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3M Conducts Transmission Reinforcement Project

Issue 10 and Volume 13.

BC Transmission Corp. (BCTC), the transmission system operator for the province of British Columbia, is installing 3M’s light-weight, high-capacity electricity conductor, 3M aluminum conductor composite reinforced (ACCR). BCTC will deploy 3M ACCR in two cross-water segments through islands in the Straight of Georgia as part of an upgrade for a transmission line linking Vancouver Island with British Columbia’s lower mainland.

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The 3M ACCR segments include a 5,800-foot (1,770-meter) single-span crossing the Sansum Channel between Vancouver Island and Salt Spring Island and a 6,000-foot (1,830-meter) multi-span crossing.

According to Tim Koenig, director of the 3M High Capacity Conductor Program, 3M ACCR was chosen, in part, to permit the re-use of existing towers, and avoid potential environmental sensitivities and costs associated with building larger towers for the conventional aluminum conductor steel reinforced (ACSR) .

3M ACCR is currently in service for several domestic utilities, including Xcel Energy in Minneapolis, Platte River Power Authority in Colorado, Arizona Public Service in Phoenix, and Allegheny Power near Washington D.C.

3M ACCR was developed with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy, which tested the conductor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, and with early contributions by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Report Blames Two Utilities for 2007 San Diego Wildfires

By Kristen Wright, associate editor

Improperly maintained power lines sparked three San Diego County wildfires that killed two people, destroyed 1,347 houses, caused power outages, forced evacuations and injured some 40 firefighters in October 2007, state regulators said.

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The Sept. 2 report issued by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) faults San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (SDG&E) and Cox Communications, the utility companies that own the lines. Now the commission must review the report and determine whether to issue fines.

The report asserts that the Guejito fire was the result of a Cox lashing wire coming into contact with an SDG&E conductor during common, windy conditions at approximately 4 a.m. Oct. 22, 2007.

The report attributes the 9 a.m. Oct. 21, 2007, Witch fire to two SDG&E conductors’ contacting each other during common windy conditions, in violation of a 24-inch minimum of radial clearance between conductors of the same circuit.

The report supports California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection findings that the Guejito and Witch fires grew into one fire that burned nearly 200,000 acres, killed two people, injured 40 firefighters and destroyed 1,141 houses, 509 outbuildings and 239 vehicles.

The Rice fire began during windy conditions at about 4 a.m. Oct. 22, 2007, when a broken sycamore tree limb fell onto overhead SDG&E conductors, causing the conductors to break and fall to the ground, the report states. The CPSD found that SDG&E’s tree-trimming contractor had inspected the tree that caused the fire and determined it should be trimmed within three months of inspection, which SDG&E failed to do.

The CPSD report states, “Further, currently available evidence does not establish the clearance between the sycamore tree and SDG&E’s conductors, immediately prior to the incident. When the tree was cut, after the incident occurred, it was cut to a height significantly lower than its original height. SDG&E claims that this was done for safety reasons. It is inconclusive as to whether SDG&E complied with the provisions in Rule 35 applicable to clearances.

“CPSD also believes that SDG&E’s inadequate reporting and its unwillingness to provide immediate access to witnesses and evidence prevented CPSD from conducting a more timely investigation.”

The City of San Diego filed a lawsuit against SDG&E seeking damages from the fires. The city’s attorney says he will add Cox to the lawsuit.

CIGRE Brings the World, and Art, to France

By Kathleen Davis, senior editor

CIGRE (Conseil International des Grands Réseaux Electriques or the International Council on Large Electric Systems) is a permanent international, non-government, not-for-profit association founded in France in 1921. These days, it’s one of the largest electric organizations in the world with members in over 80 countries.

Thousands of those members gathered in Paris Aug. 25-29 for CIGRE’s biennial conference and technical exposition.

This year’s conference, named Session 42, filled auditoriums in the Palais des Congrès at Porte Maillot with discussions on the devilish details of organization, development and adaptation of the grid, maintenance optimization, equipment life expectancy and environmental impact analysis.

“For over 80 years now, Paris has been—every two years—the meeting venue for professionals in the area of electricity,” stated CIGRE general secretary Jean Kowal. “Representatives from electricity companies, manufacturing companies, laboratories, consulting firms, government departments—all come together for the CIGRE session.”

Session 42’s individual meetings centered around the work of its 16 study committees: rotating electrical machines, transformers, high-voltage equipment, insulated cables, overhead lines, substations, HVDC and power electronics, protections and automations, system development and economics, system control and operation, system environmental performance, system technical performance, electricity markets and regulation, distribution systems and dispersed generation, materials and emerging technologies, and information systems and telecommunications.

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The technical meeting on electricity markets and regulations featured a number of questions referring to papers grouped under two topics: incentives for investing and interactions between system security rules and market rules.

In answering the first question on whether we are accomplishing our goals to stimulate investment, Lewis Dale, the regulatory strategy manager for the UK’s National Grid replied, “Investment incentives for monopoly transmission has evolved. . . . In practice, a compromise is needed between risk imposed by ex-ante control and its benefits due to incentive strength.”

Dale was a powerhouse in the session, answering, personally, over half of the questions posed to the committee about the included papers, with issues ranging from investment to capacity.

On the topic of cross-border or inter-regional constraints, a number of international companies rose up to give personal viewpoints and experienced advice. Okamoto of the Tokyo Power Company dissected his country’s proactive use of interconnected committees to study, in detail, the solution to regional interconnections. Lei of the China Yangtze Power Corp. laid out how the Three Gorges hydroelectric transmission system is set up to cross borders and deal with transmission pricing.

Cova, with Italy’s CESI, summed it up best when admitting that no one answer is correct for all regions and interconnections and that, in the end, not all capacity issues can be solved. While good answers will enhance competition, offer better supply alternatives and allow deeper penetration of renewables across borders, constraints will always be a part of the equation.

“A certain degree of congestion is physiological and shall be accepted because no congestion may indicate overinvestment,” he added.

And overinvestment isn’t a likely possibility in any industry, but especially when dealing with power distribution and transmission.

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In-depth discussions about transmission abounded, of course, at CIGRE, but meetings and a floor full of technical exhibitors didn’t represent all CIGRE had to offer. They also featured a companion art exhibit, “Networks into Artworks,” by Elena Paroucheva.

Her projects aim at emphasizing power networks rather than hiding them. The small gallery in conjunction with CIGRE’s Session 42 was but a taste of Paroucheva’s electricity-themed art.

Between the sessions, the floor and the colorful gallery of Paroucheva’s pieces, CIGRE Session 42 stimulated the intellectual, business and creative senses.

“To conclude on a very French note,” Kowal stated. “I would say that the CIGRE session compares to good wine: it gets better as it becomes older.”

For more information, and pictures on CIGRE’s Session 42, visit our CIGRE video slideshow on the Web: http://uaelp.pennnet.com/video/index.cfm.

A Chat with NREL Director Dan Arvizu

Editor’s note: This is part two of a four-part UAE news series. Senior editor Kathleen Davis talks with NREL director Dr. Dan Arvizu about connecting renewables to the grid. In this second part of the series, Dr. Arvizu examines ways to make the grid and renewables mesh more easily.

KD: Which renewable energy is the most grid friendly?

DA: First, let me suggest that I think it is imperative that the grid become more renewable energy-friendly. So, in essence, the new generation of almost all renewable energy technologies will be grid-friendly. That point made, I recognize grid evolution and sophistication will not happen overnight and some renewable energy technologies will be more easily accommodated.

On transmission networks, baseload renewables such as biomass and geothermal technologies are interconnected and operated much like fossil generation. Hydropower operations, which can be baseload or used for peaking, are well understood and integrated. Hydrokinetic resources, that is wave and other water power methods now seeing new attention, operate as baseload. However, wind and central-station solar thermal plants are also interconnected at transmission voltages but operate differently. Wind technologies have improved their grid performance through improved voltage support and low-voltage ride-through. And central-station solar plants can now use thermal storage to smooth output during cloudy periods. As renewable technologies develop and plants are connected to the transmission network, “grid-friendly” improvements are arriving.

On distribution networks, NREL has been involved with developing Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) standards (the IEEE 1547 series) for the interconnection of distributed generation, including renewables. The standards include hardware specifications and procedures to ensure distributed generation is added safely. They apply to all small renewable energy systems.

KD: There are a lot of issues with long-distance transport fees, queues and markets that all generators face when dealing with putting their power on the grid. How can we design the grid connection and distribution process to favor renewable generation?

DA: Interconnection and distribution processes do not need to “favor” renewables. They just need to give renewables a fair chance at success in the power system and market.

An example is the operational issue of wind variability. On the Western Interconnection, there are many balancing areas where variations—caused by, for example, a weather front—from a few large wind plants can cause problems. But if a few balancing areas were joined together, the variations of multiple geographic areas could smooth the output and reduce overall variation. We are working with WestConnect, a regional utility group in the West, to identify this benefit.

Another issue is cost allocation and cost recovery for multistate transmission developments. Crossing state boundaries can add complexity to a transmission development because of the multiple rules and requirements. A standard, accepted methodology would benefit wind, solar and all technologies that are located in a different state from the loads they serve.

In the first part of this series, Dr. Arvizu provided an overview of the NREL and examined the RTO/ISO process for interconnections. That story can be found in the Sept. issue of UAE.

Hearing Examiner Recommends Approval of Allegheny Line

Virginia’s Hearing Examiner recommended that the State Corporation Commission authorize construction of the 500-kv Virginia segments of the Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line (TrAIL).

In his report, Hearing Examiner Alexander F. Skirpan Jr. finds the line is necessary to resolve overloads projected to occur on the transmission system as soon as 2011. He recommends that the Virginia Commission approve TrAIL if state regulators in Pennsylvania and West Virginia also approve the line. He also recommends specific routing for the line which would be located primarily adjacent to or within Virginia’s existing transmission right-of-way. TrAILCo will carefully evaluate the recommendations and provide its comments to the Commission.

“We are encouraged that the Hearing Examiner recognizes the need for TrAIL,” said Paul J. Evanson, Allegheny Energy’s chairman, president and CEO. “This project is critical to ensuring the ongoing reliability of the grid to meet the region’s growing demand for electricity.”

The Hearing Examiner called the segment of TrAIL from 502 Junction in Pennsylvania to Loudoun, Va., “the best alternative to meet the need demonstrated in these proceedings.”

TrAIL is targeted for completion in 2011, and will span Allegheny Power’s transmission zone from Southwestern Pennsylvania through West Virginia to Northern Virginia. Construction of the proposed line also is subject to state regulatory approval.

Alabama Power Exec Gets Awards, Reveals his Secrets

Robin Hurst, Alabama Power’s senior vice president for power delivery, received the IEEE Power and Energy Society’s “Leadership in Power” award at the 2008 IEEE Power and Energy Society’s General Meeting held in Pittsburgh this July. The award recognizes industry leaders for exceptional contributions to the promotion of the electric power engineering profession. After years of informal mentoring, Hurst created an “Engineer in Training” program at Alabama Power in 1993 to recruit, train and hire young engineers. To date, more than 200 engineers have gotten their start through the program.

UAE contacted Hurst to get details about his program and how it got started. He was kind enough to give us an exclusive personal overview.


Wanda Reder, President of IEEE/PES, presents the Leadership in Power award to Robin Hurst of Alabama Power.
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Hurst: Although Alabama Power’s “Engineer in Training” (EIT) program has helped more than 200 young engineers get their start, its origins might seem a little selfish. When I joined Alabama Power as a junior engineer back in 1970, I often thought about how much I would benefit from a program like EIT.

As engineers, we’re trained to be able to see the “big picture” but remain focused on the smallest details. When I joined Alabama Power, the “big picture” was a big blur to me as far how the company actually worked. I could accomplish any task assigned to me—after all, I’d earned a degree in electrical engineering—but understanding the bigger picture and how all the pieces interacted was another story.

Regardless of a person’s academic background or past experience, that individual cannot perform to his or her full potential without fully understanding the business in which he or she works. A person can gain that knowledge through the slow process of working on the job for many years, as I did. Or, a company can create a structured training program that accelerates the learning process and exposes promising young employees to all facets of the organization.

That’s what we’ve done with Alabama Power’s EIT program. Started in 1993, the program is designed to develop new engineers into more knowledgeable Southern Company employees at an accelerated pace. The training comes in several areas: classroom instruction, hands-on exposure and various tours/trips. From time to time, EITs also visit the company’s division offices, which exposes them to different locations and supervisors. This allows new engineers to make informed decisions about future jobs in those areas and to understand how each division operates.

The 18-month program offers more than 100 classes, allowing engineers to get specialized training in their field or to become more familiar with another field. For example, in addition to training in distribution, transmission and substation issues, EITs can also get an overview of power generation, customer service and labor relations.

The engineers entering the EIT program are usually assigned to work in the power delivery department or one of the geographic divisions, where they are concurrently scheduled to attend the different phases of their training program. This provides them with opportunities to apply the various skills and knowledge acquired throughout the program.

When young engineers finish the EIT program, Alabama Power has employees who are better trained to do the jobs they have at the time. And, those employees are more likely to stay with the company for many years because of the opportunities and training they received outside normal jobs. EIT is not only a job and skills development program, it is in many ways, a career development program.

As a large number of our “baby boomer” employees retire during the next 10 years, the EIT program has become an effective recruiting tool and incentive for bright young engineers to work for Alabama Power. Literally and figuratively, the EIT program is truly a sound investment in our company’s future.