New High-Capacity Conductor Installed at Xcel Energy

Xcel Energy has installed and energized 3M’s new Aluminum Conductor Composite Reinforced (ACCR) overhead conductor on a 10-mile line that is an integral part of the grid in the upper Midwest. It is the first commercial application of the ACCR, which reportedly more than doubles the transmission capacity of conventional conductors of the same diameter without requiring construction of new towers.

The new conductor was installed during an eight-week period on Xcel Energy’s Black Dog-Blue Lake line in Minnesota, which extends from Shakopee to Burnsville. The high-capacity conductor will support the expansion of the utility’s Blue Lake plant, which will provide additional power during peak demand periods in Xcel Energy’s upper Midwest service territory.

“The ACCR provided a fast and cost-effective option for delivering additional energy from Blue Lake to our 1.5 million electricity customers in the upper Midwest,” said Doug Jaeger, Xcel Energy’s transmission vice president. “Without it, we would have had to replace existing towers to accommodate larger sized conventional conductors. Use of the new conductor allowed us to boost capacity on the line while avoiding major construction in an area with sensitive wetlands.”

3M’s ACCR is intended as a solution to thermally constrained transmission bottlenecks that have increasingly plagued electricity grids in recent years, causing brownouts and blackouts. According to Tracy Anderson, business development manager for 3M’s composite conductor program, other major utilities are indicating strong interest in the high-capacity conductor.

“Energizing the Blue Lake line is a major milestone,” said Anderson, noting that 3M anticipates closing additional sales of the ACCR within the next couple of months. “We believe the ACCR will play a significant role in making the national electricity grid more reliable,” he added.

ACCR, a new type of bare overhead conductor containing a multi-strand core of heat-resistant aluminum matrix composite wires, retains its strength at high temperatures and is not adversely affected by environmental conditions, such as moisture or UV exposure. Because of its light weight and reduced thermal expansion properties, the conductor can be installed on existing towers and requires no visual changes to a line or additional rights of way.௣à¯£

Xcel Energy has installed an innovative overhead conductor from 3M on one of its lines in Minnesota.

METC Working with GE, ABB to Improve Transmission System

Michigan Electric Transmission Company (METC) recently teamed with two companies to improve its transmission system. First, METC contracted GE Energy to manage the complete upgrade of METC’s existing protection and control system, including its control buildings, relays, battery systems, communication systems and security systems at each of the company’s 82 substations. Phase I of the project, estimated to cost $5 million, began in January 2005 and is the first step of a multi-phased, multimillion dollar program designed to improve METC’s protection and control relay system. The program also includes installation of a substation automation program to improve overall functionality of the stations.

During the first work phase, GE Energy will provide new substation control buildings, an interface between each site and METC’s existing control centers, security management, new protection and control relay panels, and an interconnection between the substations and the new control buildings. METC is in the process of finalizing an agreement with another provider for the consulting and integration services, data center services, software and accompanying maintenance, and wide-area network service and associated framework. GE Energy will engineer, procure and construct all phases of the protection and control relay project.

METC has also hired ABB Inc. to design and build its transmission operations computer system for its new operations center that will be housed in the Southbelt Industrial Park of Caledonia Township, near Grand Rapids.

The transmission operations system, a multi-million dollar project that will take approximately 16 months to build, will be constructed in a factory before being installed in the operations center.

The operations center is a two-story, 35,000-square-foot building that will house METC’s mechanical, electrical and computer systems. It will be under construction from August 2005 to April 2006. The transmission operations system will be installed in May 2006 and should complete onsite testing in August 2006.௣à¯£

U. of Arkansas Researchers Developing Electronic Systems for Power Grid

The federal government has asked engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas to develop purely electronic systems to make the nation’s power grid more reliable and efficient. The goal would be to replace outdated and obsolete electro-mechanical devices with silicon-carbide, solid-state equipment.

Alan Mantooth, UA professor of electrical engineering and director of the newly formed National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transmission, and three other UA electrical engineering researchers-Juan Balda, Fred Barlow and Aicha Elshabini-received $1 million from the U.S. Department of Energy’s GridWorks Initiative to create and operate the new national center. The center’s researchers, including faculty and graduate students, will design, test and package the electronic systems for future commercial use in the nation’s power grid.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Tennessee, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech received funding for similar research.

For the past decade, UA electrical engineers have developed and packaged silicon-carbide systems for NASA and the defense industry. The UA team was one of the first to investigate the material’s application to power technology.

Mantooth said silicon-carbide is a superior material for several reasons other than its strength and ability to respond quickly to power interruptions. Its properties allow an extremely high voltage capability. It is also a good thermal conductor, which means it can operate at very high temperatures and does not require extra equipment to remove heat. Mantooth emphasized that this quality can reduce overall mass and volume on a power grid.

For the national power transmission center, researchers will create mathematical models of silicon-carbide devices to simulate the design of large systems. Those devices will then be rigorously tested and packaged. Packaging involves creating protective coatings and enclosures to prevent the material from breaking down when subjected to high voltages and currents and when interacting with air and water.

Funding for the new national center is part of the federal government’s focus on research and development to improve technology on the nation’s power grid. In response to the massive blackout of the Northeast United States in 2003, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2003 and created the GridWorks Initiative.

Mantooth said the 2003 blackout, which caused billions of dollars in lost revenues and was triggered by fallen branches because of a storm, should have been limited to a local area in Ohio. The fallen trees caused huge surges of current, which fault-current limiters should have squelched, or grounded, to prevent the surges from traveling beyond the local area. However, these mechanical switches did not function quickly or properly and thus created a cascading effect.

Even with the electro-mechanical switches functioning properly, the entire process is too slow, Mantooth said.

“It actually happens in the blink of an eye, but it’s not as fast as a computer,” said Mantooth. “We want to get the electric system of our country able to react like a computer can react-at electrical speeds, not mechanical speeds.” ௣à¯£

ABB Announces Transformer Business Restructuring

ABB announced in late June that it will undertake restructuring activities within its North American transformer business unit as part of a global effort to strategically realign the transformer business for profitability and service to customers.

ABB noted that several North American operations would be affected by the changes. The Guelph, Canada, facility will be closed. The St. Louis, Mo., facility will expand to serve a large portion of the repair business from Guelph. The Jefferson City, Mo., operation will expand to serve a portion of the lower range of the liquid substation product line currently manufactured in the South Boston, Va., facility.

“The decision to close the Guelph operation comes as the conclusion to many years of effort to return the operation to profitability,” said Gerry Schepers, senior vice president for ABB Transformers. “Over the past 12 months, in particular, the Canadian Auto Workers, the management team and our customers have all worked to turn Guelph around. Unfortunately, the business outlook is that Guelph will only continue to lose money.”

The Guelph, Ontario, operation is expected to lose $15 million (Canadian) in 2005. The business was temporarily closed in mid-2004 and then re-opened based on agreement to pursue all possible options for creating a viable situation.

The Guelph plant, which serves the North American market, produces small power transformers and repairs large power transformers.

“The restructuring plan in North America emphasizes the strategy to improve performance throughout ABB transformer operations. These actions, including the expansions in St. Louis and Jefferson City, are clear examples of this emphasis,” Schepers said.௣à¯£

Utilities Report Increased Spending on Substation Automation and Integration

The Newton-Evans Research Company has released preliminary findings from its mid-year study of North American utility substation officials. At this point in the study, with survey tabulations from 67 North American utilities accounting for nearly one-third of all utility owned transmission and distribution substations, it appears that more than $140 million is being spent this year among this group. In turn, this suggests that more than $250 million is being spent by the entire community of more than 3,000 electric power utilities this year for substation-related integration and automation programs.

Many of the large utilities participating in this year’s study continue to buy from what they believe to be “best-in-class” suppliers, whether these are global giants, or smaller market specialists. Others are buying individual components, equipment and products and providing their own substation software development and integration rather than outsourcing this effort to construction and engineering firms.

Among other highlights in the North American study are the following:

“- 84 percent of the respondents have substation automation and integration programs underway in mid-2005. This is a substantially higher rate than was observed in four earlier studies conducted since 1996.

“- DNP remains the most widely used protocol within the substation, with strong likelihood that users will migrate from a serial to a LAN-based DNP version over the next two years. Modbus was second in popularity, and Modbus Plus came in third.

“- The protocol used from the substation to the control center is very likely to be DNP (either LAN or serial version), which accounted for at least some of the data traffic at 70 percent of the surveyed utilities.

“- The utilities participating in the survey so far account for more than 21,000 of the 70,000 utility-operated substations in North America. Plans call for retrofitting more than 3,000 of these units, and for construction of more than 430 new substations over the 2005-2007 period.

“- Utilities are looking for outside service firms to provide training services (72 percent), distribution field device configuration support (52 percent) and engineering drawing support (46 percent).

Additional topics being covered in the series of substation studies include cyber and physical security practices, voltage ranges used to power substation automation equipment, external systems linkages to the substation, preferred equipment suppliers, and an assessment of where North America’s substations are positioned along a five-phase path to complete automation.

Additional information on the four volume study “Worldwide Market for Substation Automation and Integration Programs in Electric Utilities: 2005-2007″ is available from Newton-Evans Research Company,௣à¯£

Utility Automation & Engineering T&D Launches Online White Paper Library

Utility Automation & Engineering T&D magazine, in conjunction with Electric Light & Power magazine, has launched an Online White Paper Library at The library contains a wide variety of utility industry-related white papers covering the technologies, business strategies and services shaping today’s utility market.

Through the White Paper Library, readers can access in-depth, technical information presented in an easy-to-understand format-all at the touch of a button. The library is available without charge, although first-time users are required to sign up for the service.

The Online White Paper Library is beneficial to anyone in the utility industry, including CEOs, middle management, engineers and fieldworkers. The library provides authoritative reports containing valuable utility information, such as technology specifications, industry updates and other development efforts.

The library is continually being updated with new information, and will ultimately contain White Papers in the following categories:

“- transmission and distribution,

“- generation,

“- information technology,

“- automation technology,

“- business and financial,

“- customer service,

“- environmental, and

“- general information. ௣à¯£

TXU to Implement System-wide Power Factor Management

Cannon Technologies Inc. recently signed a contract with TXU Electric Delivery to execute a multi-year, multi-phased project to implement a real-time power factor management system across TXU’s distribution system. The TXU project will incorporate Cannon CBC7000 controllers at several thousand switched banks, Yukon capacitor management software, real-time integration to TXU’s PI database, and company-wide browser-based access to information. The TXU system will be designed to center on improved operations and maintenance-improved power quality, reliability, and reduced line congestion-resulting in optimized power factor.

At the heart of the system design will be Cannon Technologies’ CBC7000 communicating capacitor controllers, which allow one-way, two-way and local control options for all switched banks. The CBC7000 capacitor bank controller has interchangeable SelectCom communication modules to ensure update capabilities for the future. The CBC7000 also features an ability to fall back to local control if communication paths fail for any reason.௣à¯£

AREVA Engineer Wins Awards for Work in HVDC Technology

AREVA T&D power electronics engineer Michael L. Woodhouse was recently designated as the recipient of the 2005 Uno Lamm IEEE Award for his contributions in the field of high-voltage direct current (HVDC) technology.

Woodhouse has been involved in the technical design, development and application of thyristor valves for HVDC converters, static Var compensators and flexible AC transmission systems for more than 40 years. He received the award in mid-June in recognition of his outstanding contributions in the development of high-voltage direct current (HVDC) technology and, in particular, for his technical achievements in the field of thyristor valves.

Woodhouse is a technical expert for the AREVA T&D Power Electronic Activities Unit. He has written 13 technical papers and has supported the International HVDC community through membership in numerous working groups.௣à¯£

AMDS Completes Nationwide AMR Network Coverage

Advanced Metering Data Systems secured 652 multiple address system (MAS) exclusive-use radio spectrum licenses in the May 2005 Federal Communications Commission spectrum auction, the second largest number of licenses across all bidders. In doing so, AMDS reinforced its position in the automatic meter reading (AMR) market as the nation’s broadest network of dedicated wireless spectrum.

Commenting on the significance of the newly licensed spectrum for AMDS and its customers, president and founder H. Britton Sanderford Jr. stated, “This means that we now own exclusive-use spectrum for the entire United States except for four cities. Moreover, AMDS has the only AMR system that has been approved by the FCC to operate over a mass deployed network on exclusive-use spectrum under parts 24, 90 and 101 of FCC rules.”

Marc Reed, vice president of Software & Systems for AMDS, added, “Securing this spectrum completes a critical component of our AMR system and strategy. It is the foundation of our network that allows us to offer unmatched system reliability and longevity to our customers.”

Licensed spectrum is increasingly scarce and important to utilities contemplating long-term (i.e., 20 to 30 year) AMR deployments. AMDS licensed spectrum is protected by the FCC and access is guaranteed under law.௣à¯£

Siemens Wins EMS/Substation Automation Contract from N.E. Missouri Co-op

Siemens Power Transmission & Distribution recently announced a contract to provide Northeast Missouri Electric Power Cooperative (Northeast Power) with a new energy management system (EMS) and integrated substation automation solution.

Northeast Power is a generation and transmission cooperative composed of eight distribution cooperatives, with five located in northeast Missouri and three in southeast Iowa. Northeast Power and five other generation and transmission cooperatives in Missouri form Associated Electric Cooperative Inc., one of the nation’s largest wholesale power suppliers.

The contract calls for a Siemens Spectrum Power TG supervisory control and data acquisition system on the Windows platform and 27 TELEGYR 5700 remote terminal units (RTUs) with StationManager data concentrators.

Intelligent electronic device (IED) integration is a tedious and time-consuming process. StationManager, with its CMP 10 configuration software, provides a quick and easy way for Northeast Power to connect its SCADA system to its IEDs. StationManager’s built-in Schweitzer interface permits quick and easy integration with the Schweitzer relays currently on Northeast Power’s system, providing further cost savings. Siemens Spectrum Power TG will monitor Northeast Power’s transmission system, which has approximately 33 RTUs over 920 miles of transmission lines ranging from 69 kV to 345 kV.

“Northeast Power anticipates making significant advancements in our substation automation program with the Siemens system,” said Northeast Power general manager Douglas H. Aeilts.

Flexibility was a key factor in Northeast Power’s selection of Spectrum Power TG. Northeast Power currently services eight member distribution cooperatives, only one of which has a SCADA control system. With Spectrum Power TG, Northeast Power will be able to extend control functionality to all of its 120 distribution substations by hosting a low-cost SCADA solution to each of its member cooperatives.

“All utilities, cooperatives in particular, enjoy significant benefits from automation including safety, efficiency and access to real-time information,” said Kevin Sullivan, vice president of Siemens Energy Management & Automation. “Siemens is committed to providing Northeast Power and other cooperatives with highly reliable, competitively priced energy management and automation solutions.”

Cooperatives such as Northeast Power represent the fastest growing sector of the $300 million EMS market, as estimated by Newton-Evans Research.௣à¯£

Report Outlines Technology Best Practices for Power System Operators

Gestalt, a business and IT services firm providing strategic consulting and decision support technologies to the energy and utilities industries, presented a report in late May on Information Technology Guidelines for Power System Operators. FERC commissioned Gestalt to prepare the report because it “has been concerned about reports of IT project cost overruns as well as reports of excessive or inadequate system investments,” said Joseph McClelland, director, Division of Reliability for FERC.

In the past decade, the utility industry has been plagued by IT cost overruns and excessive or inadequate system investments. Further demonstrating this point, Gestalt’s report indicates that in 2004 only 34 percent of IT solutions succeeded. The remaining projects either failed completely (15 percent) or failed substantially (51 percent), meaning they failed to meet schedule, budget or functionality commitments.

“The statistics revealed are quite telling. I had no idea that the failure rate of IT systems was so high,” said commissioner Suedeen G. Kelly. “I think it explains, in large part, why we have some of the problems that we have here.”

The report’s goal was to explore the IT needs of the transmission owners and operators, investigate recent IT projects to determine elements of success and failure, and form recommendations to improve new IT projects.

Gestalt’s senior vice president of Energy & Utility Product and Service Development, David Turner, presented the report findings to FERC at its open meeting on April 13, 2005. In his presentation, Turner outlined newly developed IT guidelines for power system operators. He also outlined the report’s recommendations for ensuring future IT projects are justified, well-managed, and implemented more efficiently and cost-effectively. Gestalt’s key findings focus on a lack of formal processes around governance, project portfolio management and project management. Other issues addressed include the cost and functionality impacts associated with fast-tracking technology development without fully developed business rules and functional requirements, the need to architect open systems based on non-proprietary, vendor-neutral technologies, and the need to develop and adhere to industry standards.

The 2003 blackout uncovered three core areas that need to be addressed in order to prevent future blackouts: Tools, training and trees. Gestalt’s report addresses the “tools” component, specifically the role IT systems can play in correcting utility industry deficiencies.

“Based on what we saw in the Northeast blackout it’s clear that the industry’s vendor community is having difficulty responding rapidly enough with solutions to address the reliability needs of today’s system operators,” said Bill Loftus, Gestalt’s president and CEO. “However, the industry recognizes the problem and we think this report is a step in the right direction toward finding better technology solutions to address this issue. We’re excited to help lead the charge on reliability going forward.”

A full copy of the report is available at FERC’s website at:௣à¯£

EleQuant’s AGORA Receives Technology Innovation Honor

In late May, EleQuant received the “2005 Grid Monitoring Technology Innovation of the Year Award” at Frost & Sullivan’s Excellence in Industrial Technologies awards banquet. EleQuant received the recognition for its AGORA product, a grid-monitoring technology which allows power system operators to effectively simulate the activity on a power grid under any conditions.

Frost & Sullivan presents its Technology Innovation of the Year Award each year to the company that has developed an innovative technology that has demonstrated superior performance within its industry in comparison to prevailing industry standards.

“We believe that EleQuant’s suite of products can help to dramatically improve the reliability of the transmission network here in North America,” said EleQuant CEO Regina Llopis-Rivas.

AGORA’s technology is aimed at helping companies and monitoring agencies improve the accuracy of their transmission system’s operations and planning activities.

“The ability to monitor and manage real-time operations has become paramount for ensuring reliable and efficient grid operations in North America’s electrical industry,” says Frost & Sullivan research analyst Balaji Raman. “Prior to deregulation, utilities had full control of their assets. By being fully integrated, electric utilities’ transmission networks were easier to manage. This is no longer the case. End-users are concerned about the optimization of power, and they seek analytical tools that monitor the grid on a real-time basis and alert them about specific contingencies.”à¯£à¯£

Pacific Northwest to Test Smart Grid Energy Technologies

Several Northwest electric utilities and a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory recently kicked off a regional initiative to test and speed adoption of new smart grid technology that can make the Northwest power grid more resilient and efficient.

Called the Pacific Northwest GridWise Testbed, the initiative will develop and host smart power grid technology demonstration projects. Founding members of the testbed include the Bonneville Power Administration, PacifiCorp, Portland General Electric and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

The GridWise Testbed’s first project will be a “Grid Friendly” appliance demonstration project, which will test advanced clothes dryers developed by Whirlpool and fitted with Grid Friendly appliance controllers developed by PNNL. The project will install the dryers in 150 homes in Oregon and Washington late this summer to test their interaction with the power grid and to test consumer satisfaction. The controllers will also be installed in 50 electric water heaters in the same homes.

The appliance controller senses power frequency fluctuations that indicate when the power system is under stress. When the device senses problems, it sends a signal to the appliance, requesting temporary power curtailment. The appliance can then respond to the request by temporarily cutting power to functions in the appliance that can be postponed without compromising overall appliance utility. The temporary load reduction, multiplied by millions of homes, would be enough to allow the grid to rapidly stabilize when stressed.

“We strongly encourage other Northwest utilities to join us and share in development of this and other technologies,” said Mike Weedall, vice president of energy efficiency at Bonneville.

“There’s no question that our region needs considerable transmission infrastructure investment, but we must target that investment wisely,” said Andy MacRitchie, PacifiCorp’s executive vice president for strategy. “New technology holds promise to free up investment capital for better purposes.”

In fact, PNNL studies show that creating a smarter grid through information technology could save the United States $80 billion over 20 years by partially offsetting the need to build new electric transmission lines and generation required to meet projected load growth.

“In the grid of the future, smart homes with smart appliances will be commonplace and the GridWise Testbed is one way PGE is looking to the future for its energy investment,” said Joe Barra, PGE’s customer energy resources director. “We think that smart chips will play a major role in providing cost-effective demand response where homes and businesses can interact with the distribution system.”à¯£à¯£

Tantalus Wins Best Wireless Product Award at UTC Expo 2005

The two-way utility command and control capabilities of TUNet earned Tantalus an award for “Best Wireless Product” at the United Telecom Council’s 2005 Expo in late May.

TUNet was selected as the top wireless product by a panel of utility experts who use telecommunications and information technology daily for the efficient operation of their utilities. The UTC Expo product awards recognize products and services that are at the forefront of the utility telecom industry and are given based on quality, innovation and functionality for the utility industry’s specialized needs.

The Tantalus Utility Network (TUNet) is a real-time wireless network that is the communications backbone for a utility’s distribution system. The long-range wireless network unites applications, making advanced metering, outage management, power quality monitoring, load management and distribution automation practical throughout both urban and rural service areas. TUNet incorporates a 220-MHz WAN that provides extensive coverage from a single radio tower, and a 900-MHz LAN that creates an affordable, robust connection to clusters of devices. Network performance and every device on it-reclosers, load management switches, meters-can be monitored and managed from a utility operations and control center.௣à¯£

Progress Energy Selects G/Technology to Merge Systems, Streamline Work

Progress Energy has selected Intergraph Corp.’s G/Technology to upgrade and merge disparate AM/FM/GIS systems within its two electric utilities, Progress Energy Florida and Progress Energy Carolinas. Progress Energy will upgrade its existing FRAMME-based AM/FM/GIS applications, combining them into a common G/Technology network model for all of Progress Energy. The centralized system will improve data access for Progress Energy employees such as project planners, designers, GIS operators, inspectors and maintenance teams in the field. Progress Energy will use G/Technology as the core enabling technology of a comprehensive geospatial resource management (GRM) system that streamlines service delivery workflows. The GRM system will enable Progress Energy to respond to outages more quickly, to better manage incoming and existing data, and more efficiently capture, design and analyze network asset information for enhanced customer service and reduced operating and administrative costs.

Using Intergraph’s G/Technology as a foundation, the centralized system will enable Progress Energy to streamline day-to-day work processes, integrate key corporate systems and serve as a platform for ongoing application extensions, maintenance and upgrades.௣à¯£

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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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