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How does our electrical grid work?

Discussions of conventional and alternative energy production technologies.

Re: Price of oil near US grid electricity costs?

Unread postby Revi » Wed 06 Dec 2006, 10:55:28

I think Maine could have some signifigant wind power to add into the New England grid. We're going up to see the Mars Hill towers over Christmas vacation. They have a snowboarding place so the kid will like it too. I am glad to hear that wind power is competitive now. They certainly take some stress off of the grid. (New England's grid is most stressed in the wintertime, unlike most others in the US) Here's some info on it:

http://www.upcwind.com/projects-marshill.php
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Re: Price of oil near US grid electricity costs?

Unread postby MrBill » Thu 07 Dec 2006, 05:18:15

Revi wrote:I think Maine could have some signifigant wind power to add into the New England grid. We're going up to see the Mars Hill towers over Christmas vacation. They have a snowboarding place so the kid will like it too. I am glad to hear that wind power is competitive now. They certainly take some stress off of the grid. (New England's grid is most stressed in the wintertime, unlike most others in the US) Here's some info on it:

http://www.upcwind.com/projects-marshill.php


Here is another, Revi.
TransCanada, an energy company based in Calgary, Alberta, plans to apply within 30 days for a permit to build a $250 million to $300 million wind farm on two western Maine mountains.

TransCanada will ask the Land Use Regulation Commission for permission to install 44 turbines on 13.7 miles of ridge line on Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range, just south of the Quebec border.

Canadian company to seek permit for western Maine wind farm
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Re: Price of oil near US grid electricity costs?

Unread postby Revi » Thu 07 Dec 2006, 12:28:24



Here is another, Revi.
TransCanada, an energy company based in Calgary, Alberta, plans to apply within 30 days for a permit to build a $250 million to $300 million wind farm on two western Maine mountains.

TransCanada will ask the Land Use Regulation Commission for permission to install 44 turbines on 13.7 miles of ridge line on Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range, just south of the Quebec border.

Canadian company to seek permit for western Maine wind farm[/quote]

Yes! I'd like to see even more of them around here. Maine could be the renewable energy producer of New England! LURC better pass this one!
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Re: How does our electrical grid work?

Unread postby Tanada » Tue 03 Jan 2017, 13:01:53

ROCKMAN wrote:Perhaps there is a NATIONAL practical approach to deal with that approaching beast. In case some missed it in the News section I wanted them to be aware of a book our cohort Energy Investor just made the Rockman aware of: "The Grid - The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future".

Perhaps someone should send President-elect Trump a copy. Perhaps a much better infrastructure investment then much the many the tens of $BILLIONS spent on "shovel ready" projects in recent years. Maybe the new POTUS could appoint a czar of a new national EXCOT group. LOL. From a review:

"America's electrical grid, an engineering triumph of the twentieth century, is turning out to be a poor fit for the present. It's not just that the grid has grown old and is now in dire need of basic repair. Today, as we invest great hope in new energy sources--solar, wind, and other alternatives--the grid is what stands most firmly in the way of a brighter energy future. If we hope to realize this future, we need to re-imagine the grid according to twenty-first-century values. It's a project which forces visionaries to work with bureaucrats, legislators with storm-flattened communities, moneymen with hippies, and the left with the right. And though it might not yet be obvious, this revolution is already well under way."

See more at: http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/the-grid-9 ... Ypttu.dpuf

EI's post also allows the Rockman to point out for the umtenth time that the big alt energy build out in Texas would not have happened without $7 BILLION in tax payer monies being spent to improve the Texas grid. The Texas grid that is not part of the two national electric grids the book discusses.


This is actually one of those places where America falls behind simply because most countries treat the Electrical grid like any other piece of infrastructure, roads, seaports, canals are seen as government responsibilities. In the good old USA with our apple pie and so on Electricity and Railroads are the exception to the infrastructure rules, both are owned and maintained by private entities to standards set by private entities subject to government regulatory standards.

I would wager that 90 percent plus of the Joe6P Americans and Canadians think all those wires on the high tension poles all the way to the breaker box in their wall are made of copper. The truth is the lines from the local substation around town and to your home used to be copper and if you have an older home might well still be because nobody went back and changed things after the fact. But pretty much everything built in the last 30 years and a lot of stuff built earlier has aluminum drop lines tracing all the way back from your breaker box to the pole and through the different sub stations right back to the big generator at the local power plant. Why? Well for one thing aluminum is a heck of a lot cheaper than copper. For another it is also a heck of a lot lighter, which means a lot less stress on the power utility poles 24/7/365. In fact if you know for certain you will be stringing Aluminum you can set the power poles further apart saving costs on material and maintenance for the life of that branch of the grid. Even a lot of skyscrapers in cities use an aluminum beam up the core of the building as the main trunk feed to deliver power to each floor of the building.

In fact the advantages of Aluminum in price terms are so large for a brief period in the early 1970's it was used for branch wiring going from the breaker box to the switches and wall outlets inside homes. Unfortunately when electricians who were unfamiliar with the new wire and not trained in its proper use did not follow the now current standards and practices it lead to a number of house fires from bad wiring. As a result many municipalities passed laws or regulations forbidding aluminum wiring on branch circuits in human occupied structures. As a result you get aluminum right up to the breaker box, and in many cases to the dedicated circuits for the electric stove, water heater and drier, with old fashioned copper wire going to the switches and plugs throughout the space.

Instead of learning the lesson that new materials need new techniques and training to be used safely the municipal and sometimes state governments decided all interior customer accessible wiring had to be the same material that had been used for most of the prior 100 years. I say most of because if you ever do renovation work on a truly old house that was wired in the early 20th century you might see things that you would never see today. For example in the 1800's it was common to use 'copper clad' wiring for telegraph and telephone lines. Copper clad wire is a steel strand that has a relatively thick copper plated layer on the exterior. To the casual look it appears to be copper wire but it is not, and the current it can safely carry is much lower than the same diameter of pure copper wire. You also might come across places where they ran a few feet short of copper wire and rather than buy a new spool they just made up the distance with steel fence strand wire or barbed wire. Needless to say the tar paper sheath on copper clad wire is not a highly durable insulator, but bare steel strand wire is completely uninsulated. Now there is nothing wrong with using steel wire in your home if that is what you want to do, but because it is far less conductive than copper or aluminum you need to use a much heavier gauge wire that is much less flexible and more prone to kinks and breaks as it is fed through wall spaces or conduit.

What we need is not a 'smart grid' where individual consumer products can be cycled on and off at the direction of the central processing computer. What we need is for the consumer to have some idea how electricity works instead of it being this magical thing where they flip a switch here and a light comes on over there. Sadly I doubt we will every get that.
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Re: How does our electrical grid work?

Unread postby Newfie » Tue 03 Jan 2017, 13:41:56

True Tanda, to some extent even the most Worley and clever live in a magical world. For many it's almost all magic and alternative reality. When you don't understand a breaker box then almost anything you see on TV becomes possible. Like Russians hacking voting machines not connected to the net.
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Re: How does our electrical grid work?

Unread postby sparky » Tue 03 Jan 2017, 17:26:43

.
A simple analog for the grid reticulation is to think of a network of water pipes

the voltage is pressure , the current is volume

the problem with renewable is that they are like a mesa river , dry beds and sudden massive flooding
to use them you need to size for the largest flow , which is costly and often unused

for the conducting material , if you want a trickle , pretty much any conducting material will do
the consideration are cost , durability and ease of use
the problem with Aluminium is that the joints must be done very carefully , it crack if stressed too much and Aluminium has a love affair with oxygen , corrosion is a constant issue

I've worked in the old Soviet Union , they had plenty of hydro-power and very little copper ore deposits
most of the wiring was aluminum ( they kept copper for making bullets )

They also had fridges without motors ,using thermo-electric conversion ,not so efficient but silent .
but since electricity was virtually free , it didn't matter .
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Re: How does our electrical grid work?

Unread postby kublikhan » Tue 03 Jan 2017, 19:05:02

Tanada wrote:What we need is not a 'smart grid' where individual consumer products can be cycled on and off at the direction of the central processing computer. What we need is for the consumer to have some idea how electricity works instead of it being this magical thing where they flip a switch here and a light comes on over there. Sadly I doubt we will every get that.
Seems to me that if we avoid building new peaker plants by using demand response it's a win-win for everyone. California tried the education route with it's voluntary water conservation plan. It was ineffectual. Only when mandatory rules were put in place did they see effective savings. By making the savings automatic like with demand response you are much more likely to see results than education alone.
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Re: How does our electrical grid work?

Unread postby sparky » Sat 07 Jan 2017, 18:14:57

.
Consumer awareness rise very fast when the supply get restricted ,
Bulgaria post communism , Beyrout during the civil war ,whole suburbs of Delhi all the times and many other places
became quite wise about electrical supply ,
you use it when /if available or you invest in a portable generator to be run at critical time for very restricted items ,
lights , media and coms .
heating A/C and hot water are definitely off ,those are the thermal hogs .

A reliable grid is the true Hallmark of a functioning society
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Re: How does our electrical grid work?

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Sun 08 Jan 2017, 00:02:17

Revi - Links are dead but no problamo. As far as shipping any of that wind power around the region: can the grid handle it today? As pointed out the Texas wind boom would not have happened had the state not spent $7 BILLION of tax payer money to upgrade our grid.

From what little I understand about the other two US grids there are some serious problems with shipping power from sources to where needed.
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Re: How does our electrical grid work?

Unread postby baha » Sun 08 Jan 2017, 09:22:50

Like Sparky said, electricity works like water, it runs downhill. A high tension wire line is like a big pipe. And a small interconnection is like a little pipe.

The term grid is not really accurate, our 'grid' is a hub and star configuration due the nature of centralized generation. The pipes go from the powerplant at the top of the hill to the loads at the bottom. There are no 'high capacity' connections between loads as there would be in a 'grid'. There are a few interconnections but they are not intended to support the whole star at the other end. The pipe isn't big enough...

A grid upgrade involves installing pipes from the distributed sources (formerly loads) to the other existing loads. Or from a new source of power off in the plains of Texas where there are no loads. Just because we are on the same grid and I pay you doesn't mean your power can get to me...It only works because all the power gets used somewhere.

In a fully distributed grid environment there would be a minimum of high capacity pipes and more interconnections. And the power would not have far to go from source to load.
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Re: How does our electrical grid work?

Unread postby baha » Sun 08 Jan 2017, 09:31:48

If I want to sell you power and you are on a different star on the grid, I have to pump the power uphill to the powerplant or substation in order for it to run downhill in a different direction to you. What that means is I have to raise the voltage of my system until I am on a higher hill than the powerplant. That causes problems. Grid tied solar inverters raise their voltage until the power flows out onto the grid.
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Re: How does our electrical grid work?

Unread postby baha » Sun 08 Jan 2017, 09:39:21

And if everyone in one neighborhood makes power and the pipe leaving the neighborhood is too small the voltage in that area spikes to dangerous levels trying to push that power thru the pipe. Of course inverters have limits and will shut down in this event.
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Re: How does our electrical grid work?

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Sun 08 Jan 2017, 10:03:12

Baja - Some more views of the US electrical distribution system. From 2015:

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/new ... iency.html

"A $2 trillion push in the U.S. to blend renewable energy into the power supply and fortify transmission lines against extreme weather means that Americans must act more like Europeans to keep their power costs down. Even with electricity rates as much as three times higher than what the average American pays, French, Italian and German consumers still enjoy lower monthly bills. That’s because they use less energy due in large part to new smart technology, smaller homes, denser populations and more efficient appliances.

...the U.S., ranks only 13th of 16 countries in energy efficiency among the world’s major economies, according to the American Council for an Energy- Efficient Economy...Increased efficiency in energy use would create “some level of savings” that could help fund system upgrades that “might require a whole hell of a lot of money up front,” Wellinghoff said. Boosting efficiency is a key piece of President Barack Obama’s plan to combat climate change, which seeks a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions from existing power plants by 2030. It also makes good business sense. Investments in energy conservation are cheaper than building expensive new power plants to meet electricity demand.

Grid Investments - In the U.S., investments in the power grid lag Europe. Since 2000, the U.K., Italy, Spain, France and Germany have spent a combined $150.3 billion on energy-efficiency programs, compared with $96.7 billion for the U.S, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The U.S. grid, described as the most complicated machine in the world, needs about $2 trillion in upgrades by 2030, according to a report this month from the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Snowmass, Colorado-based energy consultant."
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Re: How does our electrical grid work?

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Sun 08 Jan 2017, 10:19:35

baha - And more on the $7 BILLION upgrade of the Texas interconnections (which you refer to) that allowed the big expansion of wind power in the state:

"The Texas Interconnection is an alternating current (AC) power grid – a wide area synchronous grid – that covers most of the state of Texas. The grid is managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). It is one of the three minor grids in the continental U.S. power transmission grid. The other two minor interconnections are the Quebec Interconnection and the Alaska Interconnection. The two major interconnections are the Eastern Interconnection and the Western Interconnection. The Texas Interconnection is maintained as a separate grid for political, rather than technical reasons. All of the electric utilities in the Texas Interconnection are electrically tied together during normal system conditions and operate at a synchronized frequency operating at an average of 60 Hz.

Interconnections can be tied to each other via high-voltage direct current power transmission lines (DC ties), or with variable-frequency transformers (VFTs), which permit a controlled flow of energy while also functionally isolating the independent AC frequencies of each side. The Texas Interconnection is tied to the Eastern Interconnection with two DC ties, and has a DC tie and a VFT to non-NERC systems in Mexico. There is one AC tie switch in Dayton, Texas that has been used only one time in its history (after Hurricane Ike).

On October 13, 2009, the Tres Amigas SuperStation was announced to connect the Eastern, Western and Texas Interconnections via three 5 GW superconductor links
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Re: How does our electrical grid work?

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Sun 08 Jan 2017, 10:30:52

baha - And some progress powering CA I wasn't aware of:

One of New Mexico’s highest-profile electricity transmission projects is moving forward. The Western Interconnect, a 35-mile transmission line near Clovis that operates at 345 kV, is expected to begin delivering power to California Independent System Operator Corp. starting in early 2017, according to a June 30 press release from Pattern Energy Group Inc.

Russell Stidolph...confirmed...that Western Interconnect is the line Tres Amigas spent the last several years developing, and pointed to a December approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that allowed the project to move forward. “The first phase was, let’s get 30 miles of transmission done so we can move 500 MW of wind to California,” said Stidolph, “and that’s financed and under construction to be complete by year end.” “It’s a huge win for New Mexico, that much wind developed here and going all the way to California...” said Stidolph.

Tres Amigas also said in the filing that it plans to allocate 497 MW of the transmission line’s total 1,100 MW capacity to anchor tenants Broadview Wind Farm and Grady Wind Farm, and offer remaining capacity to other customers willing to accept the same rates, terms and conditions offered to anchor customers. Progress on the project is particularly significant because the proposed superstation would be located between several of the country’s largest electricity transmission grids.
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Re: How does our electrical grid work?

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Sun 08 Jan 2017, 10:47:51

Revi - With the below I'm wonder if those Trans-Canada wind farms are going to supply you state with power or maybe ship it back to Canada...or to other US states. Notice the previous post describes a new interconnection taking wind power from New Mexico to CA:

"The Québec Interconnection is a wide area synchronous grid and one of the three minor alternating-current (AC) electrical grids in the continental U.S. power transmission grid. The other two minor interconnections are the Texas and Alaska interconnections.

The Quebec Interconnection covers all of the Province of Quebec and operates at an average system frequency of 60 Hz. It connects 18 systems in the US and Canada to one electric utility company: Hydro-Québec. It is operated as an independent AC grid for physical reasons. Because of its unique status, it is often functionally considered part of the Eastern Interconnection. The Quebec Interconnection is tied to the Eastern Interconnection with four high-voltage direct current power transmission lines (DC ties), and with one variable-frequency transformers (VFTs) line, which isolate the unsynchronized AC frequencies of each side."
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Re: How does our electrical grid work?

Unread postby baha » Sun 08 Jan 2017, 10:51:21

Texas is doing it right but is still preoccupied with centralized generation. But, of course, it works because you can put those noisy wind turbines off in the distance instead of in your backyard. Interesting how they avoid frequency phase matching between grids by using DC.

I like the distributed model at least for residential use. It's really only a personal choice because I'm tired of TPTB telling me how much energy is worth and where to get it. I make my own choices. But being able to share energy across long distances helps smooth it all out.

Even if I am dependent on a green grid, I am still dependent. I prefer independence.
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Re: How does our electrical grid work?

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Sun 08 Jan 2017, 11:40:39

baha - "I make my own choices." Does that mean you can buy electricity from any seller in your area? That was a major change when Texas "deregulated" residential electrticity: I can contract with any seller (utility, generator, whole sale buyer, etc) in the grid whether they own a portion of the physical transmission system or not. The "electric company" does have to pay them something but those transmission owners aren't allowed to extort huge fees.

This is how the city of Georgetown, Texas, plans to go 100% alt (wind and solar). And that's the entire residential and commercial consumption. Not just the city government like those liers in Las Vegas. LOL. By agreeing to 20 year contracts that have higher intinial rates private investors could finance new wind and solar farms. And neither those investors nor the city own any of the transmission infrastructure. The dynamics are ruled over by our EXCOT.
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Re: How does our electrical grid work?

Unread postby baha » Sun 08 Jan 2017, 12:29:50

Unfortunately Duke power has a government approved monopoly in my area. Since the govt commission in charge is peopled by X-duke power employees and lakeys, and our now X-governor is also one:) Unfettered competition is a good thing but, as I said above, the nature of the grid prevents that in some cases. And to pay a price to the people who own the wires is only fair. In fact their business model is destroyed by distributed generation which is why they are fighting so hard.

Again my answer is...I'll make my own power and I won't help you finance anything. Especially a new nuke plant down south.
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Re: How does our electrical grid work?

Unread postby baha » Sun 08 Jan 2017, 12:43:28

I should add that the people put up with this monopoly because the rate here is so low. 10-12 cents/kw-hr is a great rate if you don't consider coal ash ponds and climate change a problem.
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