An article in today’s New York Times describes the difficulty of getting wind power to urban demand centers when transmission lines are congested:
The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not.
The grid today, according to experts, is a system conceived 100 years ago to let utilities prop each other up, reducing blackouts and sharing power in small regions.
The article then expands on the argument that the necessary solution is expanding transmission capacity, which is expensive and unpopular for a lot of NIMBY and other political economy reasons. There may be some justification for this argument. But the article fails to point out the true, underlying Achilles heel, which is energy storage. If we had more efficient and distributed energy storage, then we could store wind-generated power near the source when lines are congested, and store it near demand by transmitting it when lines are not congested. Distributed energy storage gets us a one-two punch here, because it simultaneously addresses the transmission congestion problem and the wind intermittency problem.
So don’t just jump to the conclusion that distributed wind generation => more transmission capacity. A better, more resilient approach is to combine transmission capacity and distributed storage. That’s why research on energy storage is so valuable.