Power to spare, but not enough transmission lines

Well this sucks.

Why the High Plains turns off its turbines to limit wind production while the Texas power grid is stressed (msn.com)

It’s an excellent microcosm of the dilapidated infrastructure across the nation.

Simple fact is Americans have relied on the investments made by the Silent and Greatest generations in the infrastructure for far too long. When in reality infastructure needs to be continuously invested in, evaluated, and upgraded/replaced. Or else we will continuously be playing very expensive catch up forever.

Not a left or right issue, proper planning and investing in infrastructure benefits all Americans from Musk and Bezos to the poorest. Rural and urban, conservative and liberal. It’s good for all Americans.

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Is it infrastructure week yet?

It should always be infastructure week. Should never stop.

So they built power supply without transmission capable of carrying it?

It’s a chicken and egg problem. No need building HVDC transmission lines to something that
doesn’t exit. Once it exists, building the new lines should be high priority. The Valley producers were complaining about this last year. 90% of their power was blocked by Ercot because of grid congestion.

How those new lines are built and paid for is not clear to me. Do the centerpoint energy companies in the state do it, or should state take the lead, instead of blowing 500 million year
by putting the guard on a political stunt mission with mostly nothing to do ?

I am pretty sure the lines are paid for by the utility companies. I know they are for local delivery, but for statewide, maybe a conglomerate of utility companies.

Regardless of who pays for it, whomever paid for the wind farms should have had the distribution lines figured out beforehand.

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I agree with that second paragraph. Like if I had a widget factory but no roads to get it out of the factory, what do I do?

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Thats what happens when govt subsidizes something, it causes mis allocation of resources.

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I agree it’s a problem and not sure where the fault lies. The companies building the wind and solar farms or the state thru ERCOT and PUCT ( Public Utilities Comm ). These are new types of lines
needed to transmit electrical power over hundreds of miles to reduce power loss. The state is
intimately involved in overall grid design of what gets done and doesn’t. Throw in traditional
generators that may using their influence to protect their share of generating capacity and it’s easy to see how things could get bogged down.

A dedicated group—including Oncor, ERCOT, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT), and state utilities—keep a pulse on our state’s growing energy needs. It is a joint monitoring effort that constantly examines demand and supply, then follows a step-by-step expansion process that involves conducting engineering, routing and environmental assessments, evaluating connection requirements, securing certifications, determining right-of-way, and working cooperatively with landowners.

ERCOT oversees the overall management and operation of a large portion of the transmission grid. It works collaboratively with transmission and distribution delivery companies like Oncor to determine the need for additional power lines based on new generators, new consumers, and future demand.

Oncor and other utilities have internal planning teams that assesses what the company needs to support our own reliable system through a continuous review of the transmission grid.

The PUCT oversees regulation of the state’s electric, water and telecommunication. Its mission focuses on the protection of customers, advancement of competition, and promotion of high-quality infrastructure. Reviewing and approving requests for authorization to construct new transmission facilities is a significant part of its duties.

Well there’s your problem right there I imagine. ERCOT probably told them they get to use traditional lines.

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We’re not alone. I have been an investor in Dominion Energy since they were Virginia Electric in the early 80’s. They are having capacity and infrastructure issues as well…

Dominion Energy confirmed in its second-quarter earnings call Monday that Loudoun County’s [data center industry has outpaced the utility’s capacity to deliver characterizing the problem in perhaps softer terms than shocked industry and public officials have heard so far, but still leaving plenty of questions unanswered.

“We’ve identified the need to accelerate our previous plans for new transmission and substation infrastructure in this area of eastern Loudoun County, bringing it forward by several years,” Bob Blue, Dominion’s (NYSE: D) president and CEO, said on the call, referring to Data Center Alley north of Dulles International Airport. “To be clear, we’re not at the limits of our facilities today, but we need to act now to alleviate transmission constraints in the future while serving our customers’ growth in this region,” he said.

The bit about not being at current facilities’ limits might represent a small bright spot for developers and investors who’ve [invested tens of millions of dollars in new data centers] on the assumption that the necessary power would be available when it came time to open for business.

While it’s had to “pause” connecting new data centers to the grid, Dominion is working “to alleviate the constraints as quickly as possible,” Blue said. Though “it is clear that we will be able to resume new connections in the near term,” it remains the case that “how much and how quickly is still being determined.”

A Dominion spokesperson subsequently said the utility “will be able to resume some new data center connections within a few weeks.”

Among other things, the utility is working with customers “to pace new connections and ramp up schedules,” Blue noted on the earnings call.

In the longer term, Data Center Alley will “absolutely require additional transmission infrastructure,” including but not limited to two new 500-kilovolt power lines, Blue said. Dominion submitted plans last week to PJM Interconnection LLC, a federally empowered operator of the impacted area’s grid, to get one of those new lines underway. It’ll cost as much as $600 million and isn’t expected to deliver until 2026. The ultimate price tag, taking into account other necessary upgrades, will be bigger. Dominion expects to have a clearer picture of costs when it announces its fourth quarter earnings.

How did we get here? Blue essentially characterized the issue as too many data centers coming online too quickly. Data center demand has increased across the Commonwealth, with Loudoun leading the way. Roughly “80% of the data center electric load and projected load growth is in Loudoun,” the Dominion spokesperson wrote in an email.

Data centers are a lucrative business — they’ve been a golden goose for Loudoun, in terms of economic output and county tax base — but they’re also insatiable when it comes to electricity.

Blue said Dominion, since 2019, has hooked up some 70 data centers statewide with enough juice for 650,000 homes. Data centers account for 20% of power sales in Virginia, he said. And demand has only accelerated, with more and bigger centers asking to plug in. Whereas a given data center might’ve used 30 megawatts in the past, now some are asking for 60 megawatts or more, Blue said.

Statewide load forecasts this year put 2027 demand at 2,600 megawatts, or 12% above what was predicted for 2027 just last year.

“To put that in perspective, that [increase] is equal to the entire installed capacity of our planned offshore wind project,” Blue said, referring to a massive wind farm Dominion plans to build off the coast of Virginia Beach, near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

It’s hard to say at this point who’s primarily at fault. On one hand, some insiders have described news of the projected deficit as falling out of the clear blue sky.

“While we knew we’d have to bolster the electric infrastructure, at no point did Dominion or PJM tell us there was a ceiling on the number of projects we could bring to market," Buddy Rizer, who heads Loudoun’s economic development department, said in an interview.

On the other hand, in an interview last week, PJM described the revelation as the result of the normal forecasting cycle taking into account recent data about accelerated demand. Earlier warning would have required earlier submission of electric load requests, a transmission planner told the Washington Business Journal.

Meanwhile, other hungry fish, [not least Prince William County] to Loudoun’s south, lurk in the sea.

“Transmission capacity is not constrained outside of this Data Center Alley in eastern Loudoun County, nor are data center customers in other parts of our service territory impacted by this issue,” Blue said.

So it’s too many data centers this time. At least you’re not banging EVs for bringing down the grid.

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