The infrastructure deal between U.S. senators and President Joe Biden includes building thousands of miles of transmission lines. Those are things like poles and wires that get electricity where it’s needed. If the plan goes through, that could mean more reliable and renewable energy in Indiana.
Indiana utilities don’t just need new transmission lines to get power from something like a new rural wind farm to a major metropolis. The more connected the grid is, the more possible it is for utilities that rely on renewables to buy energy from other states when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.
Danielle McGrath is the president of the Indiana Energy Association. She said these relationships allow utilities to meet a broader demand.
“So that as we are bringing cleaner energy resources online, we're still able to meet the needs of those either here within the state of Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky — wherever that may be," McGrath said.
Though there are several regional transmission groups in the U.S. — including two in Indiana — there aren’t as many connections between those grids right now. The fact that Texas is mostly isolated from other regional grids likely contributed to the blackouts in the state earlier this year.
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McGrath said more connections with other grids can help utilities to avoid blackouts and the costs that come with them.
“If you're unable to get power where it's needed, that cost is going to ratchet up more and more. And so by making sure that the grid is as efficient as possible, that's going to eliminate some of those costs that are built in with the existing system," she said.
McGrath said a better connected electric system would also help utilities prepare for a higher energy demand as more people buy electric cars.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.