Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Wind Power Express

Since there is so much Green Money coming out of Washington it looks like a lot of people want in on the act. There is a lot of wind in the upper Mid-West but not many power lines. So a company is proposing that the government get behind building some new power lines.

ITC Holdings Corp., over the past year, has worked to develop the "Green Power Express," a network of transmission lines that would facilitate the movement of 12,000 MW of power from the wind-abundant areas in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa to Midwest load centers, such as Chicago, southeastern Wisconsin, Minneapolis and other states that demand clean, renewable energy. This new project addresses the recognized lack of electric transmission infrastructure needed to integrate renewable wind energy.

"We are proud to announce the Green Power Express after almost a year of studies, stakeholder discussions and development," said Joseph L. Welch, chairman, president and CEO of ITC. "The Green Power Express will create the much-needed link between the renewable energy-rich regions of the Midwest and high-demand population centers. The plan is consistent with efforts supported by organizations such as the Upper Midwest Transmission Development Initiative and promotes a national energy vision. ITC looks forward to continuing to work with them and other stakeholders in the region to move forward with this long-term solution to our national energy challenges."

The Green Power Express is just one step in ITC's broader efforts to modernize the overburdened, aging electricity grid. This project will be an integral component to ITC's efforts to create a high-voltage backbone that can meet America's renewable energy goals and eliminate costly inefficiencies in the grid.
Lots of wonderful goodness there. Until you get to the fine print.
The Green Power Express transmission project will traverse portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana and will ultimately include approximately 3,000 miles of extra high-voltage (765 kV) transmission. The entire project is currently estimated to cost approximately $10 to 12 billion. Portions of the Green Power Express fall within the service territory of ITC Midwest, an ITC subsidiary. ITC has been working with many of the Upper Midwest wind developers over the last year in assembling a realistic accounting of their wind development plans and sites, which resulted in the design of the Green Power Express.
That transmission is going to be done with AC which is not the most efficient over long distances for a number of technical reasons. DC also gives you something for wind generators - it can accept variable frequency AC easily (because it is converted to DC. In addition the power quality of the AC does not need to be very good. So what does that mean? Cheaper (and possibly lighter) generators for all those wind turbines. The savings in wind turbine costs might very well pay for a significant part of the line costs. Unfortunately we have separated generation from transmission (it does have its good points in diversifying sources of supply) so that the system costs are not properly accounted for.

I suppose that political pressure could be brought to bear to get the transmission companies to do the right thing.

Contact Government:

House of Representatives
The Senate
The President

Cross Posted at Classical Values


Jake Gray said...

A few notes about DC power lines:

They are great for transferring large amounts of power between two points very far away. They are not so great when you want to have multiple connection points. Every point requires a converter station which gets pricey quick.

As for how it affects the wind power developers, it really doesn't. All the major manufacturers make equipment assuming you will connect into an AC grid through a transformer. And even if the new line was a DC line, they would still have to generate the power as AC, switch it up to the required transmission voltage, and then rectify it at high voltage.

I don't want to say there isn't room for more DC lines. There certainly is, especially between the different grid areas where a DC line doesn't have to worry about things like phase angle.

But, this project is looking to hook up multiple areas. I am sure they have been looking at DC lines, especially with ABB being as pushy as they are with their new cheaper DC equipment.

Keep up the good work.

M. Simon said...

I understand all that. Local distribution AC. Long distance transmission DC.

And yes the wind guys will use AC to run the power converters. However, power quality for such uses need not be near as clean as AC transmitted on the network. And conversion from AC to DC is not near as complicated as conversion from DC to AC.

LarryD said...

Anyone want to give odds that the power lines will be stalled by environmentalist lawsuits for years, and that's after the politicians and bureaucrats finally make a decision.