MISO Reaches Smart Grid Milestone

The Midwest Independent System Operator Inc. (MISO) and its members have achieved a milestone in their three-year smart grid program to install synchrophasors across the region, integrating 44 at strategic points along the regional transmission network. The $34.5 million program is funded partly by $17.3 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 stimulus funds awarded by the Department of Energy (DOE) to modernize the nation’s electrical grid.

Philip Overholt, manager of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Transmission Reliability Program, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, left, visits an Indianapolis Power & Light Co. substation to review installation of PMU devices.

Representatives from the DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, which manages the $3.4 billion Smart Grid Investment Grant (SGIG) program, visited MISO in May to review progress on the first round of deployment of the phasor measurement units (PMUs). The synchrophasor program began March 30, 2010, and aims to deploy 165 PMUs at strategic substations in the MISO region.

Synchrophasors will allow MISO’s grid operators to view vital measurements of real-time system conditions at a detailed level previously impossible to reach. PMUs collect data 30 times every second—faster than the previous once every 4 seconds.

MISO is collecting synchrophasor data from the 44 member PMUs installed on 10 of its members’ systems. MISO members in the project include: Ameren, Duke Indiana, Great River Energy, Hoosier Energy Rural Electric Cooperative Inc., Indianapolis Power & Light Co., International Transmission Co., Manitoba Hydro-Electric Board, MidAmerican Energy Co., Minnesota Power, Northern Indiana Public Service Co., Otter Tail Power Co. and Vectren Corp. The next phase consists of developing applications that will analyze the data collected so operators will have a clearer picture of grid stress points and can adjust accordingly.

MISO ensures reliable operation and equal access to high-voltage power lines in 13 of the United States and the Canadian province of Manitoba. MISO was approved as the nation’s first regional transmission organization in 2001.


Transmission Investment Continues to Rise

By James P. Fama, Edison Electric Institute

Edison Electric Institute (EEI) member companies will increase their already large investment in the nation’s electric transmission system.

Whether to expand to meet rising electricity demand, integrate renewable energy sources or modernize, shareholder-owned electric companies will invest at least $61 billion (nominal dollars) in transmission infrastructure improvements by 2021, according to EEI’s March 2011 report “Transmission Projects: At A Glance.” This spending estimate, derived from a sampling of more than 100 transmission projects planned or underway, will be on top of the nearly $55 billion (2009 dollars) EEI members spent on the nation’s grid between 2001 to 2009.

The new EEI report, while not presenting a comprehensive compilation of every project being undertaken by its members, offers a detailed look at transmission projects underway across the country.

These include examples of interstate transmission projects, transmission projects to integrate renewable energy resources, and transmission projects required for maintaining system reliability.

Interstate projects featured in the EEI report—those involving entities at the federal, state and local levels—represent an investment of $41.1 billion (nominal dollars) and will account for some 8,300 miles of new transmission lines.

Transmission projects surveyed in this investment category include the Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Project in the mid-Atlantic, the Interstate Reliability Project in New England, CapX2020 transmission plan in the upper Midwest and the Energy Gateway project in the West.

Developments focusing on adding or upgrading transmission lines to integrate renewable resources account for $39.5 billion (nominal dollars) in investment costs.

These projects will represent 11,400 miles of new transmission.

Transmission lines that are being added to expand the use of renewable energy sources include the Northeast Energy Link from Maine to Massachusetts, the Northern Pass Transmission Line project between Quebec and New Hampshire, the Kansas V-Plan and Green Power Express projects in the Midwest, and the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project and Canada-Pacific Northwest-California Transmission Project in the West.

The new EEI report also profiles construction projects undertaken to meet North American Electric Reliability Corp. reliability standards (e.g., the transmission planning standards).

These types of projects reflect a transmission investment cost of $15.5 billion (nominal dollars) for the addition or upgrade of 3,600 miles of transmission.

Some examples include the Susquehanna-Roseland 500-kV transmission line and the New England East-West Solution projects in the East, Rockdale-West Middleton and Dubuque County-Cardinal in the Midwest and the San Joaquin Cross Valley Loop Transmission Project in the West.

The representative projects presented in the EEI report also include nontransmission line projects.

These projects span the range of phase angle regulators, step-down transformers, static VAR compensators, static capacitors and control system improvements.

The projects sampled in the nontransmission line category comprise the investments EEI members are making in smart grid-related projects, as well.

Although not adding to the overall line mileage, these projects provide tangible benefits to the transmission system because they create additional transfer capability, increase control and strengthen the overall transmission system.

Examples of the nontransmission line projects highlighted in the EEI report include the Presidio Battery, Optical Fiber Composite Overhead Ground Wire, Oncor Static VAR Compensator, Online Transformer Monitoring System, and Straits Flow Control projects.

Although a transmission project might be intended for a particular primary purpose, it typically has the potential to provide many other benefits.

These may include relieving congestion, improving regional reliability, reducing system losses, and increasing system situational awareness.

Therefore, most projects in the EEI report are multifaceted: They fall into more than one transmission investment category.

For its representative transmission system projects, the EEI report focuses on projects completed in 2010 or that will be finished by 2021.

The report also set a $10 million investment threshold for its profiled smart grid projects, a $20 million minimum value for transmission supporting the integration of renewable resources, and a minimum project investment threshold of $50 million for all other projects.

Along with an overview of the profiled companies’ transmission projects, the report includes a brief profile of each EEI member company surveyed for the report, as well as information about the representative projects, including a project map, brief description, estimated cost, status, potential partners and intended benefits.

James Fama is vice president of energy delivery at Edison Electric Institute. Get a free copy of EEI’s “Transmission Projects: At A Glance, March 2011″ at http://eei.org/ourissues/electricitytransmission /pages/transmission projectsat.aspx.


TV White Space New Option for Utilities

TV white space—the unlicensed spectrum between current channels—can impact smart grid options and rural broadband options for utilities. With a signal that can penetrate almost any obstacle, TV white space brings more communications options to areas previously limited by distance from an urban center and the tech offerings therein.

Using TV white space in the smart grid area can improve supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) applications, and upgrades can be deployed economically. In addition, a TV white space network delivers real-time broadband connectivity to remote substations and switchgear, providing operators with the real-time information and diagnostic tools needed for rapid decision-making. Operators can remotely check power flows and the status of breakers, allowing them to isolate problems on the grid, take corrective action and restore service quickly.

One example of using TV white space includes the Plumas-Sierra rural electric co-op. The more than 6,000 users in three remote, mountainous counties in northern California recently participated in a trial using this technology with excellent results. Despite rugged terrain, the co-op deployed a cost-effective smart grid upgrade to manage its electricity supply and demand and to improve SCADA with its substations. This successful trial used a new TV white space radio engineered by Carlson Wireless Technology Inc.

CEO Jim Carlson has been developing his RuralConnect IP product, a TV white space user, for two years and encouraged the Federal Communications Commission to approve the use of the unlicensed TV white space spectrum.

“Mission-critical industries need reliable wireless technology and plenty of spectrum,” Carlson said. “TV white space is abundant spectrum, especially in rural areas.”


OG&E Technology Snapshot

Oklahoma’s OG&E Electric Services is deploying bold, new smart grid initiatives, according to its technology partner Alcatel-Lucent.

When OG&E’s projects are complete, many of its aging communications infrastructures will have been renewed and the wireless communications network will have been extended to its distribution grid.

The benefits include real-time system monitoring, automation on many critical circuits and effective consumer participation, which will provide better overall reliability and efficiency for the foreseeable future.

Oklahoma’s largest utility serves a 30,000-square-mile territory. In 2008 it faced increasing demand, volatile fuel costs and the necessity to add generating capacity soon.

It remains challenging to enhance reliability, quality and value across a grid that serves more than 775,000 customers in Oklahoma and western Arkansas.

Working with several key industry partners, OG&E sees progress in many critical areas.

OG&E’s new Internet Protocol/multiprotocol label switching communications network from Alcatel-Lucent with a point-to-point microwave backbone system and a 3.65-gigahertz, point-to-multipoint layer already supports enhanced grid monitoring and response, along with smart metering and innovative demand pricing options enabled by more than 300,000 smart meters installed so far on the utility’s power delivery distribution system.

OG&E expects to complete the rollout to its entire service area by 2012.

Got a technology snapshot of a utility or vendor partner you’re working with? Send 200-250 words on the project, technology involved, partners and expected completion date to Senior Editor Kathleen Davis at kathleend@pennwell.com.




Put Smart Meter Fears in Perspective

By Chris King, eMeter

When people get upset or afraid, often the first casualty is perspective.

Mainstream news outlets recently covered smart electric meter installations on homes in Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s northern California territory.

The news coverage has focused on fear, as demonstrated in Felicity Barringer’s Jan. 31 headline in The New York Times, “New Electricity Meters Stir Fears.”

California’s Santa Cruz and Marin counties voted to halt smart meter installations partly in response to concerns raised by small groups of vocal smart meter opponents.

Some critics say they are electromagnetically sensitive.

Others say smart meters could compromise their privacy or serve as surveillance systems.

When people are afraid, it’s important to investigate what concerns them to determine whether their fears are warranted and, if so, which responses might be most useful.

Scientists have done that repeatedly regarding fears of possible health effects from radio frequency (RF) emissions from smart meters.

Numerous scientific studies have addressed this issue. Most recently, the California Council on Science and Technology issued a report on this topic.

The result: A large body of research from several respected scientific organizations dating back many years found no evidence of health effects from smart meter emissions.

Health concerns about smart meters from the public and media about are puzzling, given evidence from the scientific community.

Yes, it is important to respect people’s genuine concerns, especially about health and privacy.

But should it be national news when a tiny minority in two parts of the nation voices fears that are not backed by evidence?

To put smart meters in context:

  • So far, about 18 million smart meters have been installed throughout the U.S. Nearly 50 million people in the U.S. live in homes outfitted with smart meters. The number of people with serious complaints about these installed meters is in the thousands.
  • Vocal smart meter critics generally are limited to two narrow geographical areas: a few communities in northern California and some in Maine. No widespread outcry or movement against smart meters exists.
  • Smart meters use radio communications to share data with utilities and home networks. They’re not the only source of RF emissions. Since 1990, more than 50 million RF-based remote electric meter-reading devices have been in use in the U.S. without a documented health effect. Plus, most people in the U.S. have cell phones, which provide greater cumulative RF exposure than smart meters. Even those who don’t receive a plethora of emissions from cell towers, radio and TV transmitters and Wi-Fi networks can be exposed to RF emissions from appliances such as microwave ovens, baby monitors and garage door openers.
  • Smart meter privacy concerns face a similar lack of evidence. Utility companies have never reported a violation of customer privacy. Utilities have strong policies and regulatory oversight, which make it especially likely they will continue protecting customers’ privacy.

Smart meter opposition might be newsworthy, but given the context, it might be helpful to frame opposition stories differently.

When news coverage focuses on point-counterpoint reporting about unsupported claims by a few opponents, it can magnify critics and seem as though their arguments deserve equal weight.

In a Feb. 1 follow-up to her original article on northern California smart meter opposition, Barringer asks, “Are We Hard-Wired to Doubt Science?”

She writes, “Some very intelligent people I interviewed [for the first article] had little use for the existing ” science. How, in a rational society, does one understand those who reject science, a common touchstone of what is real and verifiable?”

Too often the temptation of telling a dramatic story takes over. Rather than explain a controversy’s place in a complex big picture and track down whether complaints have merit, it’s easier to tell a punchier story by narrowing the focus to a he-said-she-said disagreement.

This problem plagues all science-related controversies, most visibly in climate change coverage.

The ingrained newsroom reflex to get quotes from both sides tends to make climate change naysayers appear more numerous or influential than is the case in the scientific consensus.

For more than a decade this journalistic quirk effectively misrepresented the scientific view on climate change, which helped sway public opinion and hinder policy action.

It even threatens the teaching of evolution in biology classes. Those who favor Creation Science, which is supported by no scientific evidence, often say they merely are asking for equal time.

Smart meters are a crucial part of making our electrical grid smarter and more efficient.

This is needed to achieve renewable energy targets, reduce the risk of large-scale blackouts and enhance energy independence by providing needed flexibility in how we generate, distribute and use electricity.

If we want to keep the lights on long term, updating the U.S. power system is necessary.

It’s worthwhile to debate how this can happen, but it’s helpful to keep such debates and the inevitable controversies in perspective.

Chris King is chief regulatory officer at eMeter.

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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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