The Midwest has the worst backlog of wind energy projects in the nation. And that's an understatement: The line of applications waiting to be processed could technically take more than 600 years.
What's the deal? There are hundreds of proposals - 306 to be exact - waiting to be approved by the Midwest Independent Transmission System (MISO). According to federal regulations, when MISO receives a wind power proposal, it has to locate any point along the transmission grid that's already maxed out, put a dollar figure on the work needed at those points, then give that bill to a developer. The developer has three years to decide whether to go ahead with the project. In the meantime, the other applicants in MISO's 15-state service area have to sit and wait.
The number of small wind projects have overwhelmed the agency and federal regulations make the process a first-come, first-serve deal. So technically, MISO staff should spend two years on one project before moving on to the next one. Hence the 306 requests in queue taking theoretically 612 years to process.
Obviously, we don't have that kind of time. MISO is adapting new procedures to get the queue taken care of in 50 years instead of 600. And in the next few months, it will ask federal regulators to approve new processes to speed up the procedure even more.
The slowdown is certainly costing developers. Ryan Wolf of southwestern Minnesota has been waiting two years to build 27 wind turbines. He told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he and his partners have $100,000 in expenses tied up with MISO, plus legal fees, permits, and land agreements. There is a shortage of wind turbines too, which is driving up costs as developers like Wolf sit and wait.
Clearly, the push of renewables has to have the infrastructure to move the projects along. An updated transmission grid, human power and the processes to implement it all efficiently are the unsexy nuts and bolts needed to transform our energy system.