SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. told members of the Green Grid Technical Forum in a keynote address Feb. 4 that he believes the IT sector should be the prime mover in the establishment of a new power grid able to transport renewable power resources over long distances.
Kennedy (pictured) identified wind, solar and geothermal exchange as three of those renewable resources with the potential to monetize the power system in the United States in a completely different manner, wresting control away from "big carbon" industrial companies with profits-and not the environment-as their top priority.
"We need a new power grid in the U.S., so that a farmer in windy North Dakota can get his electrons to market," Kennedy said. "North Dakota is the windiest place on the continent at sea level.
"Virtually every farmer in that state wants to put wind turbines on their property. This would reverse the decline in the economy in this and other areas and help people hold onto their farms. Family farms help democratize our country."
The U.S. power grid is antiquated and was under-built from the start, Kennedy said.
"It's tired, it's overburdened, and it's incapable of doing long-haul transmission of electrons. There's tons of capital waiting to rush into this new gold and land rush-giant companies like GE and Siemens are available to finance the building of thousands of wind farms all over the state," Kennedy said.
Kennedy, who serves as senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, is a partner and senior adviser of Vantage Point Venture Partners -- one of the largest renewable-resource venture funds in the nation.
"The wind farmer in North Dakota can't get his electrons to Chicago, to St. Louis or to New York because they fuse in the lines after they go a few hundred miles," Kennedy said.
Modernization of the grid is necessary
What the United States needs to do is establish a national program-like President Dwight D. Eisenhower's national highway system to upgrade the transportation infrastructure in the 1950s-to overhaul the power grid and modernize it, in order to make it capable carrying the electrical power and IT of the future.
Industry consortiums like the Green Grid, with all of its thought leadership, can help lead the initiative to get the construction of this new grid under way, Kennedy said.
"It [the new grid] needs to be smart-it doesn't have to be overly smart, but just a little smart," Kennedy said. "By that I mean it should be able to intelligently store and deploy solar energy at night, wind energy during the doldrums, and balance the flow of energy at all times. We already have this incredible balance of energy [availability] in this country, with lots of wind energy in the evening and-that's right-solar energy during the daytime."