Though the use of renewable energy is growing—in 2020, wind, solar, and other sources of renewable electricity accounted for nearly 20% of electricity generation in the U.S., up 90% from the year 2000—the basic infrastructure of the grid itself has been slower to change. Almost all overhead electricity lines use the same basic, inefficient design that’s been in use since 1908. The technology isn’t a good fit to accommodate the shift to renewables.
“You may have an existing grid, but if you put in over 500 megawatts of wind because you build a new wind farm, and you connect it to the grid, the grid itself may not be able to absorb that electricity,” says Herve Touati, chief strategy officer for TS Conductor, a startup making high-efficiency conductors for the electricity grid. “So you need to increase the capacity of the grid.”