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Hydropower Flows Here
Grid Mod: New process drives more successful outage opportunities for BPA
2/20/2019 12:00 AM
Photo by Robert Meyers
In our 24-7 world powered by abundant, clean hydropower and the reliability of our electric grid, there is never a “good” time to take a transmission line out of service. But thanks to the efforts of a cross-agency project, BPA is getting as close as you can get to “good” when it comes to taking high-voltage transmission lines out of service for maintenance or construction.
In the first week of January, BPA formally launched its continuous outage analysis process that identifies the optimal timing for an outage early in the planning process for 500-kilovolt equipment. COA is a critical component of a larger outage management effort as part of BPA’s grid modernization initiative, which is already garnering success for BPA and its customers.
The Continuous Outage Analysis process is a more collaborative effort across BPA to create earlier and more extensive awareness of planned outages and a greater understanding of their impacts to transmission, power and fish and wildlife operations. In turn, this helps to reduce the likelihood of rescheduling an outage and lessen the impact of maintenance on customers by reducing the number of outages and optimizing transmission capacity.
For The Dalles Chief Substation Operator Nancy Jacobsen, the COA project has transformed an outage process that could be fraught with frustration and confusion into a streamlined effort that affords the greatest opportunity for efficiency and certainty in maintenance projects.
"Continuous Outage Analysis literally gets everyone in the room who can tell us ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ – right there, 5 months before the project,” Jacobsen said of the cross-agency effort.
This approach allows for instant feedback on requested outages, giving operators and project managers the ability to adjust their requests to meet the needs of impacted parties.
Previously, an outage would be requested 45 days in advance, but the outage might be rejected only days before the maintenance or construction was set to begin because of a conflict with fish operations or other Power Services requirement or commitment. This would require a new submission for an outage, and that would restart that 45-day clock. In some cases, this would lead to demobilization of line crews or contractors who had already begun staging equipment for the anticipated work.
Now, with the various subject matter experts from across Power and Transmission Services and Environment, Fish and Wildlife, the team can proactively analyze upcoming outage requests several months in advance and explore how an outage date – or even the timing during the day – can be moved for an outage request to be successful. The effort during both its extended development and piloting phases has already yielded benefits.
“It’s been three years since I’ve had to issue an emergency refusal of an outage,” said Scott Bettin, a fish and wildlife administrator in Policy Planning with Environment, Fish and Wildlife. “That’s a direct reflection of the development of this project.”
The project also captures a significant amount of data that will help lead to more effective use of BPA’s resources – people, budget and equipment – over time.
“I know this project will reap significant benefits in the years to come, reducing the number of outage moves, improving coordination and collaboration, and creating more lead time to mitigate risk,” said Michelle Cathcart, vice president of Transmission System Operations, in an email to the team. “This is a great step in our efforts toward grid modernization and data-driven decision-making.”
During the pilot, the process saw early success in coordinating Transmission operations, Power Services and Fish and Wildlife to take an outage on a line in the Ross district that historically had been difficult to schedule. The process identified flexibilities in scheduling the outage that were not previously obvious. BPA was able to conduct the preventative maintenance without negatively impacting fish operations while saving BPA money.
In another instance, the process helped to schedule an outage at The Dalles Dam for work on Big Eddy Substation. Cross-agency partnership, as well as coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, created an approach that allowed BPA to proceed with that outage and meet its fish and wildlife obligations by preventing overspill at the dam, which might have harmed fish.
“COA exemplifies one of the tenets of grid modernization and the Business Transformation Office: The removal of silos to create a One-BPA approach that drives success for the entire agency,” said Steve Kerns, director of grid modernization for BPA.
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