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Smart-Grid Projects Solve Power Issues for Utilities and Manufacturers

ekachemicalsplantThree companies — Maui Electric Company, Eka Chemicals and Orion New Zealand Ltd. — are implementing smart-grid projects around the globe that are designed to help them control peak power demand, integrate renewable energy resources, maximize performance and productivity, or improve power reliability.

The Maui Smart Grid project — in partnership with the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), Maui Electric Company (MECO), the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) of the University of Hawaii and the U.S. Department of Energy and GE Energy — will develop and demo the use of smart grid technologies to help MECO control peak circuit demand, maintain adequate circuit voltage levels, and integrate intermittent renewable energy resources.

The Maui project will help MECO coordinate its distributed resources such as distributed generation, energy storage, voltage controls and residential loads, and integrate wind and solar power into the island’s power grid. The island of Maui already meets the definition of high-penetration renewable power. With a peak load of around 200 megawatts (MW) on the island, up to 30 MW can come from wind energy, according to the company.

Currently, Maui receives nearly 10 percent of its energy from wind, with plans to add more wind-powered generation energy in the future. Even at just 10 percent, issues with grid reliability can arise due to minute-to-minute wind fluctuations, said GE.

The project will use GE’s Smart Grid management tools, which will include advanced communications, automation and control technologies and possibly an energy storage system. The management system will control and dispatch several types of power system equipment, customer loads, and energy storage to compensate for sudden changes in wind power and circuit loads.

The smart-grid project at the Eka Chemicals Canada Inc. plant in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Canada, is said to be the first to demonstrate GE’s new smart-grid asset optimization solution to help reduce transformer-caused downtime in the plant. Eka relies on transformers to produce sodium chlorate crystal, used in the pulp and paper industry.

Touted as the first collaborative effort demonstrating GE’s new smart grid Asset Optimization service offering, the project will illustrate how utilities and industrial sites can improve productivity, maximize transformer performance and extend asset life through status-based maintenance and upgrades, said the company.

The sensors monitor several key transformer health indicators throughout the day with advanced software processing the information quickly to identify developing faults and to provide a prognosis of the transformer’s ongoing health.

Orion New Zealand Limited has already completed implementation of the first phase of its network management system based on GE smart-grid technologies to help improve power reliability to its customers. The system of smart-grid technologies is expected to significantly improve the network company’s ability to manage big network emergencies and help it to restore power faster when outages occur.

After completing the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) phase of the project, enabling real-time monitoring and control of the network, the project is moving into its second phase with the installation of a distribution network management system, which will enable Orion to maintain and control its network from a single viewpoint. This is the first ENMAC SCADA system up and running in New Zealand, according to the company.

The third phase of the Orion project is an outage management system, which will work with ENMAC to help automatically re-route power when an outage occurs, dispatch crews and help operators make better decisions for faster power restoration.

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