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Integrating New England Renewables

How to manage the green revolution.

Fortnightly Magazine - November 2009

measurement units (PMU) as part of the Eastern Interconnection phasor project, a national effort by the U.S. Department of Energy to create a robust and secure synchronized data-measurement infrastructure for the interconnected North American electric power system. PMUs help control-room operators to understand system dynamics in real time.

In addition, an online decision-support tool is being assessed to help operators restore the power grid in real time after a blackout. Currently, system restoration primarily is based on offline planning and manual work by control-room operators.

The region also is closely following the emergence of energy-storage technologies to boost reserves, including PEVs, which can be charged overnight and used as a supply-side source of electricity during the day. How to harness that potential source of reserve energy is being evaluated. Additionally, to help keep the system’s frequency regulated, a pilot project is being implemented to evaluate the capability of non-generating resources, such as flywheels, to perform this function in the regulation market.

In August, the ISO submitted two proposals to the DOE to fund investments in technologies that would significantly advance the development of the smart grid across the region. One application seeks to expand the base of synchrophasors to accurately monitor the performance of the power grid, and the other incorporates several smart-grid demonstration projects, including wide-area monitoring and development of software that would automate the selection of the mechanisms grid operators use to coordinate and adjust voltage profiles across New England.

The ISO also is conducting or involved in a number of other activities related to smart-grid research, education, standards development, and planning. These activities aim to enhance the understanding of smart-grid technologies; educate market participants, regulators, legislators, and others in New England and across the industry about the smart grid; and develop uniform standards to ensure compatible technologies.

New England’s power system is entering a period of tremendous change. Many of the processes and procedures that have achieved a high level of grid reliability in New England must be adapted to reliably accommodate new types of supply and demand resources, as well as the expanded use of electricity for transportation and other purposes. While the integration of renewable resources will take transmission planning and siting to new levels in New England, developing the ability to use new, often scattered resources such as variable wind or demand-response resources will accelerate the advances in technology that will comprise the smart grid. There is a convergence occurring in New England among new smart-grid and renewable technologies, public policy, and power system planning and operations. It’s vitally important that New England policy makers, industry participants, and the ISO continue to work closely together to fully realize the potential of these new resources and technologies.