Transmission and USA
Among the "firsts" being attempted by the Atlantic Wind Connection,the venture seeking to build an electric transmission line from southern Virginia to northern New Jersey, is negotiating the regulatory system. The problem is that the cable, which would be buried under the seabed, is what grid officials call a "multidriver project," or a project that is undertaken for more than one reason.
"Transmission line owners receive inflated returns that no longer reflect economic reality," said Michael Henry, Director of the ENE Sustainable Transmission Project. "The days of high guaranteed earnings for transmission investment need to end.
Those earnings not only represent hundreds of millions in excessive charges for New England ratepayers, but they also discourage the use of cleaner, cheaper options like energy efficiency."
PJM Interconnection said in a release on Wednesday that grid conditions had changed since the 765-kilovolt, 275-mile PATH transmission line extending from West Virginia to Maryland was proposed by American Electric Power and FirstEnergy in 2007. "Our updated analysis no longer shows a need for the lines to maintain grid stability," PJM said.
While lower off-peak prices may contribute to a reduction in the annual average price of power, other costs may go up. For example, if the wind generation is a ‘must-take' for the grid operator, then the operator is forced to redispatch other types of generation out of economic merit order to compensate for the additional wind on their systems, Elliott said.
Construction of the full project would take about 10 years, according to the company. The right-of-way corridor, including branches to reach the shore at intermediate points, would run about 790 miles, the Interior Department said.
The offshore wind farm that might be approved this year would presumably be in New Jersey, given that proposed projects off the coasts of Delaware and Maryland have suffered setbacks in the last few months.
Grid operators constantly match what power plants are producing with what people and their TVs, microwaves and air conditioners need. But when the electricity comes from unpredictable sources, like wind or solar power, balancing the grid is a challenge, a new study finds.
Dominion said the right-of-way should be awarded only if the transmission line is approved by the region's electricity grid operator, PJM Interconnection, and after the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management awards leases to energy companies seeking to build offshore wind turbines.
"This is beautiful country with huge heritage ranches, amazing biodiversity, endangered species and the headwaters of important rivers ...A lot of people jumped on the renewable bandwagon - it's a sexy agenda. But this is a special landscape, and does this minimal contribution to the grid outweigh the degradation these lines impose?"
Duke-American Transmission Company acquired the 3,000-megawatt-capacity Zephyr Power Transmission Project, committing to use at least 2,100 MW of the transmission line's capacity to provide wind power to California and the southwestern United States from the wind-rich areas of eastern Wyoming.
Power line builder and operator AltaLink was included in Wednesday's decision on the 230-kilovolt transmission line by the Alberta Utilities Commission, having also applied for an extension on its substation project associated with the project.
The merchant power line has been in the making for more than five years
Like most big, bold ideas, the Atlantic Wind Connection is risky, and this week's Bluewater announcement can hardly be a good portent. AWC - which is a transmission line, not a power-generation project - won't go forward without an offshore wind boom along the Atlantic Coast.
Rather than see building more transmission as the solution, though, Bowman sees its drawbacks as a symptom of a bigger problem: a highly centralized power system.
"I'm going to predict the day of very large transmission lines to carry energy from remote areas to urban centers are about over," he said. "What I do think you'll see happen is smaller projects that are built to accommodate the existing system you have in the rural electric districts and to move that power to the cities that way. I think there will be a different model."
"The MATL experience to date raises questions about the sufficiency and effectiveness of internal controls that Western had in place," the report stated. "The stalled wind power transmission project is clearly at risk with the outcome uncertain. In the event of a project failure, Western and ultimately the U.S. taxpayer could bear a large financial burden."
But Friedman said that the project "raises questions about the sufficiency and effectiveness of internal controls" at Western Area Power Authority. "In the event of a project failure, Western and ultimately the U.S. taxpayer could bear a large financial burden," he wrote.
Rose said MISO wind has averaged 3% curtailment over a recent 14-month period, but some locations with particular transmission constraints experienced as much as 20% curtailment. That means projects are losing not just the revenue from selling those megawatt-hours, but also the production tax credits and renewable energy credits.
Clean Line still is working to gain regulatory approval for the project in Arkansas and Tennessee, Hurtado said. He said the route for the project has not been chosen but the company tentatively plans to begin construction in 2014.
NorthWestern Energy's Mountain States Transmission Intertie would carry 1,500 megawatts, much of it wind power, from central Montana to Midpoint, Idaho.
But to do it, the 500-kilovolt line, known as MSTI, must cross a 430-mile mishmash of lands owned by residents, ranchers, farmers, counties, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Energy Department.
The proposal has stirred a fierce debate in the state.
Opponents of proposals to build a multistate line from Iowa east of the Mississippi River to bring wind-generated electricity to large urban markets have asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reconsider its decision last month to allow the cost of such lines - estimated to be as high as $20 billion, to be spread to end users rather than borne entirely by the builders of the line.
With the deck stacked in favor of building, he said, if systems aren't designed to keep costs down, ratepayers will suffer the most.
"I'm not opposed to building transmission lines, but right now it's sort of the gold rush," Springe said. "I'd like to see a few more checks and balances, and actually building in the least-cost way for customers."
The new rules are also intended to ensure that the costs of transmission lines are borne by the utility customers who get the most benefit from them. In the past, rural utilities have objected to projects where their customers would bear the cost of building transmission lines even though most of the electricity would go to customers in cities farther away.