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Actions High Voltage DC Power Lines

To achieve large scale solar power, the U.S. needs to develop a national power line distribution system.

High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) power lines are more efficient than traditional Alternating Current (AC) power lines, and so are ideal for moving energy long distances. They are more complex to manage, but newer power management components have significantly mitigated these difficulties.

HVDC lines are critical to the success of grid-level solar development. The current grid has neither the capacity nor lines in the places needed to move power generated from the massive solar projects envisioned in the U.S. desert southwest to consumers in the major population centers.

The urgency to build HVDC lines is primarily because of the length of time needed to develop a new power line. Land acquisition, rights of way, environmental issues, health and safety, and scenic concerns are all validly involved, along with the needs and interests of local land owners, the companies interested in building the project, and the heavily regulated power companies affected combine to make the development of a new power line a massive multi-year undertaking with no guarantee of success. Without existing power lines or firm plans for new lines, projects for promising solar power sites cannot even be proposed.

A significant complication in building these long HVDC lines is that they often need to cross state and regional utility system borders. This is complex politically. It may be necessary for the federal government or end-customers to provide inducements to overcome this difficulty.

The cost of these transmission lines will of course be high, but no more so than the cost of infrastructure for traditional energy sources. For example, an INGAA Foundation report estimates that U.S. and Canadian natural gas pipeline buildout will cost $30B dollars a year over the next 20 years, much of which will be spent connecting to new gas wells as older ones are depleted. Energy is big business, and big private money is available for infrastructure investment where there is potential for profit.

ASAP encourages people to take an interest in proposed HVDC projects. Public input matters a great deal to these projects. ASAP is not blindly advocating support for every proposed project, but we believe that with the appropriate considerations addressed, needed projects can be successfully implemented.

Below are some of the current HVDC projects under consideration. Please visit their websites to see how you can help ensure that projects are (appropriately) implemented.