The models and motives behind tomorrow’s transmission expansion.
Bruce W. Radford is editor-in-chief for Public Utilities Fortnightly.
The grid is busting out all over, but not everywhere in the same way. In the past 12 months, developers have announced plans for a number of new transmission projects of regional, if not national significance, but with markedly different goals and aims. In short, two distinct models have emerged for new grid development, one in the East, the other in the West.
The Eastern model, designed to mesh with grid system operators and RTOs (regional transmission organizations), views transmission as a profit-making business. The process is well defined. You map out markets, study the locational marginal prices (LMPs) at various nodes, calculate heat rates and fuel prices, and then design your project to compete against those numbers. Along the way, you work with the local RTO through a series of studies for feasibility and system impacts, to ensure proper management of loop flows, reactive power support, voltage stability, and so forth. The major remaining hurdles concern site permitting and NIMBYism (“not in my back yard”).