The Role of Advanced Conductors in Meeting U.S. Decarbonization Goals
- Oct 21, 2021 7:09 pm GMT
One of the Biden Administration’s primary goals is to achieve 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035. While demand for electricity is anticipated to grow by as much as 40% by mid-century to support ‘electric conversion’ in the automotive, industrial and other sectors, the need to build a more robust and efficient electric power grid has never been more urgent.
Currently, approximately 65% of all electricity generated in the U.S. relies on fossil fuels - responsible for over 1.7 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions every year. To reduce this number to ZERO by 2035, approximately 53 GW of new carbon-free generation will need to be added to the grid every year for the next 14 years (not including additional generation resources needed to meet growing electrical demand in other sectors, including transportation). Unfortunately, the existing electric power grid is aged, inefficient, constrained and in many cases congested – meaning that it is unable to access cleaner generation resources. And, the current process for interconnecting large amounts of generation capacity is broken. Siting new transmission lines is nearly impossible and, if it can be done, the process can take a decade or more, which does not support the 2035 goal of ZERO-carbon emission in the electric sector.
Commercially Available Solution:
Fortunately, there is a transmission technology commercially available today that can greatly assist in the rapid integration of large amounts of new clean generation resources onto the existing grid. Replacing legacy steel-reinforced overhead conductors with advanced carbon fiber core overhead conductors such as ACCC can double the capacity of existing transmission lines without the need to reinforce or replace existing structures. In the past, increasing the capacity of an existing transmission corridor required shutting the line down, removing the existing wire and structures (often with undesirable environmental consequences), replacing the structures with larger / taller structures with new foundations, and pulling in new larger, higher capacity conductors. This was a very expensive, arduous, and disruptive process that is no longer necessary. Upgrading existing transmission lines with advanced carbon fiber reinforced conductors can not only double line capacity, it can also improve grid reliability and resilience.
Carbon fiber reinforced overhead ACCC Conductors mitigate excessive conductor sag that has been attributed to several major blackouts - such as the one that occurred in the East Coast in 2003, and wildfires that have plagued the Western United States for over a decade. Additionally, because the carbon fiber ‘composite’ core is 70% lighter than the steel core it replaces, this class of conductors can incorporate up to 28% more aluminum. The added aluminum content not only helps deliver more power, it also reduces power losses by ~30%. Improved efficiency is a major additional benefit.
It is widely understood that it is cheaper to save a “Negawatt” than it is to produce a Megawatt. Improving the efficiency of the electric power grid will help reduce the amount of clean generation capacity required to meet the Administration’s decarbonization goals. Specifically, if we reduced transmission losses by 30%, we would reduce the need to build and connect nearly 18 GW of new wind and solar generation resources.
If our T&D system loss of 206,655,385 MWh was reduced by an achievable 30% during the next 14-year period, then 62 million MWh less generation would be needed to replace the fossil-fuel generation which means that about 17.7 GW LESS of wind, solar, and storage would be needed. This higher efficient grid also means that less new generation will be needed to serve the load growth from now to 2035. High-efficiency, advanced conductors, new high efficiency transformers, and grid operating changes could help reduce the T&D losses by 30% by 2035.
The Solution is in your hands:
As many utilities in the U.S. and sixty other countries have discovered - reconductoring with modern ACCC conductors can double line capacity, reduce line losses by ~30% and be accomplished very quickly with little to no permitting challenges at a fraction of the cost of building new lines or rebuilding existing structures to carry larger / heavier legacy conductors. There is no more time to waste.
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