A Case for Modern Power Line Conductors
image credit: AEP by permission
- Sep 11, 2020 9:27 pm GMTSep 11, 2020 4:52 pm GMT
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As regulators in the U.S. move away from a “risk based” approach to a “consumer benefits” approach when considering ROI’s for transmission investment, the case for deploying modern powerline conductors has never been stronger.
Classic 100 year old steel reinforced (ACSR) conductors are now being replaced worldwide by composite core conductors such as ACCC. Developed initially to carry twice the current of conventional steel reinforced conductors to alleviate congested transmission lines, reduce thermal sag, associated sag-trip outages, fire hazards, and other reliability issues, modern ACCC Conductors offer far more than meets the eye.
Though classified as a High-Temperature, Low-Sag (“HTLS”) conductor, The ACCC Conductor actually operates much cooler than other conductors of the same diameter and weight under equal load conditions.
There is nothing magic about it:
The ACCC Conductor’s carbon and glass fiber core is 70% lighter than its steel counterpart and 50 to 100% stronger. The lighter weight core allows nearly 30% more aluminum to be incorporated without any weight or diameter penalty. The added aluminum content serves to lower the conductor’s electrical resistance which reduces line losses by 25 to 40% or more.
Here’s why it matters:
Reduced line losses serves to reduce fuel consumption and associated emissions. This helps reduce the cost of delivered power for the utility and the consumer. And it can help Utilities meet their Emission Reduction Initiatives when taken into consideration during the design phase.
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The magnitude of reduced line losses and associated emission reductions offered by the ACCC Conductor is not insignificant. So remarkable is this attribute that the Asian Development Bank, World Bank and others are actually funding dozens of ACCC transmission projects, worldwide, not only to deliver more power to support economic development, but specifically to help them achieve their carbon emission reduction objectives. On top of this, other entities are providing project grant funds to further support emission reduction benefits. Here in the U.S., Green Bond Financing should play a major role in modernizing and expanding our transmission system using modern conductors such as ACCC for the same reasons. Reduced line losses not only reduces fuel consumption and associated emissions, it also frees up generation capacity that is otherwise wasted. This can help a wind or solar farm deliver more power (and increased ROI) for a given investment or reduce upfront capital costs.
But wait, there’s more:
Did you know that thermal generation and nuclear power plants consume anywhere from 10,000 to 60,000 gallons of clean filtered water for every megawatt hour of electricity generated? Line loss reductions can effectively reduce clean water consumption.
Classic Project Example:
In 2016, American Electric Power won the Edison Award for Transmission Project of the Year. They replaced two 120 mile long 345 kV circuits of ACSR conductor with ACCC Conductor with a goal of nearly doubling line capacity without having to rebuild or replace existing structures (to save time and money). The project was completed while the line remained energized. While the primary goals were achieved and the project completed eight months ahead of schedule, the use of ACCC Conductor also reduced line losses by 30%.
Reduced line losses in this case translates into a 300,000 MWh savings per year (~$15 million @ $50.00 / MWh). It also reduces CO2 emissions by ~200,000 metric tons per year (the equivalent of removing 34,000 cars from the road). This also freed-up 34 MW of generation (assuming base generation operating at 100%). Translated, if the same benefit was desired considering wind generation at a capacity factor of ~40%, the savings would equate to roughly 80 MW (an additional ~$80 million dollar savings).
Though the cost of the conductor was only a small percentage of the overall project cost (which included substation upgrades), the use of ACCC Conductor benefited AEP, their customers and the environment and saving over 3.6 million gallons of clean filtered water every year – the amount of water consumed by over 68,000 people!
As regulators in the U.S. move away from a “risk based” approach to a “consumer benefits” approach when considering ROI’s for transmission investment, the case for deploying modern power line conductors has never been stronger and these are the business cases that our Utilities should argue for.