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Negative Power Prices? Blame the US Grid for Stranding Renewable Energy

Bottlenecks are preventing cheap wind and solar energy from reaching high-demand areas.

High-voltage transmission lines at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert, in California close to the Nevada border.

High-voltage transmission lines at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert, in California close to the Nevada border.

Photographer: George Rose/Getty Images

As energy costs soar around the world, a curious thing is happening with increasing frequency in power grids in certain corners of the US: Prices are plunging below zero.

So much wind and solar have been added that power is getting stuck where it’s generated because there aren’t enough high-voltage lines to move it to where demand is highest. That’s forcing power plant owners to pay users to take the excess electricity.