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Energy Grid Could Even Out the Load

The Wall Street Journal
Marketplace: Earth Summit Notebook

ENVIRONMENT — By Frank Edward Allen, Tuesday, June 16, 1992

Disciples of Buckminster Fuller spread his energy gospel in Rio.

The prolific inventor-philosopher, who died in 1983, is perhaps best remembered for the geodesic dome. Now, his idea to create an electricity grid linking all continents is being promoted by Global Energy Network International, a research group in San Diego. GENI's exhibit at the sprawling Global Forum drew thousands of visitors.

Instead of relying on fossil fuels, the grid would use only renewable energy: electricity from solar, tidal and river sources around the world. By linking generators and ultrahighvoltage power lines, electric utilities could buy and sell power widely among themselves, taking advantage of peaks and valleys in demand every 24 hours as the Earth turns. That would free utilities from having to build and maintain the huge capacity needed to meet all local demand on, say, sweltering summer afternoons.

Transmission technology has made big strides since Mr. Fuller thought of the world grid 30 years ago. Several hundred miles was the transmission limit then. Now the effective distance exceeds 4,000 miles. That's enough to reach most parts of India and China, where half the world's people live, from generating stations in deserts or along the coasts.