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Plotting the path of renewable power lines

David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle
A new state report tries to tackle one of the touchiest issues in California’s effort to expand renewable power, suggesting possible routes for new transmission lines to carry electricity from wind farms and solar plants.

Power lines often generate intense opposition from environmentalists and landowners. But without new lines, the solar power plants and wind farms planned throughout California won’t be able to ship their electricity to the towns and cities that need it.

So several state agencies, electrical utilities, renewable power developers and environmental groups have joined together to figure out where to put new lines, hoping to prevent public fights. The effort, called the Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative, released its latest report this week…
(14 August 2009)

On power without borders, transmission capacity, and lessons for TSOs

Adam Burnes, Meet the Boss TV
The creation of the Capacity Allocation Service Company for the Central West European Electricity market (CASC-CWE) was one of the actions following up the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministries, regulators, TSOs, power exchanges and representatives of the market participants of Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and The Netherlands, integrating the five electricity markets into a regional electricity market for Central-West Europe. It was intended to increase liquidity and competition in the five markets and resolve the problem of separate technical systems, which meant transmission capacity was often scarce or being wasted. Corné was chosen to lead the initiative. In this interview, he talks about:

Overcoming technical and political challenges
Lessons for Transmission System Operators
The smart grid and the coalition
Increasing liquidity and competition
(13 August 2009)

Smartening Up the Grid

Susan Arterian-Chang, ieee spectrum
The smart grid has meant a lot of things to a lot of people: a system that would be more efficient, robust, flexible, and—not least—green friendly. More than half the U.S. states have adopted so-called renewable portfolio standards requiring so-and-so much electricity to be green by such-and-such times. On June 26, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which mandates renewable energy standards for most of the country’s largest electric utilities. The act also includes a provision for a carbon cap-and-trade system that will make fossil fuels at least somewhat more expensive and low-carbon fuels more competitive.

But connecting new wind farms to the existing U.S. grid has already required entrepreneurs, operators, and regulators to bend and stretch rules almost to the breaking point. As pressure grows to integrate still more wind, as well as solar concentrators, biomass combustion, and perhaps even tidal generators, rules will have to change.

How much pressure are we talking about? A lot. One survey of 11 major U.S. transmission regions found last year that applications to connect new wind and solar generators came in aggregate to 250 gigawatts—that’s the equivalent of roughly 250 standard atomic power plants—while combined natural gas, coal, and nuclear applications came to just 180 GW, according to Peter Mark Jansson and Richard A. Michelfelder, writing in the July 2008 issue of Electricity Journal. When New Jersey offered unusually generous rebates to solar installation companies at the beginning of this decade, more than 100 installation companies cropped up in just a few years, and at the end of 2007 the state had to stop accepting additional applications for solar interconnections.

Wind and photovoltaic farms may be small and beautiful when contemplated one at a time, but when considered altogether they add up to a big, ugly regulatory headache. The queuing system widely used in the United States to determine who gets to build new generation and connect with the grid works like this: Regional transmission organizations (RTOs) and independent system operators (ISOs) are charged by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) with overseeing the operation of the nation’s grid. Among their duties is to conduct feasibility studies when generators make interconnection requests. Under current FERC rules, these requests are managed by means of ”queues,” on a first come, first served basis. This system has worked well enough for large fossil-fuel-based generators. But these days the typical queue is jammed with hundreds of requests for interconnection from small generators of renewable power…
(July 2009)