Oak Park Investing in Progress on Reliability, WV Cutting Trees

Take a look at this pathetic editorial in today’s Charleston Gazette-Mail.  The poor old editorial board is dragging along hoping that the PSC’s plan to cut trees will do anything to stop WV blackouts.

Meanwhile, Oak Park, IL, a city about the size of Charleston, WV, is moving forward to create a citywide microgrid using local renewable generation.  The purpose of the microgrid is to protect the city from blackouts caused by problems on the regional power grid.

Last year, Oak Park bundled its residential electricity accounts and went out to bid for a new energy supplier. Not only did it end up with a more favorable rate, but the deal included 100 percent renewable energy credits, adding 170 million kilowatt-hours of wind power into the regional grid.

And now, the village has volunteered to be a testing ground for “smart grid” technology that could someday revolutionize the way we generate, transmit, and use electricity. And we’re not talking about just smart meters here — rather, a thoroughly digitized, completely transformed system that is tied into a network of renewable sources like wind and solar, and is capable of “self-healing” during storms and outages.

Of course, power companies in the US don’t know anything about this technology, so Oak Park is teaming with the Korea Smart Grid Institute which has built similar projects in Korea.  And because this is cutting edge stuff, the Institute and other researchers are willing to provide significant funding of their own, to keep local electric rates down.

Meanwhile, WV slides further and further behind.  Our rates are spent on cutting trees and obsolete technology, while other people invest in supporting themselves and eliminating blackouts using their own decentralized power.

4 thoughts on “Oak Park Investing in Progress on Reliability, WV Cutting Trees

  1. Bill, you gotta get your priorities straight. Yes, it would be good to have more reliable and cheaper power; yes it would be good to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and other pollution caused by fossil fuels. But there is a cause of such magnificent nobility and crucial importance that it’s worth sacrificing all of that and more, even perhaps the future of humanity and other life on earth, if the most pessimistic climate scientists are right. This thing that is worth every sacrifice is making sure that people who have so much money they could never spend it all if politicians were so expensive these days, get even more money. What could ever be more important than that?

    • Mary,

      I actually have to disagree with you here. Power companies are losing money right now. Demand is flat and will remain low for the foreseeable future. Their obsolete power plants are based on expensive fossil fuels whose prices fluctuate unpredictably. Those same power plants haven’t been paid for yet, and their financing was based on the assumption that power demand would rise far more than it is going to. Allegheny was caught in this trap, and FirstEnergy bought them out. Now FirstEnergy is in trouble.

      These companies are clinging to money losing strategies. Yes, their motivation is to continue making the high profits they had become used to, but that is no longer possible. There is now an opportunity for businesses to make real money, and the Korean Microgrid Institute realizes that. That’s why they are involved in Oak Park.

      Microprocessing technology has put solar power in the hands of homeowners and grid management local communities. The problem is that the huge overhang from the obsolete superceded industry hangs over the US political and regulatory system, holding everyone back.

  2. I worked as in T&D for Commonwealth Edison and a large power A&E for nearly 30 years and tree trimming is vital to keeping the lights on. I know people don’t want to hear that such a simple solution can have that great an impact on their electrical reliability, but it’s true. Fallen branches from wind/ice account for 90% of outages with equipment failures accounting for the remainder. When FERC’s Standard FAC-003-1 is followed reliability is greatly improved. The problem is getting the public to understand this and not complain so loudly when tree trimmers come through.

    • MJ,

      I agree wholeheartedly about the impact of right of way maintenance. We have particular problems in WV, mainly because most of our distribution lines were built when most farmland in the state was cleared. Now, after 50 years of steady decline of farms in WV, lines are now covered with trees in rural areas. Trimming programs in WV have been haphazard and under funded by power companies. there are also larger problems associated with lack of investment in the infrastructure itself.

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