- replacement of back-up power with cleaner, dispatchable options
- expanded use of CHP, especially higher-efficiency systems
- better energy storage systems
- increased residential and mass market use of distributed generation.
Other pathways for growth in EPRI’s view include using distributed resources to improve the grid and avoid infrastructure development, or to replace ageing generation plants to meet supply needs. But so far, it looks like DG development might be slow along these paths, even though huge sums of money are expected to be spent on infrastructure improvements in the coming years – about US$220 billion on transmission alone, to replace the country’s 40-year-old technologies and relieve growing ongestion (see Figure 1).
Change is coming, and distributed generation is likely to find its place solving grid woes, but not too quickly. ‘It’s a transition time,’ Rastler says. His conclusions are borne out by recent regulatory ecisions in the North-east, where distributed generation proposals saw defeat. Why? Regulators said the timing wasn’t right.
Figure 1. Pathways to the 2015 vision of distributed energy resource (DER).
For example, blackout risk is considered high in Vermont. So in late January, state regulators approved a $129 million transmission and distribution project planned by Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO), a transmission-only utility. The approval came despite an ardent call by environmental groups that the northern New England state consider distributed energy resources and efficiency measures instead of new wires, poles and substations. While DG supporters lost the battle – the new T&D project was approved – they appear to have won the war. The Vermont Public Service Board approved the T&D upgrade because the threat of blackouts is eminent. But the board said it didn’t want to be caught with its back against the wall again, and insisted that next time it be given more time to examine alternatives. So the state agency has opened an investigation into VELCO’s forecasting methods in an attempt to find out why it did not uncover the grid problems sooner. Vermont’s next bulk power system crunch is expected within this decade, and distributed generation is likely to be on the table as an alternative.
Two paper companies in Mexico – cardboard producer Cartones Ponderosa and paper producer Pronal (Productora Nacional de Papel) – are to benefit from new CHP plants from Finland’s Wärtsilä Corporation.
Wärtsilä will install a 19 MWe CHP system at Cartones Ponderosa consisting of three Wärtsilä 18V32 engines. Located in San Juan del Río, Queretaro, the plant is designed to produce 10,000 kg/hour of steam, to be used for internal processes that result in an annual product output of 200,000 tonnes.
The new system will replace one of the earliest self-generation facilities built in Mexico, a 6.5 MW plant consisting of four gas turbines. Ponderosa decided to replace their existing equipment with a Wärtsilä CHP facility because, says Wärtsilä, of the new system’s higher efficiency, its ability to burn Mexican heavy fuel oil, and the flexibility of being able to convert to dual-fuel operation in the future.
Meanwhile Pronal, a major producer of paper for newspapers, is undergoing an extensive upgrading process at its facility in Villa de Reyes, San Luis Potosí, and has selected a CHP facility as part of this upgrade. The new system will consist of two Wärtsilä 18V32 engines with a total electrical output of 13 MWe. The plant will also produce of 6600 kg/hour of steam.
Since 1992, when the Mexican constitution was modified to allow private companies to produce electricity themselves, Wärtsilä has been the vanguard in building such self-production facilities.
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