Private electrical interconnections

Posted by $ Temlakos 8 months ago to Technology
25 comments | Share | Best of... | Flag

How would a private interconnection operate? Consider the Texas interconnection (which failed spectacularly over the weekend of 12-14 February and for several days after that). Any other electrical grid in the world has to operate with a central authority managing the "just-in-time inventory" of electrical energy. What would be required to do away with, say, the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas and its equivalents in the Eastern and Western Interconnections of the USA, the individual island connections in Hawaii, etc., etc.? What's missing? Would grid-scale storage alone, with one or (preferably) more private electrical energy storage operators competing to buy power low and sell it high, be sufficient to forestall system-wide blackouts? Do grids need to have a maximum always-on size? This discussion is open especially to electrical engineers, not just philosophers.


Add Comment

FORMATTING HELP

All Comments Hide marked as read Mark all as read

  • Posted by $ Thoritsu 8 months ago
    I do not understand the questions you are asking. You discuss outages, and then discuss eliminating grid interconnections. These are counter to each other.

    Are you seeking power availability? If so, a variety of solutions are available, each with a different cost/price. Put the sources and energy storage online, and pay for the premium of availability. There is little technology here, I am an engineer, and have worked in power most of my career, mostly Navy ship/submarine power; however, the technology is not fundamentally different.

    One can take power from any source or storage device that is connected. The connection is the local grid. Maximizing the number of sources or storage devices that are connected increases the availability. This includes grid interconnects.

    I really feel what you seek is a contracting option, not technology. A contract for higher availability that costs more, and or one's own local source (solar, generator and/or energy storage). If such contracting vehicles existed, people could pay to be minimally (or last) affected. People could alternatively pay to have their own local backup sources (at homes or municipalities).

    What is confusing about all this?

    Grids are designed with sources supporting the peaks with demand factors. Demand factors are statistically derived. Power companies know the relative load per household in a municipality, and as homes are brought on, generation capacity is added, in steps. The generation sources each have a cost to operate and a cost/time to startup/shutdown. Nuclear runs all the time. Hydro runs all the time. Coal runs pretty much all the time. Solar and wind run when they want to. Gas turbines are the best sources for intermittent peaks (some are called "peaking power generation systems". We used to package these for Pratt and Whitney - SwiftPack and Twin-Packs)).

    Rolling outages are caused by inadequate power generation vs load. This is a decision, based on the design and spare capacity, not technology.

    If you don't want an outage, have more spare capacity and have varied sources that are not subject to common failures (e.g. freezing).
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Posted by $ 8 months ago
      What I'm seeking, is a grid that doesn't require an "authoritative" state to operate. And one where nobody can cut you off for causes other than non-payment.
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
      • Posted by $ Thoritsu 8 months ago
        Well that is not engineering, just contracting.

        Most power companies are monopolies, so I guess that is the first challenge. However, these days, competition could be offered. Just allow a private company to compete and service homes. Then you can have whatever contract you and the company can agree to.

        Our local municipality (just the town) chose to go it alone. We (the town) manage our own lines, buy our power as we choose. This works a WHOLE LOT better than any of the state companies in adjacent towns. Our power is 1/2 the price ($/kW-hr) and it much more rarely goes out. One town N, S, E, W, and the grid is much less reliable and twice the cost.
        As you note the state (in my case the State of MA) is far worse. The only bad thing for us is we shun the state programs for solar et al, and can't get the big, tax-funded rebates. Oh well. We have our own solar farm, right by the dump. It serves about 20% of the town load.

        Moving scope to a town municipality is one step. Having your own, solar, generator and battery is the ace. We have a generator, capable of running the whole house, from propane or gasoline. We use propane for heat, hot water, stove, etc, and have a 1,000 gal tank in the ground. We haven't gotten around to solar, but I might if we put on a big garage. Payback is damn quick now.
        Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
      • Posted by CircuitGuy 7 months, 4 weeks ago
        "What I'm seeking, is a grid that doesn't require an "authoritative" state to operate."
        I am unclear how practical it is, but this is one thing proponents of blockchain say it can do. They say it eliminates central management of trust. Consider a taxi company or ride sharing app. Strangers give strangers rides because the ride sharing company maintains a database of ratings of drivers and passengers and makes sure the riders pay. The company gets a big cut for maintaining the database. Supposedly blockchain can be used to maintain tamper-proof records on a peer-to-peer basis, obviating the need for the central database.

        I could imagine this being applied to a smart grid, a very smart grid, where you can sell your neighbors power from your electric car battery or PV panels if the price is right, all without going through the power company. I could imagine floating prices, and you could set your furnace and other appliance not to run when prices are too high, evening out the load.

        But I don’t know if this would help TX. I suspect their problem is peak to average ratio. I suspect many people use heat pumps plus electric heat there instead of gas or oil because they don’t need that much heating. On the rare occasion when more than a little heat pump (reversed A/C system) is required, everyone uses their electric heat. When I lived in FL in the 80s, the power company had a system to deal with this that could temporarily cut power from people’s HVAC, electric water heater, and pool pump, to even out demand. Despite this, when I was in Tampa in Christmas of ‘89, it hit 28F, and they had to do rolling blackouts.

        I agree with your idea that some form of decentralization would help.
        Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
  • Posted by term2 8 months ago
    Individuals who own houses and have money should be grid independent with solar, wind, generators, etc.

    Hopefully, entrepreneurs will develop inexpensive solutions for this so that more people with houses can be at least somewhat independent of a grid.

    Maybe grids should only be relied on for some of the power people use, but not the essential power that people rely on now.

    Someone should develop devices which could turn on and off essential loads so that a house could not overdraw from an alternate source of local power when grid power was not available.

    New construction should be wired with certain outlets on special circuits powered by the alternate local power if needed.
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
  • Posted by $ jbrenner 8 months ago
    This is a discussion that Generac wishes could be had, but this era's Twentieth Century Motor Company's work falls on deaf ears.
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Posted by $ 8 months ago
      Has Generac expressed an opinion on this kind of discussion? I never saw any posting from them.
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
      • Posted by $ jbrenner 8 months ago
        I haven't seen Generac issue an opinion on this. The Kern Family, founders of Generac, have expressed their philosophy in terms of their 3C's of curiosity, (intellectual) connections, and creating value. You will not find anyone who understands the exchange of value for value better than the Kern family.
        Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
  • Posted by 25n56il4 8 months ago
    We have many, many electrical companies in Texas. Investor owned companies. They stumble over one another trying to twist you away from your electricity provider.
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Posted by 25n56il4 8 months ago
      I get very expensive bills $800 - $1000. But my electric company gave me a $70 discount this month and a $206 credit card last month. Duh?
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
      • Posted by 25n56il4 8 months ago
        My 20KW Generac popped on during the freeze but about 2 days into it, the gas supply seemed to get interrupted and I'd have to manually re-start it. My son is on oxygen 7/24 and we must have electricity. I do have a 110 plug in my automobile.
        Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
        • Posted by $ 8 months ago
          The gas company failed, too. They didn't winterize. They needed to have extra pumps and insulators to make sure that the gas main would maintain pressure. Because they didn't do that, they had to shut it down because otherwise it might suck air in. If that happens, and you have methane and oxygen in one confined space, that's a recipe for total destruction.

          The ironic thing about solar and even wind power is that you can install your own panels and turbines. Then you can winterize those, and manage the supply.
          Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Posted by $ 8 months ago
      I am familiar with having multiple sources on a grid. My question is how to manage the grid itself in a manner that takes it away from the State. Again, this discussion is not about production, but about distribution.
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
  • Posted by CircuitGuy 7 months, 4 weeks ago
    On the news I heard TX had implemented unregulated market electricity and it had resulted in very high energy bills. They made that sound bad, but I think it could actually be the solution. If people were aware of the fluctuating price, they could make intelligent decisions like only running heat in one room and leaving everything else warm enough to prevent pipes from freezing. They could run it primarily when the price drops. If high prices happen on a regular basis, it’s an incentive for people to have generators, PV panels, or batteries to “price gouge” during those high-demand times. The result would be no rolling blackouts (in econ terms, qty supplied = qty demanded at the equilibrium price) and less severe price hikes.

    I’m intrigued by things like blockchain, but I think they just need market price signals that cause people to produce the amount consumers demand.
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Posted by $ 7 months, 4 weeks ago
      People could do better than that. They could install storage batteries, of which Tesla now has a full line (and Generac and others have some entries here, too), and then literally buy their power cheap at night and use it, or sell the excess, by day. Tesla has recently experimented with the use of their Powerwall (their residential entry) for off-grid storage in Hawaii. They also have the Powerpack (for commercial and light-to-medium industrial use) and Megapack (for very heavy industrial and grid-scale use).
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
      • Posted by CircuitGuy 7 months, 2 weeks ago
        "literally buy their power cheap at night and use it, or sell the excess,"
        This could become a common, automated practice in a short amount of time. Utilities are regulated monopolies on the idea that you can only have one power company and one set of wires. That's not true anymore.

        This reminds me of the dire predictions in the mid 90s about deregulating cable companies. People could conceive it would become common to get TV through other means.
        Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
  • Posted by jimslag 8 months ago
    Alright, I am not an engineer but I used to work as a Substation Electrician and Controls Technician at an interconnection between the Western and Eastern Power Grids in Clovis, NM. We dealt with Mega Watts, not the individual connections. The Electrical Grid requires what is called a Base Load. This is the power available on the grid that allows to get light when you turn on your switch or keeps the street lights on. Anyway, wind and solar cannot be base load as they are not reliable enough due to weather, wind or availability of sunlight (Night time or cloudy day). Everything is rated by it availability according to rated output. Coal and gas have a high availability and are usually baseload due to constantly being on (Coal) or have a short start time (Natural Gas) to start providing power. Wind and Solar are low on the availability rating due to conditions. The New Mexico Wind Energy Center in House, NM was on our 345KV line between Clovis and Albuquerque. In the 15 years I worked for PNM, the Wind farm never came close to it's 204 MW rating and that was a very windy day. It usually ran about around 120-140MW. Now, wind and Solar are only 10% of PNM's power sources, so it is not a good representation. If you look at ERCOT, Renewables account for about 30% of power, gas for another 30% and coal for about 40%.
    The issues that are happened in Texas are many. The Wind Turbines froze and they have a feature that keeps power going to them to protect the equipment at about 1MW for each turbine. They also had issue with valves on gas lines freezing that prevented gas flow to homes and also gas power plants, so gas provided power could not be ramped up. So, BOOM, you have lost around 50-60% of your power generation off line and power consumption going up because of the storm. I do not blame the grid operator (ERCOT) as they did an amazing job of keeping up the power available. They instituted rolling blackouts to avoid causing problems on the main power grid. When you had power, it was reliable and they kept it to vital resources, like Hospitals, Fire Stations and such. However it was not enough to keep everybody with power. As resources became available, they brought more on line. I blame the utilities as they did not "harden" their systems for winter. Things like rebuilding valves on gas lines, heaters for the pumps at natural gas pumping stations, and many other things. Not much could have been done on the wind turbines as they are usually in remote areas and are 80 to 120 feet in the air. I am sure that there will be studies and politicians will get in their hacks at the industry.
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Posted by $ 8 months ago
      Question: is it, or is it not, fair to say that ERCOT created the circumstances that required the rolling blackouts? Who is responsible for the failure of various parties to winterize their operations?
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
      • Posted by jimslag 8 months ago
        I think ERCOT could have directed the companies to fix problems and they did not do it or enforce it of their member companies. So, they are partly responsible but the majority of it falls on the companies for being greedy and taking money but not building infrastructure. Public utilities have to answer to Utility Commissions. I was with PNM Resources, they own Public Service of New Mexico (regulated in NM) and TNMP, Texas New Mexico Power, which a deregulated company based in Lewisville, Texas. TNMP is a Transmission company, it does not own power plants, they only take care of the transmission lines. They are in ERCOT but also in West Texas on the Western Power Grid (regulated). So, they have their system winterized but that is mostly because most of the Managers come from the PNM utility in NM which has lines all over NM, in the Mountains, on the plains from Farmington and Shiprock up North to Santa Fe and Albuquerque and out east to Clovis and west to Gallup. My former Director at Public Service went to be a Senior Vice President at TNMP.
        Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
        • Posted by $ 8 months ago
          The chairwoman and three other members of the ERCOT governing board resigned earlier this week. It might or might not strike people as significant that none of the board members who resigned actually lived in Texas. In any event, ERCOT has some serious problems, which they must solve if Texas hopes to reassert its independence of the Union.
          Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
        • Posted by jimslag 8 months ago
          Just a short note. ERCOT does not cover all of Texas. Parts of East Texas are powered by Entergy out of Louisiana. West Texas is on El Paso Electric which is on the Western Power Grid. And parts of the Texas Panhandle are on Xcel Energy company Southwest Public Service out of Amarillo which is on the Eastern Power Grid.
          Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
          • Posted by $ 8 months ago
            I've confirmed that elsewhere. A Texas secession would involve bringing all those areas into the Texas interconnection. A microgrid solution would be just the ticket.
            Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
  • Posted by $ Dobrien 8 months ago
    I am not an engineer of any sort but I did stay at the Holiday Inn. I say keep the politicians and the technocrats out of it and let the power companies
    Run the electrical grid. Good lord this is the 21st century and we are racing to a dystopian Anthem.
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Posted by $ 8 months ago
      Your plan has one key flaw, and it would lead to that same dystopian Anthem through the use of actors that are ostensibly private, but in fact are acting in concert with the States. You don't want any particular set of providers to establish any sort of board to decide what is acceptable and what isn't. That way lies the possibility that those providers could conspire together to exclude someone from the grid. If you doubt that, read the Telegram channel of one Laura Loomer, now a candidate (for the second time) for the United States House of Representatives, in the twenty-first District in Florida. Find her channel, called simply Laura Loomer, on the new instant-message service called Telegram.

      I am looking to design a grid from which no one is in any position to exclude anyone. Ironically, a group calling itself Energy Sage is looking for "distributed" solutions to power generation and power distribution. They speak of "microgrids." Which are semi-autonomous associations of sources and loads of electricity that can, when conditions warrant, disconnect from the larger grid and work independently of it.

      Anything that generates electricity is a source; anything that uses electricity is a load. I would define one thing that does not (yet) seem to have a definition in conventional discussion of microgrids: a reservoir. Which, like its counterpart in a water system, stores energy in any form. This could be electrochemical, like a lithium-ion battery or even a hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell. Or it could rely on gravity, like hanging a weight over a shaft, or building a pair or cascade of water reservoirs at different levels, with two-way pump/generators connecting them.

      The simplest microgrid is a single-family residence, the householder of which manages his own sources (typically photovoltaic batteries or wind turbines; yes, someone has designed a wind turbine suitable for residential use), loads (lights, appliances, HVAC/well/septic systems), and reservoirs (typically wall-mounted batteries). An apartment complex could call itself a microgrid if it maintains sources and reservoirs to serve its own loads. Two or more complexes of any size could form a district with a microgrid to serve it.
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  

FORMATTING HELP

  • Comment hidden. Undo