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Rewiring America

T&D investments prioritize reliability and load growth.

Fortnightly Magazine - November 2008

looking into the feasibility of forming a joint venture to develop the project, which is currently under review by PJM and the Midwest ISO. If the project moves forward, it will be conducted in three phases and take approximately eight years to complete.

“We believe that line would decrease active power losses during peak conditions by 250 MW, which is equivalent to a small power plant. It’s the ultimate green-power solution,” Welch says. “We’d reduce our carbon footprint with no required lifestyle change.”

Greening the Grid

In addition to improving system efficiency, enhancing bulk-power delivery will make it easier to move power generated within the country’s central wind corridors to Eastern and Western load centers. But for the much-touted smart grid, the benefits are a bit more difficult to quantify, at least at this juncture.

“We are staying on top of it, but right now we’re more focused on solving our grid-reliability problems,” Aylsworth says. “We need these upgrades now. We can’t wait for the smart grid to evolve.”

But that doesn’t mean NU isn’t making new, smarter technologies part of its build-out. The replacement cables NU installed under Long Island Sound in 2006 are dielectric cables, which are more environmentally friendly, as well as more efficient and reliable, than the old liquid filled cables.

New gas insulated substations (GIS), an important part of the southern Connecticut projects, were chosen to improve reliability and reduce the substation footprint. Flexible AC Transmission Systems (FACTS) devices like static compensators were installed to improve voltage regulation and resolve voltage transients and power flow issues.

“Interest in GIS technology is increasing, especially in urban areas where real estate is at a premium. And I would say our U.S. FACTS orders have increased roughly 50 percent in the last two years,” says Gross of ABB. “These devices are in high demand because they compensate for the reactive power on the grid, which relieves congestion and lets you move more energy over it.”

As for smart-grid initiatives, Gross says the transmission-system improvements currently underway will play a key role in developing a self-healing grid.

“As an industry, we have sophisticated SCADA systems, FACTS and other devices needed to create a self-healing grid. But additional line or cable capacity is what’s required,” he says. “A SCADA system can detect a problem on one line and automatically switch power to another. But you need that other line.”