Dependence on Unreliable Transmission Lines Causes Controlled Outage in NE OH

Keryn found this very interesting story in the Akron Beacon Journal last week.

Apparently, one of FirstEnergy’s 345 kv transmission lines failed in northeastern OH on Tuesday, during a hot afternoon at a time when several generating plants had started to cycle down for maintenance work.  As a result, there was a shortage of local generation over the normal transmission circuits, overloading the transmission line, as well as a substation at Lordstown, OH.

As a result of these failures, PJM Interconnection had to order curtailment of some generating capacity in NE OH and NW PA.  The result was a controlled outage, largely in OH.

Power was restored to all customers affected by that line by about 8 p.m.

All told, about 53,000 Northeast Ohio customers lost power for at least part of Tuesday, with the widest outage in Ashtabula County.

As Keryn points out, FirstEnergy and PJM spent three years telling us that more transmission lines will prevent “blackouts and brownouts,” and here we see “brownouts” caused by over-dependance on transmission lines.  Is it any surprise that this particular line was owned by FirstEnergy whose CEO regularly brags to his bankers about how little the company spends on maintenance?  And don’t forget that FirstEnergy was the partner of that other OH holding company AEP in the failed PATH project.

With networked microgrids, assisted by effective demand response, the NE OH grid would have been much more resistant to this kind of failure.  There would have been plenty of generating capacity within the vulnerable areas as well as the ability to transfer power over multiple links from surrounding microgrid systems.  Instead, there was a shaky centralized system designed only to operate well within slim tolerances in terms of weather and operating capability.

As reliability expert George Loehr pointed out over five years ago, in testimony before the US Senate, the most reliable electric grid is one in which electrical generation take place at or near where electricity is used.

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