How mobile deployments of power-flow control will transform utilities

Utility operations groups now have a tool to enable and extend clearance windows for construction and maintenance projects, writes Stephanie Cooper, Business Development Specialist at Smart Wires.
Published: Fri 08 Jun 2018

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Today’s utilities are upgrading and improving their grids to facilitate renewable integration, increase cross-border trades and integrate new technologies like rooftop solar and electric vehicles.

The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E), developed a Ten Year Network Development Plan (TYNDP) including €150bn of investment plans by 2030.

Eurelectric, the association that represents 2,400 European electricity distribution companies, anticipates €400bn of distribution system investment from 2013-2020.  

As utilities plan for these large capital projects, they must plan line outages in order to complete the construction and maintenance. These outage windows are becoming harder and harder to secure, making it more challenging to deliver on the ambitious grid improvement plans.

For example, if a utility is unable to secure a long enough outage, a major project may incur a year (or longer) delay until the next shoulder (low load) season. Unexpected challenges outside the normal planning process, such as a generation closure, can also throw a wrench into the mix.

Are there smart investments that utilities can pursue to help meet these aggressive and challenging timelines for delivering key projects?  

Flexible AC transmission systems

Utilities have realised that they often have excess capacity on their existing grids but are unable to fully utilise this because certain lines overload. Modular FACTS (flexible AC transmission systems) devices can change line reactance to push or pull power based on system needs.

By pushing power away from an overloaded line, utilities can take an outage that was not previously possible. This tool will expand outage windows and accelerate completion of key projects.

Smart Wires provides an intelligent ‘valve’ for transmission grids that allows utilities to quickly and inexpensively capture excess capacity that exists on their grids today. These modular solutions are quick to install, easy to redeploy and provide the flexibility needed in today’s uncertain landscape.

In this case, the utility cannot take an outage of the top power line to complete a reconductoring project because it causes an overload on the middle line. However, there is spare, under-utilised capacity on the bottom line.

While utilities have been able to leverage this technology in fixed (substation or right-of-way) deployments for years, Smart Wires latest advancement makes the technology even more accessible by incorporating it into a containerised mobile unit.

Mobile deployment method

Since its founding, Smart Wires has been developing rapidly deployable and re-deployable modular FACTS devices.

The mobile deployment method represents the fullest realisation of those unique aspects of Smart Wires technology, by offering a temporary means of changing line reactance which can help enable or extend construction or maintenance outage windows.

By installing a mobile deployment of power flow control, power is pushed from the over utilised line and flow onto the underutilised line. This alleviates the constraint and allows the utility to take an outage or extend the existing window past the shoulder months.

Both Power Guardians (“push” devices) and SmartValves (“push” and “pull” devices) can be installed using the mobile deployment method.

Installation and commissioning requires three to four days and a limited outage window, ranging from a few hours to a day based on site condition.

A mobile deployment of modular FACTS devices can also resolve overloads when permitting or construction is delaying the permanent, long-term solution.

Utilities around the world are realising that these solutions can transform their strategy and approach to upgrading their grids.

Learn more about Smart Wires mobile deployment at an upcoming webinar. On Thursday, June 28, Casey Heier, Director of Mobile Solutions, will discuss how utilities can use this tool to enable and extend clearance windows for construction and maintenance projects.