The U.S. Midwest has large wind energy potential, and it’s a rising goal for solar energy tasks as properly. What it lacks is the transmission capability to hold that clear vitality to market — a pricey drawback compounded by convoluted transmission planning guidelines which have held again gigawatts of wind tasks over the previous few years. 

That’s how Beth Soholt, govt director of the Clear Grid Alliance, describes the problem for Midwest renewable vitality builders, utilities and grid operators attempting to develop the area’s clear vitality assets. “Our basic drawback is a scarcity of transmission capability,” she stated. “We want extra wire.” 

After years of stymied development, interstate grid operators are searching for new methods to share prices and advantages throughout the area’s vitality stakeholders, she stated. Whereas which may be too late to permit stalled wind tasks to seize expiring federal tax credit, it’s nonetheless a serious alternative to create the situations wanted to fulfill the nation’s large demand for carbon-free vitality within the decade to return. 

Take this week’s creation of a joint planning initiative between the Midcontinent Unbiased System Operator (MISO) and Southwest Energy Pool (SPP), meant to establish transmission tasks that would convey worth to prospects alongside the “seam,” or border separating the 2 grid operators’ territories. That seam cuts from north to south throughout the nation’s wind-rich Nice Plains, making it a key barrier to transmission traces that would carry wind energy to jap markets hungry for carbon-free vitality. 

However getting grid operators to establish the worth of transmission tasks crossing these borders, and thus permitting the utilities that will construct them to get better their prices, is a mind-bogglingly advanced job, Soholt stated. 

(Picture courtesy of MISO) 

The ‘triple hurdle’ of transmission value restoration 

First, would-be tasks have to be included in MISO and SPP’s annual research to find out if new transmission is required, she stated. However these research don’t essentially think about non-reliability points, comparable to the worth of the brand new era capability they might introduce to every grid operator’s markets, or whether or not the carbon-free nature of that vitality helps states or utilities meet carbon-reduction objectives extra cheaply than different options. 

Even when each MISO and SPP discover cross-seam transmission mission meets these thresholds, it should then be subjected to a joint course of that tries to align one grid operators’ distinct metrics and strategies for measuring prices and advantages with the opposite’s. “We name it the triple hurdle,” she stated.

The Federal Power Regulatory Fee (FERC) meant to ease these sorts of disconnects with the passage of Order 1000 in 2011, which mandated coordinated transmission planning and cost-sharing between states, grid operators and utilities. However these Order 1000-mandated processes haven’t delivered, based on a number of grid coverage specialists. 

“We’ve not seen any vital inter-regional tasks since I used to be chairman of FERC in 2009,” Jon Wellinghoff, former FERC chairman and present CEO of Grid Coverage, instructed Greentech Media earlier this 12 months. 

Daniel Corridor, central area director of electrical energy and transmission for the American Wind Power Affiliation (AWEA), agreed that the Order 1000-created coordinated system plan (CSP) course of between SPP and MISO hasn’t yielded fruit. “That course of has to not date recognized a single mission,” Corridor stated. 

That’s an enormous drawback for wind and solar energy builders concentrating on the area. MISO and SPP between them have roughly 210 gigawatts of era of their interconnection queue, of which about 85 p.c is wind and photo voltaic, he stated. However absent a course of to allow new transmission capability prices to be shared throughout a number of events, these wind and photo voltaic builders are accountable for paying for the transmission upgrades required to interconnect them — and people prices could make or break a mission’s financial viability. 

Clear vitality development within the stability

Corridor and Soholt cited the instance of about 5 GW of renewable vitality tasks, largely wind farms, that had been a part of MISO’s 2017 era interconnection queue. As a result of the transmission required to permit these tasks to hook up with the grid wasn’t included in MISO or SPP’s research, the builders had been saddled with the prices of constructing it themselves. 

That’s pressured nearly of the tasks to drop out of the working, most not too long ago the 157 MW Brickyard Hill wind farm to be constructed by EDF Renewables for utility Ameren Missouri. Of the unique 5 GW, solely about 140 MW of viable tasks stay, Soholt stated. 

Likewise, utility AEP was pressured to cancel its 2 GW Wind Catcher wind mission in 2018, partially as a result of it might require a $1.6 billion transmission improve, and return to state regulators with a smaller-scale mission that did not require main transmission builds. 

These processes are distinct from people who apply to service provider transmission tasks just like the Grain Belt Categorical or TransWest Categorical, that are being developed independently of the cost-of-service mechanisms driving FERC-regulated grid operator insurance policies, Soholt famous. Whereas these are gigawatt-scale tasks connecting far-off wind energy to markets, “they’re only a drop within the bucket to what we actually want,” she stated. 

Fixing these disconnects would require a whole lot of work, however it may be completed. Again in 2011 MISO workers really helpful 17 transmission tasks, price about $5.2 billion, in its “multi-value tasks” (MVP) portfolio, which have since expanded the area’s wind energy transmission capability by about 25 GW, Soholt stated. As a part of that broader enlargement, 11 transmission-owning utilities shaped the “CapX2020 initiative” to coordinate their cost-sharing strategy to financing about three,600 MW of that capability, she added. 

The MVP and CapX2020 course of “are examples the place folks pooled their collective want and got here up with a bundle that labored for everybody,” she stated. That’s just like Texas’s Aggressive Renewable Power Zone coverage, which helped convey new transmission to hold West Texas wind energy to jap cities. 

However the capability enabled by the MVP course of is now roughly tapped out, she stated. AWEA and the Clear Grid Alliance are among the many renewable vitality business teams working with MISO and SPP to modernize their transmission planning regimes to permit related cooperative efforts to select up the place it left off. 

Past particular person efforts at MISO and SPP, the newly launched ‘seam’ joint initiative might yield a brand new set of processes for valuing tasks throughout each grid operators’ methods, and hopefully a set of transmission tasks that might be included of their upcoming 2021 research, she stated.  

“If we are able to simply get a planning course of that may work to floor tasks, after which determine how we’re going to allocate the associated fee, based mostly on the values and advantages they’re going to convey to the markets, then we have now one thing to work with,” she stated. “But when we are able to’t execute on a few of these items, we’re useless within the water.” 

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