Modernizing the Electrical Grid Part 1: Evaluating Your System
May 18, 2020
Utility Dive recently reported on the state of the nation’s energy grid: “a 2015 report from the U.S. Department of Energy concluded 70% of power transformers are 25 years of age or older, 60% of circuit breakers are 30 years or older and 70% of transmission lines are 25 years or older.”
As stress on the nation’s electrical grid accelerates, consumers and businesses will demand higher levels of reliability and resiliency as well as better customer service. These demands will combine with an increase in the growth of infrastructure needed to support electric vehicles in the years to come, and the penetration of distributed energy resources (DER) and load-side technologies.
Threats such as cyberterrorism and super storms are also likely to increase in the years ahead to put even more stress on our aging system. Energy companies will be pushed to ensure that our electrical grid is not only secure, but also has the resiliency to continue operating in the event of a catastrophe.
Because every utility is in a different position with their grid modernization efforts, it’s imperative that each system be uniquely evaluated to pinpoint high-risk areas that need improvement, and develop a hierarchical solution based on the priorities of the utility.
We recommend starting with a distribution-level study, which involves the collection of data and information to determine the overall reliability and resiliency of your grid. This study should include the following elements:
1. GIS and Electric System Model eview/development;
2. Reliability Metric Review (SAIDI, SAIFI, MAIFI); and
3. Existing Infrastructure and Asset Evaluation
A Geographic Information System (GIS) and power system analysis tool can be utilized to supplement these studies and the planning required at this stage to help prioritize the needs and components of the utility’s grid modernization initiatives.
After evaluating your system, analyze the results to determine which high-risk areas need to be addressed immediately to show improvements in the overall system. Using a tiered approach, risks should be classified from immediate/urgent to less urgent projects. Using a hierarchical approach allows a company to see the full spectrum of work that needs to be initiated to modernize its grid, with the intent of determining how much and when to spread out the modernization work.
After identifying risks, the next stage is to build a framework of specific projects, including new equipment and technology implementation. Costs must be included at this stage to create an analysis of projected system improvement value.
By taking these steps now, energy companies can set up the foundation for preparing to add DERs and new dynamic loads in the future, such as EV-charging stations, as well as preparing for a possible surge in stimulus funds to fund infrastructure projects.
The future is here, now. Ulteig engineers are experts in planning and solving complex problems. Allow us to put our expertise to work in creating well-designed plans for implementing grid modernization.
By Josh Guck, Grid Modernization Lead
Josh Guck brings nearly a decade of distribution engineering experience to Ulteig’s Power and Renewable markets. As the Grid Modernization lead, he is able to support clients throughout the US in developing innovative solutions to help navigate the fast-paced changes occurring in our industry.