Where does your power come from?

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Where does your power come from?

Post  BC_boy on Wed Jun 06, 2012 8:30 pm

Up here we're fortunate enough to have enough liquid resources to get the majority if not all of our power from hydro-electric generation. Here's a few of them, mostly on the Peace River:

The Bennett Dam, our largest earthfill dam:

The Mica Dam, smaller earthfll dam (They built this dam with the capacity for 6 turbines but only installed four, recently however, they installed the final two turbines to take full advantage of the potential power):

And the revelstoke dam, built in the 80's i think (Notice they built it with capacity for two more turbines, some foresight I don't see too much of anymore, they recently just installed one more so there is only one extra port now):

Along with these there are a few more major ones along the river system all owned by BC Hydro, and a bunch of small run of river plants that are run by private companies.

So where do you get your power? Is it owned by the utility or a private company?

Last edited by BC_boy on Wed Jun 06, 2012 10:40 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Where does your power come from?

Post  topgroove on Wed Jun 06, 2012 10:33 pm

Great Pictures BC!

I'll try and answer your question, But, I'm afraid it gets really complicated here in the US.
Some Utilities still Generate thier own power using coal, hydro and nuclear plants and now wind and solar but for the vast majority its purchased through the wholesale market.

In many cases, electricity is generated by a power company that ultimately will not deliver it to the end-use customer. A single megawatt (MW - the most common unit of electricity used in the industry - is generally enough power to light 750 to 1,000 homes), like any other commodity, is frequently bought and re-sold a number of times before finally being consumed. These transactions are considered "sales for re-sale," and make-up the wholesale electricity market.

The wholesale market is open to anyone who, after securing the necessary approvals, can generate power, connect to the grid and find a counterparty willing to buy their output. These include competitive suppliers and marketers that are affiliated with utilities, independent power producers (IPPs) not affiliated with a utility, as well as some excess generation sold by traditional vertically integrated utilities. All these market participants compete with each other on the wholesale market.

To be a participant in the wholesale market, however, one does not need to either own any generation or serve any end-use customers. Just as with many other commodities - pork bellies, oil or stocks - individual traders (or power marketers) exist who buy power on the open market and re-sell it.

Trades in the wholesale market are understood to be occurring within a multi-state interconnection, and thus are interstate sales. Due to the interstate nature of the sales, the wholesale market is regulated across the country - except in ERCOT - by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). ERCOT functions as an exception due to the fact - as described above - that the entire interconnection lies in a single state, Texas.

Within regional wholesale markets, however, there exists a split structure. A number of regions - including the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, much of the Midwest, ERCOT and California - organize their markets under an independent system operator (ISO) - sometimes also referred to as a regional transmission organization (RTO). Most states in these regions also allow for retail competition (further discussed below). By adopting this ISO/RTO structure, these regions have moved to expand competition in electricity. In fact, two-thirds of the electricity consumed in the U.S. is by consumers in an ISO/RTO.1

Other regions - including the Southeast, Southwest, Inter-Mountain West and Northwest - chose to retain the traditional regulatory model. Under this regime, vertically-integrated utilities retain functional control over the transmission system and therefore choose what generator is dispatched when. Such a model, however, has led to preferential treatment by these utilities for their own generation rather than more affordable and environmentally responsible generation available from competitive suppliers and marketers.


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Post  BC_boy on Wed Jun 06, 2012 10:52 pm

Wow Groove, that almost gives me a headache trying to figure all that out. I guess we are very lucky up here to have such potential for energy in our rivers. We as a province are completely self-sufficient. We do however also have some thermal generation plants that I believe run on Nat Gas, and I have heard tell that at certain times we import power from Alberta coal fired plants although I can't recall the reasoning for it off hand, something to do with peak times and different costs. (I think it may be that we import the coal power at night when it is cheap which allows us to slow the water usage through the dams to maintain reservoir levels if I remember correctly)

Also the run of river plants up here that are privately owned are called IPP's too and they feed into our grid. There is much controversy around them to do with forced purchasing on contract but I won't get into that since I don't like speaking of things I don't know much about Razz .

BC Hydro also has a subsidiary company called Powerex that trades on the Energy Market like you say happens down there. There's a 500 line that crosses the border and we sell much of our electricity to The USA but once again, I do not know the details of who it goes to and when. I do remember hearing something about California not wanting to buy our electricity anymore because they don't like how we buy coal power at night, and have decided that that makes our hydro electricity "not green" because we are using coal when we sell them our hydro.

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Re: Where does your power come from?

Post  topgroove on Wed Jun 06, 2012 11:53 pm

I hear ya bro, It gets crazy complicated trying to figure out our system. Its kinda like a big mess of interconnected systems. Here's the crazy part. Its all on an honor system with the independent power producers. Sure, They're locked into long term megawatt contracts but also sell in the spot power market. Spot power is megawatts purchased in short term on a daily basis.
Some IPP's have been caught not generating what they say they are generating.
The great NorthEast blackout in 2003 was a classic example. If some IPP's or even one big one cheat the grid,,, demand can over load supply. Transmission circuits overheat and sag into trees bellow Really bad things happen real quick when that happens. Breakers and protective relays start opening in a cascading chain reaction. Generators Trip off line to protect themselves. once the shit storm starts it can take over 24 hours to restart the system.
Than you have the fiasco in California in the 1990's where IPP's were actually scheduling maintence durring peak times to drive up the cost of wholesale power and proffiting in the Billions of dollars. Kinda funny no one ever went to jail over that one.

We could go on for days on end talking about whats wrong with our electric Grid. From the not in my backyard mentality to the insane cost of building new Transmission lines. Most of our Transmision circuits were built in the fifties and sixties and are now in desperate need of upgrade and maintence. With Demand so great it takes over a year sometimes to take a transmision circuit off line. We have to apply to FERC over a year in advance of maintence. In New York State alone we have area's with a over supply of power, like here in Western NY. We have coal powered power plants sitting idle. Than you have down State where they're starving for power. there's bottle necks in the system where its difficult to get power where in needs to be. Like one big overloaded electrical outlet. an extension cord octopus.

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intresting sequence of events

Post  topgroove on Thu Jun 07, 2012 6:38 pm

Northeast blackout of 2003
On August 14, 2003, large portions of the Midwest and Northeast United States and Ontario, Canada, experienced an electric power blackout. The outage affected an area with an estimated 50 million people and 61,800 megawatts (MW) of electric load in the states of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and the Canadian province of Ontario. The blackout began a few minutes after 4:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time (16:00 EDT), and power was not restored for 4 days in some parts of the United States. Parts of Ontario suffered rolling blackouts for more than a week before full power was restored. Estimates of total costs in the United States range between 4billionand10 billion (U.S. dollars). In Canada, gross domestic product was down 0.7% in August, there was a net loss of 18.9 million work hours, and manufacturing shipments in Ontario were down $2.3 billion (Canadian dollars).

Major cities affected City Number of people affected
New York City and Surrounding Areas 21,100,000
Greater Toronto Area (Golden Horseshoe) 7,000,000
Detroit and Surrounding Areas 5,400,000
Cleveland and Greater Cleveland 2,900,000
Ottawa 780,000 of 1,120,000*
Buffalo and Surrounding Areas 1,100,000
Rochester 1,050,000
Baltimore and Surrounding Counties 710,000
Hamilton 500,000
London, ON and Surrounding Areas 475,000
Toledo 310,000
Windsor 208,000
Estimated Total 50,000,000
*Ottawa-Gatineau is a special case in that it is divided by a provincial boundary and the Ontario and Québec grids are not interconnected in any way. Gatineau had power. One may have seen the drastic cutoff of areas still having power when they were crossing the Portage Bridge between Gatineau and Ottawa - the cutoff was at the provincial line (street lights on the bridge were still lit on the Quebec side of the structure.)

Investigation into the blackout
A joint federal task force was formed by the governments of Canada and the U.S. to oversee the investigation and report directly to Ottawa and Washington. The task force was led by then-Canadian Natural Resource Minister Herb Dhaliwal and U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.

In addition to determining the initial cause of the cascading failure, the investigation of the incident also included an examination of the failure of safeguards designed to prevent a repetition of the Northeast Blackout of 1965. Issues of failure to maintain the electrical infrastructure, failure of upgrading to so-called "smart cables," failure of shunting and rerouting mechanisms, AC vs. DC intersystem ties, and substitution of electricity market forces for central planning were expected to arise. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a joint Canada-U.S. council, is responsible for dealing with these issues.

On November 19, 2003, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said his department would not seek to punish FirstEnergy Corp for its role in the blackout because current U.S. law does not require electric reliability standards. Abraham stated, "The absence of enforceable reliability standards creates a situation in which there are limits in terms of federal level punishment."

Findings of the investigation

In February 2004, the U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force released their final report, placing the main cause of the blackout on FirstEnergy Corporation's failure to trim trees in part of its Ohio service area. The report said that a generating plant in Eastlake, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland) went offline amid high electrical demand, and that strained high-voltage power lines (located in a distant rural setting) later went out of service when they came in contact with "overgrown trees". The cascading effect that resulted ultimately forced the shutdown of more than 100 power plants.

The Task Force also found that FirstEnergy did not take remedial action or warn other control centers until it was too late, because of a computer software bug in General Electric Energy's energy management system that prevented alarms from showing on their control system.This alarm system stalled because of a race condition bug.After the alarm system failed silently without being noticed by the operators, unprocessed events (that had to be checked for an alarm) started to queue up and the primary server failed within 30 minutes. Then all applications (including the stalled alarm system) were automatically transferred to the backup server, which also failed due to the same reason as the primary one. After this time (14:54), all applications on these two servers stopped working. Another effect of the failing servers was that the screen refresh rate of the operators' computer consoles slowed down from 1-3 seconds to 59 seconds per screen.

Sequence of events
Blackout sequence of events, 14 August 2003 (times in EDT):

•12:15 p.m. Incorrect telemetry renders inoperative the Ohio-based MISO's state estimator, a power flow monitoring tool. An operator corrects the problem but forgets to restart the tool.
•1:31 p.m. The Eastlake, Ohio generating plant shuts down. The plant is owned by FirstEnergy.
•2:02 p.m. First 345 kV line in Ohio fails due to contact with a tree in Walton Hills, Ohio.
•2:14 p.m. An alarm system fails at FirstEnergy's control room and is not repaired.
•2:27 p.m. A second 345 kV line fails due to a tree.
•3:05 p.m. A 345 kV transmission line known as the Chamberlain-Harding line fails in Parma, south of Cleveland, due to a tree.
•3:17 p.m. Voltage dips temporarily on the Ohio portion of the grid. Controllers take no action, but power shifted by the first failure onto another 345 kV power line (Hanna-Juniper interconnection) causes it to sag into a tree at 3:32 p.m., bringing it offline as well. While Mid West ISO and FirstEnergy controllers try to understand the failures, they fail to inform system controllers in nearby states.
•3:39 p.m. A FirstEnergy 138 kV line fails.
•3:41 p.m. A breaker connecting FirstEnergy's grid with American Electric Power is tripped as a 345 kV power line (Star-South Canton interconnection) and fifteen 138 kV lines fail in northern Ohio. Later analysis suggests that this could have been the last possible chance to save the grid if controllers had cut off power to Cleveland at this time.
•3:46 p.m. A 345 kV line known as the Tidd-Canton Central line trips.
•4:06 p.m. A sustained power surge on some Ohio lines begins an uncontrollable cascade after another 345 kV line (Sammis-Star interconnection) fails.
•4:09:02 p.m. Voltage sags deeply as Ohio draws 2 GW of power from Michigan.
•4:10:34 p.m. Many transmission lines trip out, first in Michigan and then in Ohio, blocking the eastward flow of power. Generators go down, creating a huge power deficit. In seconds, power surges out of the east, tripping east-coast generators to protect them, and the blackout is on.
•4:10:37 p.m. The eastern Michigan grid disconnects from the western part of the state. Two 345 kV lines in Michigan trip. A line that runs from Grand Ledge to Ann Arbor known as the Oneida-Majestic interconnection trips. A short time later, a line running from Bay City south to Flint in Consumers Energy's system known as the Hampton-Thetford line also trips.
•4:10:38 p.m. Cleveland separates from the Pennsylvania grid.
•4:10:39 p.m. 3.7 GW power flows from the east through Ontario to southern Michigan and northern Ohio, more than ten times larger than the condition 30 seconds earlier, causing a voltage drop across the system.
•4:10:40 p.m. Flow flips to 2 GW eastward from Michigan through Ontario, then flips westward again in a half second.
•4:10:43 p.m. International connections begin failing.
•4:10:45 p.m. Northwestern Ontario separates from the east when the Wawa-Marathon 230 kV line north of Lake Superior disconnects. The first Ontario plants go offline in response to the unstable system.
•4:10:46 p.m. New York separates from the New England grid.
•4:10:50 p.m. Ontario separates from the western New York grid.
•4:11:57 p.m. The Keith-Waterman, Bunce Creek-Scott 230 kV lines and the St. Clair-Lambton #1 and #2 345 kV lines between Michigan and Ontario fail.
•4:12:03 p.m. Windsor, Ontario and surrounding areas drop off the grid.
•4:13 p.m. End of cascade. 256 power plants are off-line. 85% went offline after the grid separations occurred, most of them on automatic controls.
Regulatory response
By 2008, FERC had so far approved 96 new reliability standards that cover the three Ts—"trees, training and tools"—identified by the blackout task force. Standard PER-003, for example, requires that operating personnel have at least the minimum training needed to recognize and deal with critical events in the grid; standard FAC-003 makes it mandatory to keep trees clear of transmission lines; standard TOP-002-1 requires that that grid operating systems be able to survive a power line fault or any other single failure, no matter how severe. FERC can impose fines of up to a million dollars a day for an infraction, depending on its flagrancy and the risk incurred.

• Minkel, J.R, The 2003 Northeast Blackout--Five Years Later, Scientific American, August 13, 2008, Accessed 2 September 2008.

•U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force, Final Report on the August 14th Blackout in the United States and Canada.
•Wikipedia Contributors, Northeast Blackout of 2003, Wikipedia, Accessed 2 September 2008.

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