Utility projects advance the state of the art.
Scott M. Gawlicki is a Fortnightly contributing editor and energy industry writer. Email him at s.gawlicki@excite. com.
U.S. utility companies are engaged in a difficult transition. Environmental constraints, resource concerns and transmission-siting challenges are driving the industry toward a 21st century operating model whose shape is only starting to emerge.
Given this dynamic state of evolution, it’s not surprising that next-generation technologies are undergoing their own difficult transitions. Some new technologies are being embraced by the market, but others are struggling to gain regulatory and financial support. This transition is exemplified by four high-tech projects being executed by four electric utilities, including Duke Energy, American Electric Power, Consolidated Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric. Their projects address different parts of the power-supply chain, and they’re taking different paths to secure financing and regulatory acceptance.
Duke and AEP are striving to update the central-station coal model by introducing utility-scale integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plants and carbon sequestration technology. In New York, Con Edison’s Hydra project provides a window to the future as urban utilities grapple with grid congestion. And SDG&E is looking beyond the horizon, toward an emerging distributed-resources model, and creating a smart micro-grid right in its own backyard.