The capacity of the grid needs to grow to accommodate new demands from renewable energy projects.
In the continental United States, around 500 power companies operate more than 160,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines known as “the grid.”
The capacity of the grid needs to grow to accommodate new demands from renewable energy projects. Not only do we need more transmission capacity to carry renewable power, but we also need to optimize the use of the energy that we already have (i.e. increasing capacity + reducing congestion).
Congestion costs on key U.S. transmission networks rose from $3.8 billion in 2016 to just over $5 billion in 2018, adding to the costs of energy delivered to customers. The lack of capacity on key portions of the country’s grid is also preventing new renewable energy projects from being activated.
GreenTech media calls out the top four budding technologies that are addressing these concerns head-on:
These technologies collect actual, not predicted, data on the condition of transmission lines. This data allows the lines to live out their full life without getting prematurely retired. It also works in the reverse and can call attention to lines that have dwindled early and are posing a fire risk.
Optimizing transmission flows is an extremely data-heavy task that creates real-time decision bottlenecks for grid operators and dispatchers. This technology uses deep computing and mathematics to automate this process and allows operators to accurately navigate the capacity to avoid congestion.
When certain areas of the grid are heavily loaded, it can trigger a systemwide capacity limit which leaves other lines underutilized. These technologies can both decrease and increase transmission line carrying limits and can bypass capacity caps.
Despite all the innovation in the first three technologies, transmission lines will still ultimately face congestion. Energy storage can address these issues and serve as an alternative to building new transmission lines.
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