Sunday, January 31, 2010

Why Power Infrastructure Wont Improve Anytime Soon

It always seems to boil down to not in my backyard. NIMBY.

PSE&G is trying to build a transmission line through parts of New Jersey, and local communities were going to get reimbursed by the company. Many refused to take the money because of opposition elsewhere along the planned route.
When the state Board of Public Utilities again takes up the issue of PSE&G’s proposed North Jersey power line project this week, the room will be filled with adversaries, many of whom refused a recent utility company financial offer that could have silenced them.

"Settlement’’ offers were made this month by PSE&G to 15 towns in Morris, Sussex, Warren and Essex counties along the proposed route of a 45-mile, $750 million high-voltage line upgrade. The utility offered cash payments and reimbursements of hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece to pay to mitigate some of the impacts of the work to be done.

Opponents labeled the offers "bribes’’ to cash-strapped towns to quash opposition. PSE&G termed them a "fair and equitable way to address some concerns towns had with the project.’’

Officials in towns that got offers for money to hire extra police and safety officers, replace trees, repair property damage and other items, said they came with conditions, including dropping opposition to the project and not publicly commenting on it.

Stillwater, Hopatcong and Sparta accepted $392,000, $300,000 and $205,000 respectively.

Thirteen others declined, citing opposition to the project, or saying they did not have time to process offers that required a quick response. Included were Andover Township, Boonton Township, Byram, East Hanover, Fredon, Hardwick, Jefferson, Kinnelon, Montville, Parsippany, Rockaway Township and Roseland.

The transmission lines are part of critical upgrades to the region's power distribution system. Yet, these communities are opposed to the power lines why exactly? Some say it's a property value and safety question.
New towers would be built along an existing tower route, causing minimal environmental impact, according to the utilities.

Project opponents, however, say the line would harm the environment, make people living near the line ill, and bring power from "dirty’’ coal-burning plants through New Jersey solely to benefit out-of-state power needs and to generate profits.
So, this isn't along a new right of way, but additional towers along an existing route, but the opponents claim that the power could come from coal-powered plants within New Jersey to power out-of-state needs? How about building nuclear power plants as President Obama and even former New Jersey Governor Corzine proposed to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and the related emissions? That would eliminate the emissions issues and provide a far more reliable and clean energy source that would help make electric cars more feasible.

At the same time, across the country in Minnesota, a wind power turbine manufacturer has got a whole lot of trouble. The state's municipal power association bought a bunch of wind turbines on the promise that they would work in the harsh cold environment of a Minnesota winter.

They didn't.

They froze up and the solution is to use natural gas heaters to warm up the lubricants so that they can actually lubricate and let the wind turbines spin. That reduces the efficiencies of the wind turbines and reduces their power output for half the year.

The association could have saved itself a bunch of trouble by buying test turbines and seeing whether the company could fulfill its promises, but it again shows the problems facing wind power even where people want them. It is an extremely fickle technology and if opponents thwart placement in areas that are favorable to their use, wind power will remain a fringe source of power and reliance on other power sources will be necessary.

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