A substantial increase in the amount of electricity produced from renewable energy would require building a transmission system that would carry a price tag of up to $100 billion, according to a new study.
The new system would be needed because the existing Eastern grid couldn't handle the volume of power coming from the wind-producing states.
In addition, the new grid would need to be able to handle the fluctuating nature of wind power, which can surge at some moments and drop sharply at others.
There is strong political and public support for increasing production of renewable energy, and Congress is considering enacting a nationwide standard that would require utilities to garner more of their power from renewable sources.
However, there is only an emerging understanding of how new standards would affect the country's existing electricity infrastructure.
The study, sponsored by some of the nation's biggest grid-running organizations east of the Rockies, is the most comprehensive attempt by the industry to figure out what kind of infrastructure upgrades would be needed if the U.S. attempts to sharply increase the amount of power it gets from sources such as wind and solar.
In 2007, according to the Energy Information Administration, about 7 percent of the nation's electricity came from renewable sources, including less than 1 percent from wind.