As of late June, four utilities nationwide have applied for permission to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), also known as ‘drones’ to assist in the evaluation of its energy equipment including power lines, wind turbines and other equipment. Consumers Energy, a utility in Michigan, says it is using the UAVs to evaluate equipment especially after…Read More
Microgrids are a small and focused energy system that provides stable service within a certain area when the primary source of power is unavailable. Universities, hospitals, military bases, are all part of communities that have historically relied on microgrids. SolarCity, a company that has primarily focused on solar panels, is exploring utilizing Telsa Motor batteries…Read More
Solar power – for many East Coasters, it’s something that’s great for the environment, and it’s just, well, neat. But it’s hard to see how it really could change our everyday lives. Right??? Not for long, according to a new study by the Rocky Mountain Institute called The Economics of Grid Defection. Solar power, combined…Read More
A new partnership was formalized on October 20th with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Chattanooga’s EPB, the local utility company. The three entities will work together to test new energy technologies in Chattanooga. The Times Free Press details the partnership…Read More
Over at the Lexington Institute, a new report focuses on the need for laws and policies governing electricity must keep pace with new technology and markets. The analysis includes case studies in energy storage, microgrids and cybersecurity. From the introduction: “As our daily functions increasingly integrate technology (or are immersed in them entirely), Americans have…Read More
The SunZia project recently reported that it has signed its first anchor tenant for its new energy transmission lines stretching 515 miles between New Mexico and Arizona. SunZia seeks to provide reliable extra-high voltage transmission lines in southern Arizona and southern New Mexico, which should improve power transfer across the Desert Southwest electricity grid and increase the availability of renewable energy. Currently they are waiting on the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to give final approval to their proposed route, of which they are very optimistic, but the road has been bumpy.
According to a study by the Sonoran Institute, the grid reliability and congestion in the southwest is among the worst in the country. Both proponents of the lines and the BLM believe that SunZia could meet a real need. In addition, a 2009, Department of Energy study identified regions rich in renewable energy resources, but that did not have the current transmission capacity to make it worthwhile. Both Arizona and New Mexico were on that list.Read More
In December 2012, a report released by the Director of National Intelligence discussed the potential threat of solar geomagnetic storms to the nation’s electric grid. These storms are caused by bursts of energy produced by the sun that disrupts the Earth’s magnetic field. While this may sound like science fiction to some, in 1989, a Canadian blackout affecting 9 million people was caused by currents produced by a large geomagnetic storm.
Now Maine is moving to become the first state to take deliberate action to assess and manage these risks. Legislation which became law earlier this year directs the state Public Utilities Commission to examine related vulnerabilities, identify the most vulnerable components and develop recommendations, including cost/benefit analyses to be delivered to the legislature in January 2014.Read More
Wind energy and other renewable energy sources are continuing to expand and make developmental improvements as written about previously. But along with these advancements, there are formidable challenges standing in the way of utility companies embracing renewable power. One of the biggest of these is the intermittency of renewable power and absence of cost-effective ways to store excess generated electricity.
Case in point – the Kingdom Community Wind farm on Lowell Mountain in Vermont. The recently opened farm boasts 21 turbines and has a generating capacity of 63 MW. However, on several instances it has been held at as low as one-third of its capacity by the grid system operators simply because the current grid cannot handle the amount of electricity being produced. This process of holding off excess power, called curtailment,Read More
Tesla Motors is ambitiously attempting to make electric vehicles (EV) as practical as gas-powered vehicles. As Don Soifer wrote about previously, Tesla opened a network of “supercharging” stations late last year that are capable of charging the battery of an EV, specifically the Tesla Model S, halfway in approximately 30 minutes. In May, Tesla Motors announced that it had cut the charging time down to just 20 minutes. Now Tesla Motors is saying that soon the time to FULLY charge an EV battery will take just 5 minutes – placing it on par with the time it takes to fill up a tank of gas in a regular car.
There are a few challenges with charging a battery so rapidly including overheating the battery. Tesla has been able to curtail this issue by designing and building all of the key components itself – creating a special set of systems including the chargers, electronics for monitoring the battery pack, and a cooling system – all of which are built specifically for
Tesla Motors EVs.
Another challenge is improving the interface of the electrical grid. Currently, some locations on the grid can only handle 120 kilowatts of charging. Tesla plans to equipRead More
With the 2013 hurricane season in its second month, the impacted areas of New York and New Jersey have continued to make remarkable progress in their rebuilding and recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy. Now a number of initiatives are underway that are hoped to improve the power grid’s resilience, and also limit the damage from power loss for any future major weather events. But the costs utilities are asking customers to shoulder for the modernizations and upgrades have become a significant issue in approval proceedings.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a new series of collaborations, including between local authorities and utilities to address more resilient electric transmission systems. Utility ConEdison has a program underway in Westchester County that includes installing hundreds of “smart switches” and thousands of isolation devices to limit power loss, burying some 30 miles of overhead power lines underground, and installing hundreds of new network transformers.
Flooding of substations during Sandy was a major reason for the extended power outagesRead More