ing energy at peak demand, reduces the
amount of generation required in any single area, minimizes excess generation, and
eliminates the need to develop expensive
grid-scale storage systems.
“We’re basically getting that big battery
we want for free,” says Christopher Clack,
one of the lead authors of the study and
chief executive of Vibrant Clean Energy.
There are already a handful of DC
transmission lines in the US and a growing
number of proposals, including the New
England Clean Power Link, which would
transport 1,000 megawatts of renewable
power from Canada into New England.
Houston’s Clean Line Energy has at least
a half-dozen proposals in various stages,
including the Plains and Eastern Clean
Line connecting western Oklahoma to
markets in the Southeast, and the Grain
Belt Express Clean Line stretching from
Kansas to Indiana.
But all of these are moving through the
approvals process at a dawdling pace. The
Trans West developers, who have secured
permission along the two-thirds of the
line’s path that lies on federal land since
taking over the project in 2008, are still
working to finalize approvals from states
and private landowners.
Most developers and energy policy
experts say what’s needed to accelerate
these projects is a federal authority with
greater power to push them through. A
report released by Stanford in October
highlighted a number of possibilities,
including granting the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission the same “
siting authority” for transmission lines that
it already has over natural-gas pipelines.
Dan Reicher, executive director of the
Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and
Finance at Stanford, who cowrote that
report, says, “Without clear, predictable
siting authority, it’s going to be very difficult to build out an intelligent, comprehensive HVDC network.” —James Temple
“A very dangerous and
—Security researcher Alexander Bolshev
on mixing mobile apps and industrial control
“We probably want to have
some UX around that,
because that’s cool. It’s
—Jim Farley, Ford’s executive vice president
of global markets, on people’s tendency to say
“thank you” to driverless pizza delivery vehicles.
“We will eventually get
to a point where we can
detect cancer before it’s
—Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical o;cer
of the American Cancer Society, on the promise
of blood tests that can catch cancer early.
BY THE NUMBERS
Number of hours the average American spends
online each week, according to new data from
USC Annenberg. That’s up from 9. 4 hours in the
Number of people in China who have had their
genes edited to treat their diseases, according
to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
The amount carmakers have devoted to developing electric cars, according to Reuters. Some
$19 billion of that was spent by US firms.
Accuracy with which an AI assistant called
Corti can recognize a heart attack during a 911
call, based on an early study in Denmark. Danish dispatchers can recognize a heart attack 73
percent of the time.
Another approach adds three point-to-point transmission lines, running east to
west, connecting the heart of each grid to
that of the other. Yet another solution is a
so-called “macro grid” of long DC transmission lines covering much of the country. It
runs up the Florida panhandle, across the
South, north to Seattle, east to Minneapolis, and back down to Louisiana, with several additional lines crisscrossing the West.
McCalley and his team developed
models to simulate each of these scenarios over a 15-year period. They found that
all three demonstrated a strong economic
payo;, providing a benefit of at least $2.50
in savings for every $1 invested in the
With direct-current lines, grid operators have more options for energy sources
throughout the day, allowing them to tap
into, say, cheap wind two states away
during times of peak demand instead of
turning to nearby but more expensive
natural-gas plants for a few hours. The fact
that regions can depend on energy from
distant states for their peak demand also
means they don’t have to build as much
high-cost generation locally.
A national direct-current grid could
also help lower emissions to as much as 80
percent below 1990 levels within 15 years,
all with commercially available technology
and without increasing the costs of electricity, according to a study published earlier in Nature Climate Change.
The researchers produced an idealized
transmission network that connected 32
nodes across the nation, linking hydroelectric power in the Pacific Northwest,
solar in California, wind energy in the
Southwest, and nuclear on the East Coast.
Simply put, the system balances out the
intermittency of renewable energy sources
over long distances, meaning there’s
always reliable generation somewhere.
Being able to tap into it from any corner
of the nation lowers the cost of supply-