Tree limbs and power lines don’t mix. That was the final verdict after overgrown trees caused blackouts immobilizing major swaths of the East Coast in 2003. (See Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), “Utility Vegetation Management (UVM): Final Report,” March 2004.)
(June 2011) Duke and ATC team up to build transmission lines; AEP installs bioreactor to control selenium emissions; NextEra buys 100 MW of wind from Google; Ocean Power Technologies awards contracts for wave power array; Kansas City picks Elster; BC Hydro picks Itron; plus contracts and developments involving Tres Amigas, Ioxus, Opower and others.
Preparing the grid for large-scale renewables.
With large solar arrays and wind farms being proposed to connect to transmission and sub-transmission systems, are utility companies sufficiently prepared to handle the challenge of integrating these large intermittent resources? The industry now must decide whether transmission reliability factors — most notably dynamic voltage support and system frequency management — need to be resolved by renewable generators, or whether they should become a cost of doing business for transmission providers and reliability coordinators.
Investment opportunities in an evolving environment.
Some of the key policy mechanisms and market factors that triggered the boom in renewable energy development have weakened in the face of one of the most severe economic downturns in modern history. In some ways, though, the renewables sector is richer and more dynamic today than when the boom began. A shakeout might be coming among renewable power players, and those that survive will strengthen their capabilities, hone their strategies, and take advantage of industry consolidation to build scale.
The smart grid and the slippery business of setting industry standards.
Four years ago, Congress made its wishes known: it tabbed the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop a set of standards for the smart grid, and then instructed FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “adopt” those standards, but only after finding a ”sufficient consensus,” and only “as may be necessary” to assure “functionality and interoperability.” Yet what is known is not necessarily clear. Who decides if consensus prevails? What does “interoperability” mean? Should FERC’s “necessary” finding extend to retail smart grid applications, arguably outside its purview? And the biggest dispute — must standards be mandatory? — finds PJM at odds with much of the utility industry.
Preparing for New England’s capacity transition.
A wave of coal-fired plant retirements presages a possible crisis in the New England market. As load-serving utilities in ISO New England become increasingly dependent on natural gas-fired capacity and large-scale renewable generators, the region might be forced to rely on expensive cost-of-service reliability contracts to keep the lights on. Stakeholders are considering alternative approaches to encouraging power plant development, including special rate incentives previously reserved for transmission projects. Paul J. Hibbard, former Massachusetts DPU chairman and now vice president with the Analysis Group, analyzes how resource constraints are blurring the lines between competitive markets and integrated resource planning in New England.
Large grids can integrate more wind—without major burdens.
Despite the variable nature of the resource, wind can be managed so that it will not impair the reliability of a utility system. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proposed a rule that would require changes to the way transmission service is scheduled, which would enhance the ability of balancing authorities to integrate wind.
FERC seems to say that states remain free to interfere with RTO markets.
Citing what it called “mounting evidence of risk” that PJM’s RPM capacity market could indeed “be gamed,” the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last week OK’d most of the tariff amendments PJM had proposed to correct ﬂaws in its Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR), which allows the grid operator to mitigate or predatory, below-cost bids by suppliers who would sell generating capacity into the region.
The world’s power generation systems continue to transition to cleaner, more renewable and sustainable sources. That effort will be greatly aided by integrated and comprehensive grid interconnection solutions. Utility-scale, grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV), as well as wind, has become increasingly attractive as a generation resource, both in terms of economics and operational ﬂ exibility. The technology needed to interconnect these renewable power sources is now well proven in the ﬁeld.
(April 2011) GE Hitachi and Lockheed Martin team up on nuclear reactor controls; Elster wins metering contract in New Hampshire; Xcel hires Bechtel for nuclear services in Minnesota; Mitsubishi builds transformer HQ in Memphis; Northeast Utilities taps Siemens for transmission projects; Iberdrola sells wind output to FirstEnergy; Consumers and DTE invest $400 million to upgrade pumped storage facility; plus contracts and announcements from Alstom, URS, Areva, groSolar, Pattern Energy, S&C Electric and others.