S & C Opens Advanced Technology Center in Chicago

S&C Electric Co., a major smart grid player, is investing in the future with a new addition to Chicago’s high-tech scene: the company’s Advanced Technology Center (ATC).

The ATC features a high-power testing laboratory that will enable S&C to test its smart grid products at home rather than at labs outside the U.S. as it was limited to in the past.

The advanced testing facility provides a location for independent quality and performance verification testing, which customers often require before deploying equipment on their systems. The ATC will house S&C’s research and development offices and expanded polymer molding operations.

“The ATC is a testament to our strong commitment to ongoing research and development to transform the delivery infrastructure that will power the intelligent grid,” said John Estey, S&C president and CEO. “In just the first week of operation, S&C has already used the facility to qualify a new rating for custom metal-enclosed switchgear. This higher capability will provide an enhanced level of safety for operating personnel in the field.”

In addition, the newly completed lab already has proven beneficial as part of S&C’s research and development process in demonstrating how existing solutions can be enhanced. Fault-interruption testing performed on S&C’s Fault Filter Electronic Power Fuse, for example, demonstrated the fuse’s current-limiting capability and will permit select models to be assigned an increased interrupting rating from 40,000 to 63,000 amperes symmetrical.

The 43,000-square-foot ATC is one of the world’s most environmentally friendly facilities of its kind and the first industrial building in Chicago to be Gold Certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). It features a green roof garden (pictured above) and fully complies with Chicago’s green building policy.

 

Renewables/Grid Connection Dominates REWNA Conference

 

Kristen Wright, associate editor

Americans care about three things: the economy, energy reliability and independence, and sustaining the environment, ABB’s head of Power Systems North America told the keynote audience Feb. 23 during the Renewable Energy World North America (REWNA) Conference & Expo in Austin, Texas.

“Renewable portfolio standards (RPSs) are really driving renewables,” Martin Gross said.

Despite having 33 states with RPSs, the United States faces challenges, including regulatory siting, cost allocation and a need for more political courage to plan outside of current borders, he said. For a national portfolio standard to emerge and succeed, the nation must produce some 300 GW of clean energy, most likely in the forms of solar and wind, he said.

Renewable technology isn’t the problem, however; it’s the lack of a national transmission policy, Gross said. Right now, transmission capacity for this much clean energy is nonexistent. If the U.S. started building the transmission lines tomorrow, the project wouldn’t be complete for five or six years, Gross said. A more feasible goal is 2025, he said.

The lines likely will connect to flexible AC transmission systems (FACTS), which enable and support remote variable generation or high-voltage DC (HVDC), Gross said. The latter technology is being used to enable offshore wind 81 miles off Germany’s coast at transpower stromàƒ¼bertragungs gmbh (formerly known as E.On Netz GmbH)’s Borkum 2, the world’s largest offshore wind farm and the wind farm farthest from a mainland.

Although the U.S. lacks a national policy, states are stepping up, Gross said. The Texas competitive renewable energy zones (CREZ) project, for example, will move 18 GW of wind to high priority lines and multiple FACTS are under construction today. Principles contributing to success in Texas include a progressive public utilities commission and cooperation among regulatory agencies, Gross said.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner (FERC) Jon Wellinghoff echoed Gross’ focus on transmission issues. China’s not just planning high-voltage transmission lines for solar and wind power; the nation is actually doing it, Wellinghoff said.

The United States, however, seems stuck in the renewable transmission planning phase. Renewable potential in the U.S. is tremendous: The U.S. has some 2,000 GW of wind energy, 50-60 GW of geothermal systems, 100 GW of geothermal and/or geopressure sites and thousands of gigawatts of solar energy, Wellinghoff said. Transmission build out, he said, is still lacking.

Wellinghoff said the CREZ project in Texas is a model for how transmission can work for renewables. Problems arise in crossing state lines and operator jurisdictions, he said. And then there are cost allocations: Do you spread the cost like peanut butter across everyone or just the beneficiaries?

Transmission questions and technology solutions were a large part of the REWNA Conference, even beyond the keynote. Videos from the conference are available online at http://renewableenergyworld.com/rea/video. Next year’s conference is scheduled for March 8-10, 2011, at the Tampa (Fla.) Convention Center.

 

FPL, Exelon, Southern Co. Top Fortune List of Admired Utilities

 

Jeff Postelwait, online/associate editor

FPL Group, Exelon, Southern Co., Dominion and Sempra Energy are the top five most admired companies this year in the electric utility sector, according to Fortune magazine.

The publication released the names and rankings from its “World’s Most Admired Companies” issue, which was published in its March 22 issue.

According to the list, FPL Group ranks in the top 10 among companies worldwide for innovation and, for a record fourth consecutive year, No. 1 in the electric utility industry.

In addition, FPL Group received the No. 1 ranking among its peers in the following specific areas evaluated: innovation, people management, use of corporate assets, social responsibility, quality of management, long-term investment and quality of products and services.

FPL Group operates nearly 43,000 MW of generating capacity. Its headquarters are in Juno Beach, Fla. FPL Group’s units are NextEra Energy Resources LLC and Florida Power & Light Co., which serves about 4.5 million Florida customers and is one of the largest U.S. rate-regulated electric utilities.

For its latest most admired list, Fortune and management consulting firm Hay Group surveyed more than 4,000 corporate executives, directors and financial analysts.

Exelon Corp. placed No. 2 in the utility sector, according to Fortune. Southern Co. and Dominion placed No. 3 and No. 4 respectively on Fortune’s list, and Sempra Energy rounded out the top five.

 

Harris Poll: Public Unaware of Smart Grid, Meters

 

Utility companies across the U.S. are committing billions of dollars in projects to upgrade the electric grid and install new meters in homes and businesses, yet two-thirds of Americans have never heard the term smart grid (68 percent), and 63 percent have not heard of smart meters.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,576 adults surveyed online between Jan. 18 and 25 by Harris Interactive.

A majority of U.S. adults (57 percent) are aware of how much electricity they are consuming, and an even greater number (67 percent) say they would reduce their usage if they had visibility to it.

A fundamental promise of smart meters is to provide this continuous feedback, and in the future, consumers could be charged a cost per kilowatt that varies depending on the cost to produce.

If this type of pricing replaces the current flat rate charged, 75 percent of Americans “want to be able to see and control how much electricity” they are using. There is, however, a core of U.S. adults (22 percent) who do not want the electric company to know how much power they are using each minute.

Using what they have read or heard about smart grid, consumers are unsure about what makes upgrades to the electric system necessary or advantageous.

Two in five (42 percent) Americans were unable to outright agree or disagree with the statement, “The electricity system is fine the way it is, and smart grid is not necessary.”

When asked about the impact of smart grid on the security, reliability and increased renewable sources of energy on the electric system, at least one-half of Americans expressed uncertainty. Those familiar with smart grid, however, are more likely to see positive impacts than those who are unfamiliar.

The general population also is uncertain about what will happen to the cost of electricity once these investments are made and, as such, are unwilling to pay for it. Those familiar with smart grid are more likely to believe that the cost of electricity will increase once it is deployed (51 percent) than those who have not heard of smart grid (39 percent). They also are more willing to pay a 10 percent premium on their electric bill now for the future benefits (22 percent vs. 11 percent).

For this Harris Poll, figures for age, sex, race and ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

 

COMMENTARY: Smart Grid? Where? What? Huh?

 

Kathleen Davis, senior editor

Apparently, we’re clueless. A recent Harris Poll shows that 68 percent of Americans have never heard of the smart grid (see related article on page 12).

Really? According to the results: 57 percent of U.S. adults in the survey watch their power consumption, and 67 percent said they would reduce their usage if they had visibility to it. Most still have no concept of the smart grid that would help them do that.

When I say we’re clueless, I don’t mean the average American in that Harris Poll; I mean those inside the power industry. We’ve been talking amongst ourselves, politicians and vendors for years about smart grid. We’ve dissected it, analyzed it, spent money on it, marketed it, given it lip service, heralded it as the next big thing and built it a tall, cushy pedestal. How much have we, as a group, spent in time and money to inform average consumers about smart grid benefits?

On the upside of the poll, those familiar with the smart grid concept mostly see it as a good thing, but more than half said their cost of power would increase once all the technology is in place.

I can support that with a story. Because I work in this industry, my family is a lot more aware of industry insider trading: talk about meters, smart grid, etc. So, my mother is always superexcited to contribute, rather than just to listen. On the phone recently, she did the classic urban legend “friend of a friend of a friend” got a smart meter tale. Guess what happened? Their bill just, like, doubled. Or tripled. Or quadrupled. Or skyrocketed. It depends on the version you hear.

I am sure that some people, when getting a new meter, will notice a change. If that old meter has been favoring them, it will not be a positive change in their eyes. For most, however, smart grids and smart meters make it all work better, faster, more efficiently. Isn’t it interesting that we don’t hear anything about smart grids and smart meters bringing us savings from the consumer side? We hear that mantra from vendors. Stories passed to me from my mother and other outside sources, however, are always about how expensive this technology will be for customers.

This Harris Poll gives us a path to follow. The people we need to convince most about the positives of the smart grid aren’t insiders, vendors or utilities. No, it’s the people who control that light switch at the dead end of this business. They are still in the dark about smart grids.

 

NIST Issues Expanded Draft of Smart Grid Cyber Security Strategy

 

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued the second draft of its “Smart Grid Cyber Security Strategy and Requirements.”

It identifies more than 120 interfaces that will link diverse devices, systems and organizations engaged in two-way flows of electricity and information and classifies these connections according to the level of damage that could result from a security breach.

 

Prepared by the NIST-led Cyber Security Working Group, which has more than 350 members, the new draft report expands upon an earlier preliminary version released by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke in September that underwent 60 days of public review. It incorporates responses to the more than 350 individual comments received.

The updated draft also includes new or more detailed technical inputs stemming from the working group’s continuing assessment of what will be required to ensure the security and reliability of the entire modernized power system and to protect the integrity and confidentiality of information exchanged during energy-related transactions on the smart grid.

The 300-page second draft of the smart grid cyber security document also will undergo public review. After reviewing the comments received and completing ongoing analyses of requirements and relevant standards, the working group will finalize the smart grid cyber security strategy. NIST expects to issue a completed report by early summer.

Compared with the initial version, the draft cyber security report contains significantly expanded sections on privacy, vulnerability categories, analyses of the potential security issues, and the overall approach to achieving smart grid cyber security.

NIST site: http://www.nist.gov/smartgrid

 

Black & Veatch to Upgrade Connecticut Transmission

 

The United Illuminating Co.(UI) has selected Black & Veatch Construction Inc. to modernize a critical component of its transmission network that serves more than 324,000 electricity customers in southwestern Connecticut.

The Grand Avenue switching station on 4 acres in New Haven, Conn., is a key part of the overall New England transmission network that serves more than 14 million customers across the northeastern United States.

Seven major electric transmission lines converge at the Grand Avenue switching station, which was completed in 1975. The age of the equipment, configuration of the station and changing industry standards all contribute to the significant need to modernize the station’s facilities.

“Grand Avenue is an integral part of UI’s transmission system,” said Elizabeth Gandza, a senior project manager at UI. “These upgrades are not only necessary, but will ensure reliability to our customers. The challenge will be implementing the new technology in a historical and operating switchyard on a very aggressive schedule.”

Black & Veatch is providing complete engineering, procurement and construction services for the approximately $60-million modernization project that involves developing a new, indoor switching facility that uses gas-insulated switchgear (GIS) technology. The project also will involve the reconfiguration of four overhead and three underground transmission lines, said Arron Lewis, Black & Veatch project manager.

The project is scheduled for completion in 2012.

 

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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 Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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