Superpower: One man's quest to transform American energy.

AuthorKrupa, Joel

Superpower: One man's quest to transform American energy, Russell Gold (Simon & Schuster. 2019). 319 pages, ISBN 978-1-5011-6358-6.

Any supporter of renewable energy-politician or investor, activist or technocrat-is likely to identify with solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal stations. The development of such power generation sources dominates the discussion around addressing both climate change and the energy transition, and these technologies are rightfully considered essential to any supply-side planning for the decarbonization of the electricity system. Equally important, however, to any transition towards greater renewable energy penetration will be the introduction of transmission systems that can move power from places where it is generated to the places where it is needed.

An engaging popular book draws attention to the critical importance of transmission while providing guidance for those dreaming of a new generation of clean technology deployment. Russell Gold, the veteran energy reporter at the Wall Street Journal, brings us the story of Michael Skelly, an entrepreneurial renewable energy developer who successfully helped build a multi-billion dollar wind energy company. Parlaying that success into Clean Line Energy, Skelly focused on large-scale transmission projects; "Superpower" is the story of the outcomes of that remarkable goal.

The world of wires does not always receive the airtime it deserves, perhaps because transmission pylons do not emotionally spur an individual the way a field of rotating wind turbine blades or a central power tower for concentrating solar thermal power does. This lack of emotional resonance has a dangerous downside, for without adequate transmission capacity that is capable of moving large power flows, there will be no renewable energy revolution.

Skelly's Clean Line business proposition was based on the simple fact that the best renewable generation sites (such as windy open spaces or sunny arid environments) are often far from load centers. Skelly and his team endeavored to unlock this potential by building numerous high voltage direct current (HVDC) lines that bring power from outstanding generation sites to the places where it was needed. HVDC (which stands in contrast to common alternating current (AC) transmission) brought a pair of added bonuses. These projects would require neither a substantial rise in power costs; indeed, it would likely make power cheaper by connecting inexpensive...

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