The green alternative to the Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline

The proposed Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH) power line that would have supplied power from Putnam County, West Virginia to Frederick County, Maryland, has been cancelled after much opposition. 

The project would have cost $2.1 billion, and would have served to expand the distribution of coal-based electricity. But with renewable energy gaining momentum, is it even neccesary to build new long-distance transmission lines?

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The solar alternative

Distributed solar power projects could bring power to many people without the need for long-distance transmission lines. The ability to generate power locally is a huge advantage that solar has over traditional sources of electricity. Here are three reasons that $2 billion dollars would be better spent on distributed solar than a long distance transmission line:

Local power generation is more efficient 

Long distance transmission of power is less efficient than local generation because some electricity gets lost in transmission. Because of this, electricity is also progressively more expensive the further it has to travel from source to destination. By locating solar generating projects at the distribution level, electricity can be fed directly into the grid (or directly into a building for consumption) without the need for new long-distance transmission lines.  

Easier and Faster to Implement

Distributed-scale solar projects are easier to permit and get approved faster than large central-scale projects. And due to their smaller size, it takes less time for them to be set up. Distributed solar can either be a local power station or even panels installed directly on a building’s roof. By integrating distributed solar systems into the grid, more people will have access to clean energy.    

More environmentally friendly 

The PATH transmission line would have been installed through previously undisturbed areas, and it would also have required building a large and noisy substation near a residential area in Frederick, Maryland.  Construction of the required infrastructure for the PATH project would have caused environmental damage and produced a large amount of carbon emissions, all while promoting the use of coal-based electricity. Solar power, on the other hand, does not require the installation of long-distance transmission lines since power is generated locally. And photovoltaic panels do not produce carbon emissions, so in the long term, they are much better for the environment and help to promote a green future.