Monday, December 29, 2008


Some reading on a modern power grid

by Larry Geller

There are several worthy documents circulating on how the country as a whole must move towards a modern system of power distribution.  This one is an overview from 30,000 feet, so to speak, and is easy reading: A Vision for the Modern Grid, by the National Electrical Testing Laboratory, dated March, 2007.

Here’s a snippet. Think of this weekend’s outage as you read. Shouldn’t we formulate similar goals for Hawaii? Especially note the first goal ( the grid “withstands most disturbances without failing. It takes corrective action before most users are affected.”)

… The Modern Grid vision will set the foundation for a transition that will focus on meeting the six key goals discussed below:

The grid must be more reliable. A reliable grid provides power dependably, when and where its users need it and of the quality they value. It provides ample warning of growing problems and withstands most disturbances without failing. It takes corrective action before most users are affected.

The grid must be more secure. A secure grid withstands physical and cyber attacks without suffering massive blackouts or exorbitant recovery costs. It is also less vulnerable to natural disasters and recovers more quickly.

The grid must be more economic. An economic grid operates under the basic laws of supply and demand, resulting in fair prices and adequate supplies.

The grid must be more efficient. An efficient grid takes advantage of investments that lead to cost control, reduced transmission and distribution electrical losses, more efficient power production and improved asset utilization. Methods to control the flow of power to reduce transmission congestion and allow access to low cost generating sources including renewables will be available.

The grid must be more environmentally friendly. An environmentally friendly grid reduces environmental impacts through initiatives in generation, transmission, distribution, storage and consumption. Access to sources of renewable energy will be expanded. Where possible, future designs for Modern Grid assets will occupy less land reducing the physical impact on the

The grid must be safer. A safe grid does no harm to the public or to grid workers and is sensitive to users who depend on it as a medical necessity.

Later on, the document describes the need for a self-healing system:

The self-healing grid will minimize disruption of service, employing modern technologies that can acquire data, execute decision-support algorithms, avert or limit interruptions, dynamically control the flow of power, and restore service quickly.

To create such a system nationally would require a massive investment. For an isolated state such as Hawaii, I wonder if it is actually more feasible. Certainly, our “high-tech future” depends to some extent on having a modern electrical system, so tech advocates ought to be behind modernizing the power grid just as they advocate improving our educational system etc.


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