the system that received a lot of attention in the past year is called Path 15, a bottleneck in the transmission of power between northern and southern California. That bottleneck is partly to blame for rolling blackouts in northern California in early 2001, and that is why DOE was pleased when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a plan last week for a project to relieve that bottleneck. See the DOE press release.

Unfortunately, the Path 15 bottleneck is just one of many modernization projects needed in the country's transmission system. In May, DOE released a report containing 51 recommendations for modernizing the U.S. transmission system. Many of the recommendations aim to encourage investment in the system and to help prevent bottlenecks. See the DOE press release.

Long Island has the misfortune of being one of the geographic areas now facing transmission constraints. Two of the island's major transmission lines failed recently, and although one is back in service, the other is still undergoing repairs. That cuts the Long Island Power Authority's ability to import electrical power by about 500 megawatts. Meanwhile, a new cable running across Long Island Sound may not be available until late July. To cope with the problem, the power authority announced yesterday that it will install 200 megawatts of temporary emergency stand-by generators for use as a last resort to keep Long Island's lights on. See the Long Island Power Authority press release.

Wind power may eventually help out Long Island, if supporters of the Long Island Offshore Wind Initiative are successful. The initiative is holding a symposium in Smithtown on June 25th. See the initiative's Web site.