With extreme weather wreaking havoc on power lines, experts are turning their attention to emerging transmission technologies, and have named four companies to watch as the United States ramps up renewables-based electrification.
With the U.S. government and regulators working to spur new grid development, “efforts are under way to improve existing transmission assets and expand where they can go,” reports Utility Dive. The story lists NewGrid, Pearl Street Technologies, TS Conductor, and Line Vision as four transmission tech companies “worth noting” in the industry.
Transmission developers are negotiating shared rights of way with rail companies to use existing corridors for buried lines, and submarine cables paired with high-voltage, direct current (HVDC) transmission to move large amounts of power through inland waterways. Existing technologies are also being deployed, like high-temperature, low-sag conductors used to push more power in a transmission corridor or span a longer distance while constrained by special crossings.
NewGrid is pursuing a technique to avoid congestion and curtailments affecting renewable power plants by rerouting flow around bottlenecks with “operational transmission topology optimization.” This is done by opening and closing transmission circuits, “much like traffic lights in a big city,” says Utility Dive.
Pearl Street Technologies is trying to apply methods used in microchip circuit design to grid planning, aiming to cut down on the resources and time necessary for “hand-made” grid planning approaches, and the resulting costs for customers.
California-based TS Conductor is updating existing steel-based conductor/wire transmission technologies with a new kind of electric conductor that “can increase the capacity of existing lines 2.5 times without having to change or retrofit the existing supporting infrastructure,” Utility Dive reports. With the updated technology, grid operators can accept large increases of renewable power generation coming online at minimum additional cost to electricity consumers, which will be critical as renewables expand to meet the demands of a large-scale grid transition.
LineVision’s innovative line sensors use non-contact LiDAR (light detection and ranging) to unlock grid capacity, providing data on conductor health and supporting the “real-time detection of anomalies and potential risks to the transmission system,” said co-founder and VP Jonathan Marmillo. LineVision’s monitoring will be especially important to detect increasing threats to grid stability from extreme weather, he added.
“Especially in the age of climate change—wilder, more violent storms are a risk to transmission lines,” Maramillo told Utility Dive. “We’ve seen power lines cause wildfires; we’ve seen them ice up and fail. More often than not, we’re seeing 70-year old lines asked to contend with modern problems not just limited to capacity challenges. And they just can’t.”