“It’s extremely important to build transmission lines, because there is more wind energy generation than could be connected to the grid,” Khan said. Wind turbines and solar farms are generally built in rural areas far from where the highest electricity needs are, and require transmission lines in order to supply municipalities with power. “Currently the grid cannot handle all the renewable energy that already exists in Texas, and if we do not have transmission lines to support the renewable energy that feeds to the grid then it’s useless.”
As of 2021, there were over 8,100 projects across the US seeking approval to connect to the grid that already operates at capacity. More than 90% of these energy projects in the queue to be connected to the grid are for wind, solar and battery storage. While the Inflation Reduction Act includes $2bn dollars for transmission facility financing, the backlog of wind and solar projects is delaying the switch to renewables that is urgently needed. Some states and local municipalities are implementing microgrids to protect against regional grid outages that have occurred with increasing frequency due to weather disasters and ageing infrastructure.
“They’re smaller than the grid and therefore more agile,” said Brady. “A town may create a microgrid that’s more used for backup and be switched on if they need emergency power. But that may be a quicker way to get some of these renewables online.”