Will Industry Focus on New Power Vision?

By Kathleen Davis, senior editor

A recent Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) report touts a “holistic” approach to power—one that doesn’t separate generation from distribution or cut the creation of power from its flow to the light switch, one that doesn’t separate the bytes and pieces of this industry.

Given that almost every item and entity in the power industry is categorized, separated, compartmentalized and labeled, the “Vision for a Holistic Power Supply and Delivery Chain” report envisions a turn from the way the power system is laid out under the choppy, interconnected morsels of the status quo.

Questions remain whether such a vision is practical and feasible economically, industrially or socially. Utility Automation and Engineering T&D asked Stephen Lee, EPRI project manager and author of that holistic vision. He revealed where the idea originated, where the idea is headed and whether the industry is progressive enough—or tough enough—to follow.

Crafting the Vision

Lee joined EPRI in 1998 and became the area manager of grid operations and planning in 1999. With an eye toward a “long-term roadmap” of grid research, he organized a series of focus group meetings between 1999 and 2000.

As those meetings and his career at EPRI advanced, Lee noted critical challenges that popped up and authored white papers on the subjects. Then came the explosion of interest in everything smart grid.

“Last year, when interests in smart grid started to spread beyond the work on developing communication standards, smart metering, demand response and integration at the distribution network level, I felt it was time to revisit the issues and solutions in the grid operations and planning area, in light of the rising interests in the real meaning of a smart grid,” Lee said.

Following brainstorming and comments from the North American Synchro-Phasor Initiative and the EPRI Situational Awareness Task Force Meeting, the holistic vision was born.

Part and Parcel

The current state of the power industry is divided, however, Lee prefers a house united, hence the use of his “holistic” term. The term does not, however, mean a return to the old, vertically integrated utility system. Lee understands that the old ways are in the past, and the industry can’t return to a state of generation and T&D united. He suggests better communication as an alternative.

“Knowing that reintegration of generation, transmission and distribution companies into a single company is not going to be realistic, the alternative to [the traditional practice of] integrated resource planning would be coordinated regional planning for both generation and transmission,” Lee said. “So I used the term “˜holistic planning’ to describe this coordinated planning process, which, if done properly, would deliver the same optimal investment decisions as if a single planning entity has applied IRP to the region.”

This shift from classic integrated resource planning (IRP) to Lee’s holistic vision may be more fiscal and corporate semantics than a difference in communication. Like the old-school IRP, Lee’s push is getting all the players—and all the technologies—to talk to each other.

“My vision is a complete end-to-end power supply and delivery chain, which is integrated with a communication and control infrastructure. I see data flowing from one end to the other end and in both directions,” Lee said.

Such a vision did not include every entity in the chain knowing and communicating all data. Lee finds such a concept unnecessary and counterproductive, he said.

Instead, he envisions a hierarchy of data information where each link in the chain is aware of the importance of the other links and knows when issues and failures that could domino down that chain occur.

“If the gas supply into a gas-fired power plant is suddenly restricted because of the need to supply a much greater amount of gas for home heating, the power plant may have to curtail its electricity output,” Lee said. “So knowledge about what is happening or is about to happen in the fuel-supply network is important to monitoring and forecasting the state of health or reliability of power supply to the end-use customers. “[We] need to have accurate information about the aggregate effects of the equipments connected to the power grid—all the way from the fuel supply network to the power and storage plants, down the transmission lines, to the transformers, the circuit breakers, the substation equipment, the distribution network and feeders, the distributed generation and all the way to appliances at the customer level.”

Achieving the Vision

If the industry is to achieve Lee’s vision, he suggests groundwork that must be laid out now, including:

  • Modernization of the measurement devices, sensors, relays and protection systems along with the communication network;
  • Computerization and automation of the distribution systems;
  • Modernization of the energy control centers; and
  • Development of advanced computer applications to enable these new functions to be implemented.

“Innovation will take place in all of these parts of the smart grid,” Lee said. “It is extremely important that the implementation of the holistic power supply and delivery chain will encourage innovation and yet provide a nonproprietary standard for interoperable capability.”

This article is the first installment of a multipart interview and review of EPRI’s “Vision for a Holistic Power Supply and Delivery Chain.” Look for part two in the June issue. Additionally, Lee’s complete interview—direct question, direct answer—can be found online at www.utilityautomation.com.

OVERHEARD:

Message left on Senior Editor Kathleen Davis’ cell phone from the AEP/PSO outage call system after a short afternoon outage that affected PennWell offices and her house: This is a message from PSO regarding a power outage that occurred in your area today, March 31. The power interruption began at 12:29 p.m. and was due to a transmission line problem. This outage affected approximately 9,000 customers. PSO personnel were able to perform switching, allowing the fault to be isolated and service to be restored to all customers by 1:35 p.m. PSO strives to provide safe, reliable power to all of our customers, and we regret any inconvenience this may have caused.

AREVA Delivers Latest IDMS Technology to Alabama Power

AREVA’s Transmission and Distribution division announced the completion of phase one of Alabama Power’s integrated distribution-management system (IDMS) project.

Following the close of the second phase—expected in 2010—this smarter grid solution will be hosted in the Birmingham site of AREVA’s partner. The system’s user interface will be deployed throughout the state.

The IDMS is cofunded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Electric Power Research Institute to promote the smarter operation of the distribution grid for more efficient, reliable and environmentally friendly grid operations.

NEMA Publishes ANSI C12.22

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) has published ANSI C12.22 “Protocol Specification for Interfacing to Data Communication Networks.”

This new application-level standard describes transporting C12.19 table data over networks. Information it covers will be necessary in smart grid implementation. This new standard will advance interoperability among communications modules and meters. C12.22 uses AES encryption to enable strong, secure smart grid communications, including confidentiality and data integrity, and it is also fully extensible to support additional security mechanisms the industry might require in the future.

Multiple vendors offer communication technologies that work in conjunction with C12.22, allowing utilities to choose options that make the most sense for their budgets, objectives and service territories. Open standards such as C12.22 help utilities evolve their systems by enabling new technology to interoperate with existing infrastructure.

“As a standard protocol used for the smart grid, ANSI C12.22 is the latest in a series of extremely successful and widely implemented standards,” said Ed Beroset, chairman of the committee that produced the standard.

Ed May of the Electrical Metering Section said the standard will protect meter investments.

“Interoperability allows utilities to utilize multiple communication networks or change communications technologies while maintaining their investment in the meter,” May said. “In this way, we believe that open standards in general, and ANSI C12.22 in particular, help protect the investment that utilities, ratepayers, and shareholders make in advanced metering.”

Bad Electricity: Research Center Helps Electric Utilities and Manufacturers Protect Against Lightning

Firing bolts of lightning at expensive electrical equipment is normal at the National Electric Energy Testing Research and Applications Center (NEETRAC). The goal for the lightning research and other testing is to improve reliability for the nation’s electric energy transmission and distribution system.

The 2.2 million-volt impulse generator needed to produce artificial lightning is one part of the test gear used to evaluate utility industry equipment that ranges from wooden poles and aluminum transmission lines to transformers and switches. Part of Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the center is supported by 32 equipment manufacturers and utility companies that provide nearly 60 percent of the electricity used in the United States.

A major part of the work is ensuring reliability during the lightning storms that threaten utilities and their customers.


A 2.2 million volt impulse generator is used to test electrical equipment at the NEETRAC test facility.
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“Lightning is electricity of the wrong sort,” said NEETRAC Director Rick Hartlein. “Electric utilities must do a number of things to keep lightning from damaging the power-delivery system, which can cause power outages or damage to equipment plugged into electrical outlets in homes and businesses.”

Thunderstorms can produce more than 100 million volts—compared with the 120 volts in household wall outlets and 240 volts that power large home appliances. To deal with those added millions of volts, utilities rely on complex lightning arrestors, static lines and grounding systems.

At NEETRAC’s facilities near Atlanta’sHartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Hartlein and his research team evaluate the arrestors and help utilities choose the right locations for them.


Researchers test insulators using high-voltage current at the NEETRAC facility south of Atlanta.
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“Lightning arrestors are not inexpensive devices, and they must be maintained once they are put on the system,” Hartlein said. “You want to distribute them on the system frequently enough to protect it, but not so frequently that you are wasting money.”

After multiple lightning strikes and years out in the elements, lightning arrestors themselves can fail, creating a momentary short circuit on the power grid. If that happens, a device built into the arrestors senses the problem and fires a tiny explosive charge that physically disconnects the faulty arrestor from the distribution system.

NEETRAC has developed specialized laboratory testing procedures to evaluate the performance of these devices.

Helping the industry develop better equipment requires an understanding of lightning. For instance, though it’s generally not visible to humans, most lightning strikes in the Southeast are made up of between three and five separate pulses between 30 and 120 milliseconds apart, each containing potentially damaging electrical energy.

In the Southeast, 90 percent of lightning has a negative charge. But positively charged lightning also occurs, most often in the winter. Positive lightning ionizes the atmosphere more efficiently than negative lightning and can travel longer distances.

“Positive lightning can travel 10 miles from the storm before striking an object on the ground, so the storm clouds may not even be visible when the lightning strikes,” said Ray Hill, a research technologist with NEETRAC. “This is the source of what people call a “˜bolt from the blue.’ Because it tends to be a single pulse, positive lightning can be more dangerous since all the energy is in a single stroke—and people aren’t expecting it.”

Though NEETRAC’s lightning-impulse generator can create explosive results, most testing at the center is less dramatic.

For instance, salt fog chambers simulate long-term exposure in moist and corrosive environments to study how utility system components will withstand years of exposure to the elements.

Strong ultraviolet lights and high temperatures test the ability of rubber seals to withstand summer heat and strong sunlight while keeping moisture from sensitive components. Computer simulations developed by Sakis Meliopoulos, a member of the Georgia Tech electric power faculty, help determine the most efficient way to ground the electric grid, the only effective way to control damaging current.

“Nothing is absolute,” Hill said. “All you can really do with lightning protection is to get the odds in your favor.”

AMSC Gets D-VAR Order for Long Island Grid

American Superconductor Corp. (AMSC) has received an order for a large-scale, dynamic reactive-compensation solution from National Grid, which manages the electricity network on Long Island under an agreement with Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). AMSC will install its proprietary D-VAR STATCOM solution on eastern Long Island to ensure the continued reliability of the local power grid. Reactive power compensation is necessary to stabilize voltage, relieve power grid congestion, improve electrical efficiency and prevent blackouts in power grids.

“Long Island Power Authority is supplying more power to its residential and commercial customers each year,” said Kevin S. Law, LIPA president and chief executive officer. “In order to continue providing reliable, high-quality power, we needed a solution to stabilize voltage during times of peak demand, particularly over the summer months when Long Island’s population is at its highest.”

D-VAR dynamic reactive-compensation systems are classified as static compensators, or STATCOMs, a member of the Flexible AC-Transmission System (FACTS) family of power electronic solutions for alternating current power grids. These smart grid solutions are able to detect and instantly compensate for voltage disturbances by dynamically injecting leading or lagging reactive power into the power grid.

The total dynamic range of reactive compensation provided by this transmission grid solution will be -96 to 240 MVAR. AMSC will provide installation and ongoing maintenance and support for LIPA. The contract calls for commissioning of the reactive-compensation solution by mid-2010.

EYE ON EUROPE

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Renewable Energies, One of the Pillars of European Energy Policy

by Andris Piebalgs, European Commission

Until the late 1990s, low oil and energy prices without carbon constraints created a European economy dependent on fossil fuels. At the same time these conditions acted as a brake to innovation and investments in new energy technologies. Since the late 1990s, environmental concerns and increased European energy dependence on oil shifted the trend.

The share of renewable energy in final energy consumption increased from 7.6 percent to 8.5 percent from 2000 to 2005. The amount of electricity generated from renewable energy progressed rapidly where the European Union introduced a system of national indicative targets and a requirement to take steps to achieve them. Progress has begun in renewable energy transport, but little progress has been made in heating and cooling, which is not covered by European legislation.


Andris Piebalgs speaks at a press conference by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso on the internal market energy package.
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Making the energy system more sustainable and secure is one of Europe’s greatest challenges. The EU Energy and Climate Package was proposed in January 2008 to address these challenges. The package sets ambitious targets to be achieved by 2020. These include cutting EU greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 percent, reducing energy use by 20 percent and boosting renewable energy to 20 percent of the EU’s overall energy consumption.

In 2005, the gross electricity generation from renewable energy was 464 TWh per year, representing almost 14 percent of gross electricity generation. Most renewable electricity produced (64 percent) originated from hydropower plants, wind accounted for 16 percent and biomass for 18 percent. Geothermal and solar energy accounted for almost 1.5 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively, according to Eurostat, a regional yearbook that offers information on EU members and candidate countries.

By 2020, the estimated potential for renewable energy source (RES) electricity should reach up to 1,200 TWh per year—more than 2.5 times more RES electricity than is generated today. The growth, especially in wind and solar energy, during the past few years makes such forecasts ambitious but within reach if the framework conditions are right for these energy sources.

The Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) proposed in November 2007 by the European Commission offers a blueprint for Europe to develop a world-class portfolio of affordable, clean, efficient and low-emission energy technologies. The SET-Plan reinforces coherence among national, European and international efforts, providing a venue for member states to plan joint actions and coordinate policies and programs. To ensure implementation, the European Energy Research Alliance is bringing together national research institutes. The European industry, under the umbrella of European Industrial Initiatives, will move toward more rapid deployment of technologies, especially offshore wind, solar, bioenergy, carbon dioxide capture, transport and storage, smart electricity grids and nuclear fission.

Installed European wind capacity has enjoyed a 25 percent growth rate for the past few years, reaching 50-GW in 2007. Under the SET-Plan implementation action, the sector has agreed to deliver 12 percent to 14 percent of EU electricity consumption by 2020, which represents installed capacity of 180 GW by that time. This would reduce offshore and onshore costs, increase competitiveness and achieve progress, especially in large-scale grid integration for offshore wind.

The total installed capacity of solar photovoltaic (PV) in 2006 was 3.4 GWp with high growth rates in the order of 40 percent. The industry recently unveiled an estimated maximum potential for the PV systems of almost 400 GW by 2020, which corresponds to 12 percent of the EU electricity consumption. Costs will continue to drop and will become competitive with other generation technologies as more PV systems are deployed and research and development continue.

The electricity grid must adapt and accommodate new and large amounts of RES electricity. The developments will encompass a system approach with the main objective being to develop an efficient, reliable, flexible, accessible and cost-effective European electricity grid that will allow, inter alia, the large uptake of renewable energies.

Technology is vital to achieving the EU Energy and Climate Change Policy objectives. The impact of the SET-Plan is mainly related to the development mechanisms and instruments needed to achieve the 2020 targets. The potential is there. It is now essential to unlock it and find appropriate ways for industry, research and government to work together to achieve common targets.

Andris Piebalgs is commissioner for energy for the European Commision (EC). The EC embodies and upholds the general interest of the European Union and is the driving force in the Union’s institutional system. More information on the EC may be found at www.ec.europa.eu.

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