ALSTOM T&D Expands Switchgear Factory and Test Lab

ALSTOM recently completed a $5 million expansion to its high-voltage switchgear manufacturing facility in southwest Pennsylvania. The project more than doubled the existing plant’s size and added state-of-the-art testing facilities for high-voltage circuit breakers.

Utility customers, suppliers, local government officials and members of the press attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of the new facility in late October. Among the utilities represented at the ceremony were American Electric Power, FirstEnergy and Salt River Project.

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ALSTOM T&D test engineers can generate 2,000,000 volts of electricity through a new impulse generator unit in their expanded high-voltage test lab.

With the new 10,400-square-foot high-voltage test laboratory, the factory is now equipped for standard production testing as well as new product development and design type testing. New test capabilities in the expanded facility include a 1.4 million-volt resonant test set, 2.6 million-volt impulse test set, 5,000 amperes continuous current test set, and a cold cell for cold-temperature testing down to minus 65 degrees Celsius. These improvements to testing resources have enabled the company to extend its product line of high-voltage dead tank circuit breakers beyond its traditional range of 72,000 to 245,000 volts up to 550,000 volts.

“Our investment in the nearly 65,000-square-foot expansion of our high-voltage switchgear facility in Washington County is the most recent example of ALSTOM’s commitment to the U.S. market and the escalating demands of the energy industry,” said Philippe Joubert, worldwide president of ALSTOM Transmission and Distribution.

ALSTOM’s T&D unit is in the process of being acquired by French nuclear power company Areva. The acquisition is expected to close in January 2004, at which time ALSTOM T&D will become Areva T&D. Joubert said the acquisition will provide a needed influx of capital to the company’s T&D unit, which will allow the company to tackle the growing need it sees in the U.S. utility industry.

“As a major utility supplier, we are prepared to assist our customers in modernizing the transmission grid,” he continued, noting that the need for modernization had been dramatically underscored by the blackout event of last August. “Our investments in product development and advanced technologies are driven by U.S. requirements.”

The company’s high-voltage switchgear facility in Charleroi, Pa., opened in 1994. Sales have increased from $2 million in its first year to $60 million in 2002. In addition to dead tank circuit breakers, the plant also supplies high-voltage disconnect switches, circuit switchers, generator circuit breakers, live tank circuit breakers and surge arresters. Since the factory’s opening, more than 6,000 circuit breakers have been shipped to more than 700 customers in 43 countries. Equipment manufactured in Charleroi is in service in 48 U.S. states.


In the article “AMR Growth Continued in 2002, But 2003 is Not so Clear” from the July/August 2003 issue of Utility Automation, FirstPoint Energy Corp., an Oregon-based manufacturer and provider of automatic meter reading (AMR) equipment and services, was omitted from the listing of AMR providers. FirstPoint Energy reports that it shipped 18,900 AMR units in 2002, has shipped a total of 50,400 AMR units, and is involved in 16 AMR projects. This information was omitted from Figure 1 of the July/August 2003 article.

Oak Ridge National Lab Funds Superconductor Wire Development

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has awarded funding to American Superconductor Corp. as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) superconductivity program in the office of electric transmission & distribution. The award, which will be incrementally funded up to $2.5 million over the next three years, will support development of the second generation (2G) of high-temperature superconductor (HTS) wire.

American Superconductor today manufactures and markets first-generation (1G) HTS wire. It can be used in a variety of applications, including reactive power grid stabilization systems and controllable power cables. The 2G HTS wire, which is in development, is expected to have electrical performance similar to the 1G wire at two to five times lower cost. The 2G HTS wire is expected to be available in commercial quantities in three to four years.

New HVDC System Links Eastern and Western Grids

ABB has successfully commissioned a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission system link, interconnecting the eastern and western power grids of the United States. The back-to-back system is expected to boost grid reliability.

The HVDC system, called the “Rapid City Tie” because it passes close to Rapid City, S.D., carries 200 MW of power. ABB completed the $50 million contract in 19 months.

“The new power transmission system will substantially increase grid reliability in the U.S.,” said Peter Smits, head of ABB’s Power Technologies division. “Interconnections such as the Rapid City Tie lower the risk of blackouts, because they allow a controlled power flow between otherwise independent power grids.”

The HVDC system provides voltage and frequency support in case of disturbances in either of the grids. ABB designed, manufactured and installed the HVDC system as part of the joint project between Basin Electric Power Cooperative of North Dakota, and Black Hills Power of South Dakota.

The high-voltage alternating current (AC) grids in the eastern and western United States do not operate synchronously and require a technology interface to connect them. HVDC technology takes the AC from one grid, converts it into direct current, and then re-converts it into AC for the other grid.

The new HVDC system located near Rapid City, S.D., is expected to increase grid reliability by allowing controlled power flow between the eastern and western grids.Click here to enlarge image


Report: Nearly 17% of N. American Meters Read Remotely

About 16.5 percent of meters in North America will be equipped with an automatic meter reading (AMR) device by the end of 2003, according to new research from Atlanta-based Chartwell Inc. About 36 percent are expected to have AMR in place by 2008, a number that could rise to as high as 43 percent if the market sees strong growth, according to the newly released Chartwell AMR Report 2003, 8th Edition.

The report found that the levels of AMR system sophistication vary, but it is clear that more utilities continue to add AMR units to their meter population in an effort to meet their business cases. The report predicts that this upward trend will continue—perhaps even at greater rates than seen in the economic slump of the past three years. About 95 percent of utilities are at least considering deploying AMR technology, according to Chartwell’s survey of 100 utilities regarding their AMR plans in June and July 2003.

Chartwell’s survey of 100 utilities also showed that about 52 percent of utilities use or are looking to use AMR to decrease the cost of reading highly transient residences, a dramatic 20 percent rise from a year ago. In addition, the Chartwell AMR Report 2003 features detailed information regarding AMR costs, various factors impacting AMR business cases and analysis of “hot” AMR technologies.

The 268-page report includes eight chapters of AMR industry analysis, as well as responses from all 100 utilities surveyed in June and July 2003.

For more information about the report, contact Juli Collins at 1-800-432-5879 or

FACTS Technology to Stabilize PG&E Grid

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has awarded a $12 million contract to ABB to install flexible AC transmission system (FACTS) technology to supplement its electric transmission network in San Francisco, Calif.

In recent years, the San Francisco Bay Area has experienced rapid load growth, while at the same time the possibility to erect new transmission lines has diminished. To maintain transmission system stability in and around San Francisco, PG&E has been forced to run aging generation units located in the city.

The FACTS installation will be located adjacent to a generation plant at the Potrero substation in San Francisco. The turnkey project is scheduled for completion in November 2004. Once the installation is in service, PG&E will be able to retire the old generators.

“The FACTS installation will stabilize the power system during peak loading and network contingencies, thus substantially lowering the risk for voltage collapses,” said Josef A. Duerr, head of ABB’s Power Systems business area.

This contract is one of a number of recent ABB FACTS contracts in the United States. This is the second static var compensation (SVC) order and the sixth turnkey project with PG&E. Collectively, these projects amounted to more than $90 million during the last six years.

Midwest Transmission Companies Form Advocacy Group

The Midwest Stand-Alone Transmission Companies (MSAT), a new group composed of companies whose sole businesses are the ownership, planning, construction and maintenance of electric transmission systems, intends to address the concerns of stand-alone transmission companies by advocating policy and developing common positions on issues related to transmission grid improvement.

“We formed this group to give transmission a clear and strong voice on key policy issues related to enhancing infrastructure and investment,” said Dale Landgren, vice president and chief strategic officer of American Transmission Co. and MSAT representative. Landgren added that MSAT has filed comments with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in three proceedings that include policies with the potential to affect transmission investment.

The MSAT companies include American Transmission Co. of Waukesha, Wis.; National Grid subsidiary GridAmerica of Cleveland, Ohio; International Transmission Co. of Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Michigan Electric Transmission Co. of Ann Arbor, Mich.

To date, MSAT has developed positions on several issues including:

  • Stand-alone transmission companies. MSAT encourages FERC to provide a regulatory climate conducive to the formation of stand-alone transmission companies.
  • Transmission investment. The group recognizes the need for significant investment in transmission and urges FERC to address cost responsibility and associated policies. It agrees that policies such as voluntary participant funding will not encourage transmission to be built and could lead to suboptimal grid expansion.
  • Regional transmission planning process. MSAT advocates a regional transmission planning process that entrusts stand-alone transmission owners with primary planning responsibility for local projects. Projects with regional impacts would be coordinated with and reviewed by the regional transmission organization, such as MISO, and with oversight by state regulators. This approach achieves regional coordination encouraged by FERC.
  • Wholesale electricity markets. MSAT supports development of competitive wholesale markets but believes a strong transmission grid is necessary to support an effective and efficient market structure.


Contract Awards and Extensions

Wabash Valley Power Association of Indianapolis, Ind., has awarded a contract to Open Systems International Inc. to supply web-enabled centralized SCADA systems as well as stand-alone distributed SCADA capability to 21 of its member cooperatives across central and northern Indiana. Under a separate contract, Open Systems International will supply a new SCADA, energy management system and distribution management system to Chelan County Public Utility District of Washington.

Itron has reached an agreement to provide Avista Utilities in Spokane, Wash., with transmission line design software. Itron will also supply Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative with distribution design and management services.

Cobb Electric Membership Corp. in Marietta, Ga., has purchased Intergraph’s InService suite for outage and mobile workforce management.

Wisconsin Public Service Resources Corp. has selected Hexagram’s STAR wireless fixed-network AMR system to read a significant portion of the utility’s natural gas meters.

Salt River Project plans to install Elster Electricity’s EnergyAxis System to collect data for electricity consumption and time-of-use metering from apartments, townhouses and residential homes.

Invensys IMServ North America has signed a 14-month contract with Niagara Mohawk for field automatic meter reading installation services involving more than 450,000 gas and electric meters.

Wisconsin-based Madison Gas & Electric (MGE) will be purchasing from Itron 1,200 solid-state electricity meters equipped with SmartSynch’s SmartMeter technology. With this order, MGE has fully automated its population of electric and gas meters.

ABB’s asset management services has won an order to help International Transmission Co. (ITC) track the condition of all its critical substation equipment, including transformers, circuit breakers, batteries and relays. ABB will also help ITC schedule and track maintenance activities.

ABB also won a $7.5 million (Canadian) bid from Alberta, Canada-based ATCO Electric to provide equipment for the construction of a 240-kV transmission line from Fort McMurray to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. It is the first major transmission infrastructure project to be undertaken in Alberta in the past 20 years.

BC Hydro has purchased Itron’s Service-Link workforce management software for use by its call centers and field service technicians. The software helps utilities automate field scheduling and dispatch functions.

Kissimmee Utility Authority has chosen Miner & Miner’s ArcFM geographic information system technology to modernize its business operations and improve facilities asset management.

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is using Cannon Technologies’ Substation Advisor System to monitor 500-kV autotransformers at TVA’s Cordova substation near Memphis, Tenn. TVA also has installed Cannon’s Yukon eSubstation transformer monitoring application at its Chattanooga offices to enable enterprise access to the Advisor System.

DTE Energy has selected MAXIMO, an asset management solution from MRO Software, for implementation across its electric and gas distribution, gas transmission, nuclear and fossil generation and unregulated business units.

Wisconsin’s We Energies has signed an expansion agreement with SchlumbergerSema under which SchlumbergerSema will provide real-time automatic meter reading services to We Energies for 350,000 electric meters over the next 15 years.

Alliances, Mergers and Acquisitions

Transformer manufacturer Kuhlman Electric Corp. has entered a joint marketing agreement with MGC Technology (a subsidiary of Moser-Glaser & Co.) giving Kuhlman exclusive responsibility to sell, market, install and service MGC’s medium- and high-voltage busbar technology.

Meter manufacturer Landis+Gyr and Comverge Inc. recently announced a five-year agreement to jointly develop and market commercial and industrial metering solutions. The companies will integrate Landis+Gyr’s metering, two-way paging and telephone technologies with cellular communications technologies and the meter data analysis capabilities of Comverge’s PowerCAMP software.

EnvoyWorldwide, a provider of real-time notification solutions, and CES International, a provider of outage and network management systems, have announced an alliance to develop an integrated outage management and automated notification system.

Personnel Changes and Promotions

Progress Energy has promoted Fred Day, formerly energy delivery executive vice president, to president and chief executive officer of Progress Energy Carolinas. Day will oversee all aspects of Carolinas delivery operations, including distribution and customer service, transmission, and products and services. He will report to president and COO Bob McGehee.

Progress Energy Florida has named Jeff Lyash energy delivery senior vice president. In the newly created role, Lyash will oversee all aspects of energy delivery operations for Progress Energy Florida. Lyash, who was formerly transmission vice president for Progress Energy Carolinas, will report to Progress Energy Florida president and CEO Bill Habermeyer.


CPUC Approves Transmission Upgrade for San Francisco Area

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has given Pacific Gas & Electric Co. the go-ahead for a planned upgrade on a major transmission line into the San Francisco Bay area. The project would permit an additional 135 MW of power to be transmitted into northern San Mateo County and San Francisco.

The decision approved the conversion of a 60-kV power line to 115-kV over a 12-mile course between the San Mateo substation in San Mateo and the Martin substation in Brisbane. New transmission lines would be strung along existing towers located in San Mateo County, south of San Francisco.

Proposed construction activities include the placement of new wire and insulators on existing towers and modifications to existing substations. The project does not require the installation of new towers, foundations or access roads.

PG&E asserts the project is critically important to the California Independent System Operator (ISO) and the City and County of San Francisco (CCSF).

A recent transmission study conducted with the ISO, CCSF and Commission staff predicts the existing lines between the San Mateo and Martin substations may become overloaded in fall 2004, especially if San Francisco power plants become unavailable to provide local power.

The utility also plans to build a new 230-kV buried transmission line between its Jefferson substation in Redwood City to the Martin substation, a project that would bring an additional 400 MW to the region. That project is estimated to cost $220 million.

The California Public Utilities Commission is working on a final environmental impact report for this project. If the approval comes through as expected by May 2004, construction could be finished by September 2005.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

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