By: Paula Beleno-Ortiz
As the cost for traditional base load increases while cost for solar and wind power continues to decrease, more and more utilities are looking for ways to expand into alternative energy sources. Combined with the rise in DER, utilities have more choices than ever as we all move forward. Using DER to protect our future has a double meaning. First, DER enables more solar and wind generation into the power grid protecting our environment. Second, by embracing new technology and capitalizing on our experiences, we protect our own futures, staying relevant in a changing world.
DER, or distributed energy resources, are often small in scale but big in impact. They operate locally and yet, their addition of power into the grid can have far-reaching impact. Many DER connections are coming from solar or wind power. These alternative and decentralized energy generating sources have much to offer once they are granted access to the grid. But that access requires many steps. Sometimes, a potential DER provider may believe this grid connection is as easy as flipping a switch. But in fact, connecting DER to the power grid takes advanced planning and in some cases, the installation of new equipment such as a collector substation.
While working with both a utility company and solar generation providers, Power Grid Engineering recently completed an EPC project where we designed and built three different solar collector substations. The utility had contracted to buy megawatts of solar generation from three different IPPs. We designed the lowside of the substation for the solar companies with a low side breaker, step up transformer, and high side switch. One location included a capacitor bank for VAR support. We then designed the rest of the highside substation for the utility which included a breaker, switches, bus work, and metering. We included a common fence and a shared control house for all parties and graded the pad so both sides of the substation were constructed as a single unit with combined driveway, lighting, lightning shielding, and grounding designs. PGE also provided the protection control design for the three collector substation projects.
Because of our experience with collector substations, Power Grid Engineering can help our utility clients navigate these new opportunities in solar and wind power. Whether with centralized generation or DER in general, we are protecting our future and yours.