Available Transmission Technology Can Prevent Future Blackouts

Aug. 1, 2003
ROSSLYN, Va., August 21, 2003-There is proven technology available today that can satisfy the nation's electric transmission needs, and build a robust

ROSSLYN, Va., August 21, 2003-There is proven technology available today that can satisfy the nation's electric transmission needs, and build a robust power delivery system for the 21st century, according to industry experts. "If we invest in this technology, we can reduce the likelihood of blackouts like the one visited upon us recently and avoid the attendant economic and social consequences as well," says Malcolm O'Hagan, president of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA). "Streamlined energy regulation and tax incentives would help insure that this investment is made."

Although generation capacity stood at only about 75 percent leading up to the Northeast blackout, the power could not be delivered where it was needed because of transmission constraints. O'Hagan says that problem could be resolved quickly and cost effectively. "The cost of new transmission technology is generally recognized to be only about 10 percent of the cost of new generation technology. Deploying state-of-the-art transmission devices can actually decrease customer costs by reducing congestion charges, which can dwarf other costs."

Ed Gray, NEMA's director of energy policy, says the following technology solutions can be integrated rapidly and effectively into the nation's electrical grid:

--Addition of multiple conductors per phase for extra current carrying capacity

--Use of higher voltages and larger conductors to raise transmission and distribution line capacity

--Use of high-temperature, low-sag conductors that can relax operational limits, often allowing up to a 100 percent increase in line capacity

--Utilization of high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission, which can nearly double capacity, better control power transfer, and improve overall system stability. Such technology is already in use in the Northwest, Southwest, and Northeast

--Addition of peaking power units at substations, where power goes from sub-transmission to primary distribution, to enhance system efficiency and reliability

--Improvement of the power factor through the use of such devices as capacitors and synchronous condensers. This has been successfully done in many areas of the country

--Burying transmission and distribution cables underground in areas where the right-of-way is not available

--Installation of Flexible AC Transmission System (FACTS) technologies, and wide area controls capable of increasing the power on stability-limited lines by as much as 40 percent, enhancing system reliability, ensuring higher levels of security, and dynamically improving system controllability

--Use of real-time dynamic rating systems of transmission lines based on actual weather conditions and line currents, increasing the power of thermally limited lines by up to 30 percent

--Application of new analytical software models to better calculate stability and thermal limits, increasing power transfers by up to 10 percent

These solutions sidestep the "not in my backyard (NIMBY)" problem. Transmission voltage, capacity, and control enhancements require investment in new equipment, but do not necessarily require new rights-of-way. "Installation of environmentally friendly transmission technologies on existing corridors is, in many situations, an effective alternative to power line construction in new corridors," says Gray. "Furthermore, it avoids many of the contentious, time-consuming issues associated with siting. These available, real-world, solutions can be implemented promptly on existing line corridors without the risk of running into a wall of protest by people opposed to transmission lines or generation facilities in their neighborhoods. The federal government would be wise to put policy into effect that encourages these methods of alleviating pressure on the grid."

NEMA is the leading trade association in the United States representing the interests of electroindustry manufacturers. Founded in 1926 and headquartered near Washington, D.C., its 400 member companies manufacture products used in the generation, transmission and distribution, control, and end-use of electricity. Domestic shipments of electrical products within the NEMA scope exceed $100 billion.