A FERC Order on managing transmission line ratings can provide alternatives to expensive network upgrades for renewable developers

Wind Power in Blue Sky

Renewable developers have another option to interconnect their projects sitting in the regional transmission organizations queue. LineVision’s dynamic line ratings and SmartWires’s SmartValve lead the charge on providing options to increase the existing transmission capacity by 40%. The trick is more transmission owners need to adopt these new technologies in place of transmission lines and new substations. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) on managing line ratings in docket # RM20-16.

Industry observers expect FERC to order RTOs to include dynamic transmission line ratings instead of static values, opening the door for more grid enhancing technologies as options for the renewable developers to connect their projects.

LineVision and SmartWires are part of the Grid Enhancing Technologies (GETs). There are 3 main applications of GETs – 1) renewable integration, 2) transmission congestion reduction, and 3) extending the life of transmission assets.

First application – Renewable integration

Grid Enhancing Technologies (GETs) provide the Transmission Owner (TO) with 40% more transmission capacity, but the challenge is the TO needs incentives to propose a GET solution instead of a network upgrade. Those incentives may come from the FERC order on managing line ratings.

SmartWires is a company with “pull and push” Flexible AC Transmission System (FACTS) technology with their product SmartValve. When a transmission line is overloaded due to the injection of MWs from an RE developer request, with a SmartValve installed on a couple of transmission lines, the power is “pushed” away from overloaded T line to lightly loaded lines. With this solution, the remaining T lines that are “pulling” those injected MWs from overloaded lines are freed up to allow for more capacity for the interconnection customer.

The second application is transmission congestion reduction.

LineVision is a contactless device because it eliminates the need to take down a transmission line during the installation process. With advanced sensors and cloud-based technology, and security, LineVision brings information technology to the resistant-to-change utility industry.

On the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) transmission system, LineVision and American Electric Power (AEP) monitored a 161 kV AEP line in Arkansas. In March 2018, the dynamic line ratings of the 161 kV line compared to the static ratings saved $18,000 in transmission congestion charges, according to a LineVision whitepaper. This case is a clear example of how air ambient adjusted dynamic line ratings leverage changing system conditions and provide an accurate picture of the transmission system, which provides comfort for the transmission operators.

Additionally, PJM RTO is supportive of LineVision Dynamic Line Ratings (DLR). Xcel Energy, National Grid, Dominion, and Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) are some of the utilities which have already installed LineVision’s product. These technologies are not unique to the US energy ecosystem. Both LineVision and SmartWires have offices in the US and Europe.

Third application – Extending the age of existing transmission lines.

Just like LineVision and SmartWires are not the only companies in grid enhancing technology space, renewable integration and reduction in transmission congestion are not the only uses of GETs. An additional benefit to asset owners from these technologies is the extension of exiting transmission assets’ asset life.

With variability in solutions such as transmission tower-based, ground-mounts, and containerized SmartValve’s, transmission owners can look at their entire transmission asset portfolio. SmartWires, LineVision, Ampacimon, Lindsey Systems, NewGrid, WindSim, and Heimdall Power are Working for Advanced Transmission Technologies (WATT) coalition members.

In their comments on FERC NOPR, the WATT coalition strongly suggests that FERC requires transmission providers and owners to use dynamic line ratings.

FERC NOPR on Grid Enhancing Technologies shows laser-like focus on generator interconnection reform process

Many utilities have signed up with Grid Enhancing Technologies, yet, we need more. FERC order on managing line ratings would incentivize TOs to use these new technologies.

FERC started down this path back in 2019 with a technical conference. FERC technical conferences shed some light on industry practices reporting normal and emergency ratings among RTOs. Additionally, since independent market monitors report to the RTO Board from a governance perspective, there is a lot to learn from the market monitor comments. In the MISO case, FERC learned at the Sep 2019 technical conference that some MISO TOs consider the limiting element (a T line) to establish an emergency rating as confidential.

If RTOs and TOs don’t play ball, the interconnection customer gets disadvantaged in the process. A FERC order on transmission line ratings would fix this issue.