The U.S. transmission grid is the largest interconnected electrical network in the world. Electricity is delivered throughout the grid by more than 450,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines. With the aging transmission infrastructure and the push for a smarter grid, extensive upgrades are expected in order to keep up with the nation’s rising energy demands.
We’ll discuss below how the transmission system is critical to our way of life.
Reliability and Resiliency
The continued reliability and resiliency of the nation’s electric power system is of vital importance. A more reliable grid is one with fewer and shorter power interruptions. A more resilient grid is one that is better prepared to recover from adverse events like severe weather.
According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Energy, severe weather is the leading cause of power outages in the United States, costing the economy between $18 and $33 billion every year. These costs are seen though lost output and wages, spoiled inventory, delayed production and damage to the grid infrastructure.
In order to better combat the reliability risks to the electric grid, top electricity generators are looking toward upgrading and modernizing their power systems. To accomplish this, utilities are employing synchrophaser technology and microgrids. Synchrophaser technology enhances visibility into grid conditions and helps grid operators identify and respond to abnormal conditions more quickly. Microgrids can operate independently of the grid during outages and are typically used to provide power during extreme weather events.
The aging grid has made Americans more susceptible to outages caused by severe weather. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 allocated $4.5 billion to the DOE for investments in modern grid technology, which has begun to increase the resilience and reliability of the grid. Since 2010, the DOE has invested more than $100 million in grid infrastructure in regards to cyber security.
Over the years, the power industry has looked toward the development of technologies or devices that increase the transmission network’s capacity rather than constructing new lines. Many of these now established technologies fall under the title of FACTS (Flexible AC Transmission Systems). They not only improve the capacity of power transmission systems, but flexibility is also greatly enhanced. FACTS can accomplish this because they are able to overcome certain limitations in static and dynamic transmission capacity of electrical networks.
Flexibility is also seen though the ability of transmission to use diverse resources such as wind, solar, coal and biomass, even if those resources are located far away from those who use the electricity. A strong transmission system gives power companies the flexibility to consider different alternatives to meet the demand for power.
Beta Engineering has designed and built numerous high voltage projects across the country. We specialize in EPC services for gas insulated substations (GIS), switchyards and substations, FACTS and high voltage transmission lines. Take a look at selected projects from our portfolio to find out more about the EPC solutions Beta can provide for you.