FCC Ruling a Win for Utilities and Pipelines

On Nov. 9, 2000, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to include non-commercial spectrum operations by utilities and pipelines within the revised definition of “public safety radio services.” The decision is part of the FCC’s Report and Order in its proceeding concerning amendments to the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and their impact on private wireless services.

According to the United Telecom Council (UTC), inclusion within the public safety services definition is a win for utilities and pipelines because it exempts them from having to obtain future spectrum only through competitive bidding. The decision that no geographic overlay licenses, with accompanying auctions, will be imposed on current private land mobile frequency bands is also advantageous for them. These bands now serve an estimated 20 million end users of industrial/business and public safety wireless services.

“The Commission showed in this decision that it understands the special nature of critical infrastructure facilities and the way they use spectrum to keep vital systems in operation,” said Bill Moroney, UTC’s president and CEO. “We are very pleased with this announcement, while realizing that an auction exemption doesn’t go far without future spectrum allocations for these services.”

The Report and Order, along with a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, were adopted unanimously with little discussion from Commissioners. The decision is expected to include a framework for the use of Band Manager licensing for future land mobile wireless spectrum. It also provides flexibility for incumbent 800/900 megahertz private licensees to transfer their licenses to commercial systems.

Founded in 1948, UTC is a global non-profit association representing the telecommunications and information technology interests of electric, gas and water utilities; natural gas pipelines; and other critical infrastructure companies and their strategic business partners.

Detroit Edison, DOE and Sandia Laboratory to Develop Battery Storage System

Detroit Edison, the principal operating subsidiary of DTE Energy Co., is working with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Sandia National Laboratory to test a prototype for a transportable advanced battery energy storage system (ABESS). The device has the potential to improve reliability for customers and meet increasing demand for high-quality, low-cost electricity. Detroit Edison will provide the electric utility distribution circuit to test the ABESS as a load leveling and power quality device.

“Utilities will need to consider opportunities to modify their distributed resources as well as their transmission and distribution systems,” said Ron May, Detroit Edison’s energy delivery and service vice president. “The DOE has recognized the potential for utility energy storage and supports programs to develop advanced battery systems.”

The battery system will be discharged during the day and charged at night. The ABESS consists of a 200 kW/400 kWh zinc-bromine battery manufactured by ZBB Technologies Inc. in Wauwatosa, Wis., and a power conditioning system manufactured by Inverpower Controls Ltd. in Burlington, Ontario.

When connected to an electric power circuit known to have daily seasonal customer peak demand, ABESS reduces peaks in the electrical load by adding energy to the circuit at predetermined times. When the peak-use period passes, the system will be recharged with energy from the power grid when energy cost is lower. The power conditioning system (PCS), which contains a power inverter, changes AC to DC and vice versa while controlling the charge and discharge of the battery along with providing voltage stability.

The zinc-bromine flow battery is an emerging technology that has attractive advantages for utility energy storage applications. The major advantages are that it has three to four times the energy storage capacity of lead acid batteries and requires less space. In addition, it can be completely discharged without damage and is constructed almost entirely of plastic. The best application for these batteries is a two-hour to six-hour discharge with an appropriately designed PCS.

A unique aspect of the prototype is its mobility. The ABESS team designed the entire system to be housed on a 40-by-8-foot trailer, so it is possible for one battery system to be used in multiple areas.

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