Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Transmission: "Drive to Link Wind, Solar Power to Distant Users " (AMSC; PNM)

UPDATE: A couple weeks ago I asked Dr. Hazlett at the Climate+Energy Project why I was seeing announcements of new wind projects in Oklahoma but not in Kansas? Her response was:
Our transmission is saturated right now :( no more builds till it gets sorted out. They are also having to curtail currently generating wind farms.

So I don't think we will get these datelines for a while! SAD.

This morning she added:
...According to a source in the know at the recent 2009 KS Wind conference, "Kansas has pretty much maxxed out its available transmission for large wind farms until more lines get built. One major 345 line is underway and will be built by 2012, and hopefully another high voltage line of 765 or 345 will be approved by January and maybe built by 2014. However, in the meantime, there's lots of transmission congestion and existing wind farm production often has to be curtailed."

Just imagine what is going to happen to wind development in states where the transmission planning process is stalled or not even underway yet. I hate to think that wind could hit a major wall like that, but unless we act fast it's coming....
This is a big deal.
Original post:
From the Wall Street Journal:

Proposed Station Would Connect Separate Grids, Enabling Electricity Generated in Remote Sites to Reach a Wider Market

A new proposal to build a transmission link to connect the nation's three major electricity grids -- Eastern, Western and Texas -- is generating interest among energy policy makers because of its potential to accelerate development of renewable energy.

The project, called the Tres Amigas "superstation," to be built at Clovis, N.M., would bring a major change to the U.S. electricity infrastructure by improving connectivity. For example, power produced in Phoenix at this point can't be shipped to Dallas.

[Powerline] Reuters

The lack of interconnectivity is becoming a larger problem as the nation adds more solar and wind energy to its supply. Much of that power is produced in remote areas and needs to travel to distant population centers, which is problematic under the current setup. Greater connectivity among the grids could open up the market for some renewable-energy developments because the electricity could be sold across a wider region or moved to where it is most needed.

The substation is being proposed by Tres Amigas LLC, a company run by Phil Harris, formerly the chief executive of PJM Interconnection LLC, the nation's largest grid-running organization. The project, which likely would involve partners, could cost $1 billion or more. The location is key -- it would be less than 100 miles from substations in the grids to which it would connect electrically.

"This will unlock resources throughout the region," Mr. Harris said.

Patrick Wood III , a former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said a utility he is representing, Sharyland Utilities, would like to partner in the Tres Amigas project, perhaps building part of the Texas transmission link....

...Public Service Co. of New Mexico has more than 7,000 megawatts of proposed wind generation in its footprint that could benefit from the Tres Amigas project.

The project still is in an early stage and could unravel if it is unable to obtain financing. It also faces regulatory hurdles, since the FERC is being asked to waive jurisdiction over power sales in and out of Texas. Because Texas removed most electrical connections to other states decades ago, most of its wholesale power sales aren't subject to FERC regulation.

The proposed substation, functioning like a traffic roundabout, would use superconducting cable from American Superconductor Corp. of Devens, Mass., capable of carrying 5,000 megawatts of electricity -- equivalent to the output of five nuclear-power reactors. Superconducting cable is chilled to minus-300 degrees Fahrenheit, which greatly increases its carrying capacity, and the rights-of-way the cable requires along its path are smaller -- and cheaper.

The Tres Amigas substation would use novel technology to solve a basic problem: that power can't easily flow among the three grids because they aren't synchronized. It would convert the alternating current of each region into a common direct current. Then it would convert specific electrons back into alternating current to match the grid to which the electrons were destined.

Currently, there are a half-dozen small alternate-to-direct-to-alternate ties between the Eastern and Western grids, but none is designed to move large amounts of electricity among all three grids....MORE

PNM is a founding member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership lobbying group and recently left the U.S. Chamber of Congress over climate policy.