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Public Service Co. of New Mexico scores high on J.D. Power ranking for customer service

Public Service Co. of New Mexico, a local company providing power to New Mexicans for more than 100 years, has the highest awareness of programs that help low-income customers pay their bills as compared to other midsize electric companies across the country, according to the J.D. Power 2019 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study.

“It is an honor for PNM to receive a top list ranking from our customers, especially on such an important program as our assistance program,” said Becky Teague, vice president of customer service operations. “In addition, it is a true testament that the word is spreading about PNM offering assistance programs and putting help straight into the hands of New Mexicans who need it the most.” 

The entire 2019 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study is based on more than 103,000 total responses nationally, conducted from July 2018 through May 2019 among residential customers of 142 largest electric utility companies across the United States, which collectively represent more than 101 million households. PNM performance surpassed the other 42 midsized investor-owned utilities that are part of the study.

Through the PNM Good Neighbor Fund, PNM customers who are facing a financial emergency can receive a grant to help pay part or all of a past-due PNM bill. Every year, the PNM Good Neighbor Fund distributes tens of thousands of dollars to hundreds of families in our service area for bill payment support. 

Last year, the program helped more than 3,698 families with more than $461,000 in PNM Good Neighbor Fund assistance by the generosity of customers, employees, and shareholders who donated their own money towards the fund.

GE unit to finish transmission project for KEPCO

GE’s Grid Solutions business has been awarded by KAPES a contract in excess of $100 million to complete Korea Electric Power Corp.’s second and final phase of the Buk Dangjin-Godeok high-voltage direct current transmission link. 

The final phase will add an additional 1.5 GW of transmission capacity to the existing 33-km link, supplying electricity from the Dangjin power plant to Godeok, home to one of the largest semi-conductor plants in the world, as well as to the Pyeongtaek city and the south of Seoul Metropolitan area. Together, these areas account for 40% of South Korea’s energy consumption.

In 2020, GE and KAPES, a KEPCO-GE joint venture, will complete the first 1.5 GW phase of the bi-pole HVDC link that runs across the Ansanman Bay from Dangjin to Godeok. With GE’s HVDC technology, KEPCO, Korea’s largest utility, was able to avoid the construction of a 100-km overhead line that an alternating current (AC) scheme would have required. Moreover, this solution provides additional supply into this high-growth region.

Compared to AC technology, HVDC lowers transmission costs and energy losses as well as having a smaller footprint, making it a more efficient and environmentally-friendly way to move electricity over long distances. With South Korea experiencing a 53% growth in energy demand within the last decade, and continuing to be one of the biggest energy consumers in the world, the Buk Dangjing-Godeok link is crucial in developing South Korea’s transmission network to meet the nation’s growing energy demand.  

“With this project, GE and KEPCO continue to reinforce the value of the KAPES joint venture.  The investment that has been made to transfer knowledge and localize GE’s HVDC technology continues to be a win-win partnership,” said Rajendra Iyer, GE’s Grid Solutions’ Integrated Solutions Leader. “GE is proud to be able to contribute to South Korea’s growing energy economy in this way.”

The KAPES joint venture between GE and KEPCO is a long-term strategic relationship to co-develop HVDC projects and increase Korean transmission grid capabilities based on GE technology. To date, GE and KAPES have been awarded six grid-critical HVDC projects in Korea, starting in 1994 when GE provided the original 300-megawatt HVDC bi-pole link for the 101-km, point-to-point submarine electric interconnector linking South Korea’s Jeju Island with the mainland.

Rocky Mountain Power, partners launch energy storage grid project

A partnership between sonnen, the Wasatch Group and Rocky Mountain Power will provide a network of solar powered battery storage systems, better known as a virtual power plant, fully managed by Rocky Mountain Power, the local utility, for the greater good of the community and the electric system.

The Soleil Lofts apartment community in Herriman, Utah represents an all-electric residential community design that standardizes on-site energy storage in every unit.  The project features over 600 individual sonnen ecoLinx batteries, totaling 12.6 MWh of solar energy storage that is managed by Rocky Mountain Power, the local utility, to provide emergency back-up power, daily management of peak energy use and demand response for the overall management of the electric grid.

“As the developer of Soleil Lofts, we started with the firm belief we could build a community that was solving the Salt Lake Valley’s serious air quality issues today and in the future. That belief led us to partner with Rocky Mountain Power, sonnen and Auric Energy for the development of an all-electric community utilizing solar and batteries.” said Dell Loy Hansen, CEO of the Wasatch Group. “Early in the design process it was clear that sonnen was the leader in battery solutions to meet the needs of this project and others like it. Soleil Lofts is based on the fact that sonnen’s ecoLinx is the safest, longest lasting battery which can deliver utility grid services for decades of operation.”

 “The combination of solar and long lasting, safe, intelligent energy storage managed by the local utility is an essential component to the clean energy grid of the future. The solar industry should find inspiration in this extraordinary project, as it provides a blueprint for the future of grid optimized battery storage,” said Blake Richetta, Chairman and CEO of sonnen Inc.

“Not only does Soleil Lofts all-electric community help improve air quality along the Wasatch Front in Utah, the project will create a platform for managing batteries for other customers we serve, as well. This partnership enables an innovative solution to provide low-cost utility services, not otherwise possible. We are honored to work with customers, such as the Wasatch Group, to help innovate for the future and make the lives of all our customers better every day,” said Gary Hoogeveen Rocky Mountain Power CEO.

Residents will begin moving into the Soleil Lofts apartments in September 2019 and the final building will be complete in December of 2020. Upon completion, the Soleil Lofts community will be the largest fully installed and operational residential battery demand response solution in the United States.

Siemens Viking transmission link to connect Great Britain, Denmark

German-based power solutions company Siemens has secured a contract to deliver two converter stations for the first high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) link between Great Britain and Denmark.

Viking Link will enable the exchange of up to 1,400 MW electricity and provide increased power-supply reliability and security to consumers in both countries.

By allowing transmission to flow in both directions, Viking Link will support the integration of renewable energy sources into the power grid and will boost power-supply reliability and security to consumers in both countries.

Furthermore, the interconnector will give consumers in both countries access to a broader energy mix and will facilitate long-term decarbonization of the EU economy in accordance with the Paris Agreement.

The interconnector is being jointly developed by National Grid Ventures (Great Britain) and Energinet (Denmark) via National Grid Viking Link Ltd. and Energinet Eltransmission A/S.

Viking Link is scheduled to begin commercial operation at the end of 2023. 

Cross-border interconnector specs

The order comprises a 1,400-MW converter system for DC voltage of ± 525kV using HVDC Plus technology.

The two converter stations – one in Bicker Fen in Lincolnshire (Great Britain), the other in Revising in southern Jutland (Denmark) – will be linked by a 767-kilometr-long DC power cable passing through the North Sea.

Both converter stations will use HVDC Plus voltage-sourced converters in a modular multilevel converter arrangement (VSC-MMC) that combine the advantages of HVDC transmission with extra benefits like AC voltage control, black-start capability, and other functions that improve the performance and network stability of both connected AC networks.

Viking Link will be one of the world’s longest DC electricity interconnectors. Siemens will be responsible for the overall system design, supply, installation, and commissioning of the converter stations. 

“We’re extremely pleased that, with every new interconnection, Siemens is advancing the development of an integrated European energy market. With Viking Link, we’ll be working on another landmark HVDC project that is paving the way to a secure, affordable, and sustainable energy supply,” said Tim Dawidowsky, CEO EPC projects at Siemens Gas and Power.

Viking Link will transmit surplus energy to wherever the level of demand is higher. Because periods of high wind-energy production and high demand are unlikely to occur simultaneously in both Great Britain and Denmark, the interconnector will result in lower prices in peak consumption periods and enables a more effective use of renewable energy.

This story was originally featured on ESI-Africa.com

Tesla solar panels catch fire, igniting legal fight with Walmart

NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart said Friday that is working on a resolution with Tesla after the retailing giant sued the electric car company’s energy division for installing rooftop solar panels that caught fire.

In the lawsuit filed Tuesday, Walmart said Tesla installed solar panels that went up in flames on seven of its store rooftops between 2012 and 2018, causing millions of dollars in damage.

In a joint statement Friday, the companies said they look forward to re-activating the panels once both sides are certain that all concerns have been addressed. Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said the lawsuit has not been dropped, but that the companies are “actively working” to resolve it.

According to the complaint, inspections found that several of Tesla’s solar panels were broken and that wires were hanging out, causing a fire hazard. Walmart said Tesla Inc., based in Palo Alto, California, engaged in “widespread, systemic negligence” and “failed to abide by prudent industry practices in installing, operating, and maintaining its solar systems.”

Walmart said it had deals with Tesla Energy, formerly known as SolarCity, to install and maintain solar panels on 244 Walmart stores.

In May of last year, Walmart said it demanded that Tesla disconnect all the solar panel systems it had installed. But Walmart said another fire still occurred at a California store, even though the panels had been disconnected for several months. The company said that the wires on the store’s rooftop were still sparking when it discovered the fire.

Walmart said it later found out that Tesla ignored an alert from that store’s solar panels, which Walmart said was the likely cause of the fire. In the court documents, Walmart said ignoring the alert reveals “Tesla’s utter incompetence or callousness, or both.”

Walmart Inc., based in Bentonville, Arkansas, did not specify how much money it is seeking from Tesla in the lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court, saying that the amount would be determined at trial.

NYSERDA launches second phase of home energy ratings pilot

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) launched the second phase of its multi-year Home Energy Rating Pilot (Pilot) initially launched in February. 

NYSERDA is seeking applications from licensed home inspectors to deliver home energy ratings during pre-purchase inspections to support homebuyer remodeling of a newly purchased one- to four-family home. 

The announcement advances Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2025 energy efficiency target of 1185 trillion BTUs in energy savings and his Green New Deal, a climate and clean energy program.

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Alicia Barton, President and CEO, NYSERDA, “Reducing energy use in homes provides a foundation for greater statewide energy savings and advances us another step towards meeting Governor Cuomo’s energy efficiency target by 2025. Piloting home energy ratings with home inspectors offers New York homebuyers access to a useful and informative tool that will identify energy efficient needs, features and upgrade opportunities to inform future remodeling decisions that will help them lower energy costs and increase the comfort of their homes.”

Under this program, licensed home inspectors will be selected to deliver home energy ratings to homebuyers as part of the pre-purchase inspection, an independent third-party examination report detailing the condition of a home, to help them understand the efficiency, comfort, and value of the home they are considering purchasing. 

Home energy ratings are similar to a miles per gallon rating on a car, providing easy-to-understand visual reports that provide insight into how a home performs in areas like insulation, air sealing, heating and cooling efficiency, and water heating efficiency. 

With nearly 60 percent of home buyers considering a property that needs renovating, a home energy rating can provide a roadmap of energy efficiency opportunities that can be made after the purchase is complete. Qualified home inspectors will be selected through a competitive process. Interested individuals can apply on NYSERDA’s website by October 3, 2019.

Two home energy rating systems will be piloted: the U.S. Department of Energy’s Home Energy Score and the Pearl Home Certification from Pearl, a private residential energy efficiency certification firm. Six locations across the state were selected to evaluate the impact the rating systems will have on consumer awareness and demand for energy efficiency services in different geographic areas.

Home Energy Score will be offered in:

“- Queens

“- Broome County

“- Town of Tonawanda

Pearl Home Certification will be offered in:

“- Staten Island

“- Tompkins County

“- Town of Irondequoit

NYSERDA’s Home Energy Rating Pilot is being implemented in four phases through 2020. Phase one of the home energy ratings pilot was launched earlier this year to select qualified contractors to provide owners of one- to four- family homes with independent, trustworthy home energy performance information. Future phases of the pilot are expected to launch in the coming months.

Funding for this program is part of the state’s 10-year, $5.3 billion Clean Energy Fund, a core component of New York State’s Reforming the Energy Vision strategy to achieve a clean, resilient and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers.

School district in Iowa considers building solar project

FOREST CITY, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa school district is considering installing solar panels on land it recently bought near its high school.

The Forest City school district is evaluating several options for the 17.3 acres of land it purchased near its high school.

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Superintendent Darwin Lehmann says using the land to generate solar power would help power the high school and save the district money on utility bills.

Another option being considered would be to create several test plots that students in Future Farmers of America could use.

The district has time to research options because it plans to keep the land in the Conservation Reserve Program through 2021.

Wyoming wind farm to use more efficient turbines

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Bigger, more efficient equipment will allow an electric utility to redevelop Wyoming’s first commercial wind farm so it produces the same amount of power with far fewer turbines, an example of the growing feasibility of renewable energy in the top U.S. coal-mining state.

Portland, Oregon-based PacifiCorp plans to replace 68 wind turbines at the Foote Creek I wind farm with 13 turbines. The wind farm atop the barren and blustery ridge called Foote Creek Rim west of Cheyenne will continue to generate about 41 MW, or enough electricity to power nearly 20,000 homes.

Solar power often gets attention for efficiency gains but many U.S. utilities also are working to squeeze more MW out of wind, PacifiCorp spokesman Spencer Hall said.

“Just imagine buying a new cellphone today versus in ’98,” Hall said, referring to when the wind farm’s first turbines were installed. “It’s becoming a thing where we can’t even get labor on some of them, there are so many projects going on.”

PacifiCorp has 1.9 million customers in Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Washington state, Oregon and California and wants to get more electricity from wind power in the years ahead, while reducing what it generates from coal.

Environmental groups are waiting for an October announcement by PacifiCorp outlining its future plans for coal-fired power. PacifiCorp has been weighing whether to shut down as many as nine coal-fired generating units at power plants in Colorado and Wyoming over the next several years.

“All indications are showing it will include some early retirements on at least some of the units,” said Hall.

Increasingly efficient renewables and inexpensive gas-fired electricity are bad news for Wyoming’s coal mining industry, which employs about 4,700 miners and supplies over 40 percent of U.S. coal. Several bankruptcies, including one that shut down two of the top-producing U.S. coal mines in the state’s northeastern Powder River Basin area of rolling grasslands, have hit the industry in recent years.

At Foote Creek Rim, PacifiCorp plans to replace its 600-kilowatt Mitsubishi wind turbines with 2- and 4-MW Vestas turbines. The Vestas turbines will have larger blades spanning 120 yards and 149 yards.

As the new turbines go up, the existing ones will be decommissioned next April.

The redevelopment includes PacifiCorp’s buyout of another utility’s 21 percent ownership stake in Foote Creek I. The Eugene Water & Electric Board will get $1.7 million for its share.

Other major wind projects in the works in Wyoming include Power Company of Wyoming’s plans for a 3,000-MW wind farm about 50 miles  southwest of Foote Creek Rim.

ABB and Hitachi respond to Japan’s digitization needs

ABB and Hitachi have announced a collaboration to advance Japan’s electricity balancing market system, allowing for market transactions in an increasingly digital environment.

To achieve more efficient and reliable operations, Hitachi has ordered the ABB Ability Network Manager Market Management System (MMS), a software solution for the electricity balancing market system.

The MMS consists of a set of advanced applications that support a wide range of market-related functions and modern IT infrastructure.

The system will be adapted to the specific requirements of the Japanese electricity balancing market, which TEPCO Power Grid and Chubu Electric Power Company are developing on behalf of the countrywide Transmission System Operators.

Utilities will use the MMS to enable efficient procurement of balancing capacity and energy. In addition to improving market efficiency, this system will also contribute to stable and reliable power supply.

“Hitachi and ABB will through the deployment of ABB Ability Network Manager MMS, enable efficient and reliable operation of the electricity balancing market,” said Massimo Danieli, head of ABB’s grid automation business line in the company’s Power Grids business.

“The strong partnership between the two companies will support the advancement of Japan’s electric power system and its digitalization journey to build a stronger, smarter and greener grid.”

ABB’s MMS has been successful in both Europe and North America’s electricity balancing markets. It is a proven solution that ensures efficient and sustainable operation of the system while maintaining the reliability of the electric power system.

The collaboration between Hitachi and ABB is an extension of the original partnership agreement concluded in December 2017.

Building upon this existing relationship, Hitachi and ABB are committed to respond to the need for digitization within the Japanese electric power system. In this partnership, the two companies bring their strength together to support utilities and energy companies in Japan.

It’s a combination of Hitachi’s technology and know-how that has been accumulated by providing a variety of electric power equipment and systems in Japan and ABB’s proven software technology.

Digital innovation in the Asia energy sector will be explored in detail at POWERGEN Asia, which takes place on 3-5 September in Malaysia. Click here for details.


FAA approves Kansas UAV flight, from pipelines to powerlines

The Kansas Department of Transportation received permission to conduct a beyond-visual-line-of-sight drone operation leveraging onboard detect-and-avoid systems. 

This is the result of the 31-member Kansas UAS Integration Pilot Program team efforts to advance drone technologies.

In a collaborative effort between Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus, Westar Energy, Iris Automation and KDOT, the Kansas IPP team will fly a nine-mile track to evaluate technologies to inspect power lines in rural Kansas. This is the first step to enable routine commercial infrastructure inspection across the state. 

“The UAS industry has worked over 10 years to demonstrate the most significant commercial benefit of drone operations within the United States,” said Bob Brock, KDOT Director of Aviation. “We are proud of the joint state, university and industry team that made this landmark decision possible.”

“The ability to fly BVLOS missions without ground-based radar or visual observers is a significant advancement, and Westar Energy views this as an opportunity to play a  key role in shaping the future of UAS operations within the utility industry,” said Mike Kelly, Westar Energy Senior UAS Coordinator. “Being able to operate under this waiver allows the Kansas IPP team the ability to research and develop truly scalable BVLOS UAS operations for the automated inspection of linear infrastructure.”

The Applied Aviation Research Center on the K-State Polytechnic Campus, which assisted in development of the safety case that ultimately led to FAA approval, will be responsible for the training and flight operations with a cross-functional team from the KDOT IPP. Flights will take place over the next few months, providing the FAA with much-needed data on true BVLOS activity.

The U.S. Department of Transportation selected Kansas Department of Transportation as one of nine participants in the FAA UAS IPP. This program allows state, local and tribal governments to conduct advanced UAS operations to gather data to assist the rulemaking process that will set the boundaries for UAS operations in the United States.