122Utility Choices and Deregulation

Despite the common industry understanding that the T&D segments of the former utility structure will remain regulated, utilities addressed more pressing competitive concerns, and investment in infrastructure slowed in the early 1990s. This decision reflects utilities' experiences in the state-level debates over stranded asset calculations. Some regions have abandoned reporting even uncommitted resource additions needed to satisfy reliability criteria, so great was the confusion over cost recovery. This was also indicative of greater reliance on short-term solutions (gas turbine generators, no new transmission) over longer-term ones (large-scale plants, transmission expansion).

As an increasing number of utilities seek to fulfill native load requirements on the open market, another dilemma appears: multiple buyers relying on the same resource pool for future load coverage. Unexpected peaks (e.g., the heat waves of 1998) and outages (California, 2000 and 2001) necessarily affect large areas. This collision between the time frame for deregulation and capacity planning has sparked concern among regulatory agencies. Although

National Electric Reliability Council (NERC) reliability studies show adequate transmission and generation capacity to maintain reliability through 2002, regional disturbances caused by insufficient transfer capability have already occurred in select regions (e.g., Midwest, Northeast, and California). If this is true for the near term, then the years 2002 through 2006, in which NERC reports greater misgivings about the ability of the bulk supply system, may see disruptions across entire control regions. Figure 1.3 shows U.S. capacity margins in 1998 and, absent further investment, projected margins for 2006.

The U.S., Canada, and portions of northern Mexico are all served by four interconnected synchronous grids (interconnections) moving AC current across both the interconnections and intra-grid DC links. Within each interconnection are ten electric reliability regions (Figure 1.2) and over 140 control organizations that were created to schedule electric power exchanges to maintain system reliability; as there are no switches for routing power, this stability derives from operating the AC generators. However, the natural competition fostered by an open market has provoked a re-evaluation of the reliability regions. The FERC is slowly encouraging utilities to join TransCos, either for-profit or non-profit transmission control regions that will enable full and fair access by all.

Solar Stirling Engine Basics Explained

Solar Stirling Engine Basics Explained

The solar Stirling engine is progressively becoming a viable alternative to solar panels for its higher efficiency. Stirling engines might be the best way to harvest the power provided by the sun. This is an easy-to-understand explanation of how Stirling engines work, the different types, and why they are more efficient than steam engines.

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