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Plan to Zero – Power to the People! (#10)

Doug Houseman's picture
Visionary and innovator in the utility industry and grid modernization Burns & McDonnell

I have a broad background in utilities and energy. I worked for Capgemini in the Energy Practice for more than 15 years. During that time I rose to the position of CTO of the 12,000 person...

  • Member since 2017
  • 254 items added with 91,317 views
  • Jan 24, 2023

Follow up to the ongoing 'Plan to Zero' articles:

Power to the people!

Distribution is the path to customers.

700,000 miles.

Distribution is 1,200-34,500 volts.

Most of it is over 40 years old or more. Capital investment has been less than 40% of replacement since the 1990s. Distribution has been the under invested since deregulation happened, thank state regulators and “sweating” the assets.

Much of the distribution system (based on 25,000 circuits) will not support even 20% electric vehicles using level 2 chargers (worse in downtown). Roughly 30% of circuits are 200 hours or more over nameplate.

People say microgrids are cheaper than rebuilding the distribution grid and we should ditch it, but microgrids are more than 6 times the cost of rebuilding the distribution grid. People in the top decile of income will likely be able to create microgrids, but the other 90% of people will be left in the dark.

Everyone assumes that summer peak is the issue, but no. It is winter night. When the math is done, supporting a microgrid on pure solar, is unaffordable in the winter. In Michigan 1kW of solar produces 300-350 watt-hours of power in a full day. For an average home, you need 24 kWh a day or 68 kW of solar panels and 66 kW of storag3. IF you have a sunny day every day of the winter. Add 1 electric vehicle and needs triple.

Grids started as microgrids in the 1890s and built a continent-wide grid. This was done for economic reasons.

We need to be proactive with distribution:
1)     Upgrade the voltage on circuits < 10kV
2)     Loop the circuits
3)     Install sectionalization
4)     Underground key portions
5)     Clear the rights of way
6)     Upsize service transformers

Until these are complete, the transition will lag. 


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Thank Doug for the Post!
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