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Grid needs upgrades for wind power

The electricity grid in Maine and much of the country can't reliably handle new generation capacity from wind power and other renewable resources, an influential industry group says. Aside from beefing up transmission lines, the group said, states must aggressively promote energy efficiency and manage electricity use to balance the on-again, off-again nature of wind and solar power. ...The report, issued last week by the North American Electric Reliability Corp., is expected to influence debate over plans to modernize Maine's transmission grid.

A report's call for changes to facilitate 'clean energy' is expected to influence debate on Maine projects.

The electricity grid in Maine and much of the country can't reliably handle new generation capacity from wind power and other renewable resources, an influential industry group says.

Aside from beefing up transmission lines, the group said, states must aggressively promote energy efficiency and manage electricity use to balance the on-again, off-again nature of wind and solar power.

These clean-power sources are growing as part of policies to combat climate change. Integrating them with programs and technology to manage demand, such as "smart" electric meters, will help determine how grids get upgraded and how much customers pay for power in the years ahead.

The report, issued last week by the North American Electric Reliability Corp., is expected to influence debate over plans to modernize Maine's transmission grid.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission is considering a $1.4 billion proposal by Central Maine Power Co. to upgrade 350 miles of high-voltage lines from the New Hampshire border to the Bangor area. Regulators recently held a public hearing in Waterville, and another... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

A report's call for changes to facilitate 'clean energy' is expected to influence debate on Maine projects.

The electricity grid in Maine and much of the country can't reliably handle new generation capacity from wind power and other renewable resources, an influential industry group says.

Aside from beefing up transmission lines, the group said, states must aggressively promote energy efficiency and manage electricity use to balance the on-again, off-again nature of wind and solar power.

These clean-power sources are growing as part of policies to combat climate change. Integrating them with programs and technology to manage demand, such as "smart" electric meters, will help determine how grids get upgraded and how much customers pay for power in the years ahead.

The report, issued last week by the North American Electric Reliability Corp., is expected to influence debate over plans to modernize Maine's transmission grid.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission is considering a $1.4 billion proposal by Central Maine Power Co. to upgrade 350 miles of high-voltage lines from the New Hampshire border to the Bangor area. Regulators recently held a public hearing in Waterville, and another is set for Lewiston on Nov. 24. CMP also is planning a public information session in Augusta on Dec. 3.

A separate $500 million proposal by Maine Public Service Co. would connect Aroostook County's transmission system with the rest of the state.

The PUC is expected to rule on the applications next year.

Some citizen groups and people living near transmission corridors oppose the upgrades, worried about health effects and property values. Many of them are intervening in the CMP case.

The utilities say these projects are needed to prevent future blackouts and to connect proposed wind farms with cities in southern New England.

'A CASE OF OBSOLESCENCE'

The existing system was designed 40 years ago in response to a blackout in New York City, said John Carroll, a CMP spokesman. The New England system was set up to rely heavily on a network of nuclear and oil plants. It didn't envision a diffuse, integrated system of intermittent generators and managed demand in thousands of homes and businesses.

"It's really a case of obsolescence," Carroll said. "It's not broken, just not suited to changing circumstances."

The NERC report will add weight to CMP's arguments, said Richard Davies, Maine's public advocate for utility customers. That's because the group has legal authority, with federal approval, to enforce standards meant to maintain reliability.

"It sounds like what they're saying is consistent with the views of our office," Davies said.

The public advocate supports efforts to make Maine's electric system more reliable, while keeping rates as low as possible. In the CMP case, Davies said his office is likely to endorse the need for building many segments of the project. But in other instances, he said, the cost of increasing reliability through conservation and demand management might be less expensive.

CMP has factored conservation and demand management into its construction requirements, Carroll said. One of the questions the PUC will weigh is to what degree efficiency measures can further scale down CMP's building plans.

'SMART GRID' TO MANAGE SYSTEM

Many large companies in New England already have arrangements by which they cut power use during periods of peak demand. The electric industry sees itself moving to a point when advanced electric meters monitor consumption. They'll communicate the information as part of a "smart grid," a network of sensors and computers that integrate far-away, intermittent generators with customer demand.

For example: Wind turbines spinning in eastern Maine are feeding power south. As the wind stops blowing, said Mark Lauby, manager for reliability assessments at NERC, factories in the region get signals to shut off unnecessary equipment until other generators come on line.

"In our view, we need all of these resources to make this work," Lauby said.

The industry group notes that in some parts of the country, transmission limitations already are constraining wind power development.

That hasn't happened yet in Maine, said Kurt Adams, chief development officer at First Wind Holdings Inc. First Wind operates the state's first major wind farm, at Mars Hill. It's also bringing a 57-megawatt wind farm, Stetson Mountain, online this winter, and recently announced plans for two more projects in Maine.

Adams, a former Maine PUC chairman, said New England's current ability to juggle a diversity of generation, such as natural gas and hydro, gives it more flexibility than some regional grids. First Wind and TransCanada, the state's other large wind developer, are funding the interconnections they need to reach existing transmission lines. But at some point, Adams said, wind developers won't be able to add more turbines until Maine's system is upgraded.

DRIVEN BY GOVERNMENT POLICIES

Government policies are key drivers making these upgrades necessary.

Maine is among 26 states and three Canadian provinces with a renewable portfolio standard, which requires that certain shares of energy supply come from non-polluting sources. Maine and other Northeast states also have formed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a market-based plan to cap power plant emissions.

Integrating these energy sources are among the issues identified last month in a capacity report by ISO New England. The region's bulk power system operator said there's enough generation and transmission to meet demand through 2014, but challenges remain.

The NERC report reinforces what ISO-NE has found, said Marcia Blomberg, an ISO-NE spokeswoman. It underscores the need to continue transmission system upgrades and the integration of wind and conservation measures.

"The report helps draw attention to issues we've identified, and that's an important function," she said.

COMING UP

The Maine Public Utilities Commission will hold a hearing on CMP's transmission line proposal at 6 p.m. Nov. 24 at Lewiston City Hall.

CMP plans a public information session on the evening of Dec. 3 at the Augusta Civic Center.

To learn more, go to: www.nerc.com


Source: http://pressherald.mainetod...

NOV 17 2008
https://www.windaction.org/posts/17930-grid-needs-upgrades-for-wind-power
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