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Initial Resilience – Part 1

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This series looks at how various utility components impact resilience. In order to this we will look at each type of component, one at a time, along any factors that significantly impact resilience, economics or climate change.

In this first paper below we will cover "supporting structures" for overhead circuits, a.k.a. poles and towers, and current-carrying components. The latter includes conductors (cables and wires) but also devices that are slightly smarter (fuses) as well as those that actually include communicating and programmable components (reclosers and switches) and several other categories.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 10, 2019 11:04 pm GMT

Really informative-- thanks John. For these components, is the decision to not 'upgrade' or provide the needed work to ensure greater resilience one more or less just about the cost and associated risk analysis, or are there issues for which it's purely a technological problem and not one that a more expensive solution may have prevented?

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John Benson on Dec 11, 2019 6:36 pm GMT

Regarding the wooden vs. steel or concrete poles, I started out thinking I would recommend that wooden poles be upgraded, but as I gathered more and more information, it became a split-decision. There are advantages to both approaches, and a given area's climate strongly impacts how long a wooden pole will last. Per my normal practice I stuck to evaluating this decision from the viewpoint of California, which is a pretty good environment for wood poles. If I were in the Midwest or Southeast, I might recommend upgrading.

I'm working on the third paper in this series right now, and each type of component or element of the grid has some characteristics that enhance resilience. I believe this exercise is well worth doing, but it takes some major research and analysis to bring out the most important characteristics of each component.

In some cases there are some real surprises - like next week's post which will look at two alternative approaches that are technologically as different as two grid elements can be, but contribute to the same end result.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 11, 2019 10:04 pm GMT

Very interesting-- thanks as always for the feedback, John!

In Florida, I'm often asked by people why the heck the transmission infrastructure is on poles above ground knowing full-well that hurricanes can be problematic for this structure. Digging into it I was surprised to see just how much more expensive every aspect of underground T&D was and how that impacted those decisions. So I thought perhaps that same thinking was impacting these elsewhere-- but interesting to hear how different decisions vary in different regions. 

John Benson's picture
John Benson on Dec 13, 2019 5:47 pm GMT

One thing that surprises me about Florida Transmission is that they don't use more underwater HVDC. Go to an earlier paper (first link below), and section 4.2. Also this technology is getting much play on the east coast right now with all of the offshore wind going in further north (second link below).

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 13, 2019 10:18 pm GMT

Wow, really interesting John. I hadn't heard of anyone discussing using underwater transmission for anything other than off-shore wind, but you're saying the advantage would be more direct transmission from (on-shore) generation to consumption, would save valuable land, and would maybe be more efficient and resilient? I wonder where in FL's geography it'd be most effective and useful

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