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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 11, 2011

NYISO avoids blackouts
Energy keeps pace with the demands of heat wave

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — When temperatures soared to almost 100 degrees during the third week in July, the amount of energy used in New York rose too, as residents cranked up the air-conditioning.

The mega watts generated during the heat spell far surpassed any predictions made by power companies for that week, which could have resulted in mass blackouts.

The New York State Independent System Operator called its demand response programs into effect, saving over 1,000 mega watts in energy, preventing what could have been major power outages, according to Ken Klapp, the senior communications and media relations specialist for the NYISO.

The construction of a brand-new facility in East Greenbush will further aid the cause of saving energy and money for the state, said Klapp. The new building will serve as the control and primary operational centers for the company, and will be completely state-of-the-art.

The current facility on Carman Road in Guilderland, built 42 years ago, will be updated and serve as a backup to the new center in East Greenbush.

The NYISO was created in 1999, and manages the state’s electrical grid.

Following a major blackout in New York in 1965, the eight utility companies at that time decided a control center would be helpful, and formed the New York Power Pool. Niagara Mohawk already owned the property on Carman Road, and so the facility was built there.

After the NYISO took over in 1999, it began looking for ways to save energy and money. Among the company’s responsibilities are managing the flow of power through 11,009 miles of high-voltage transmission lines 24 hours per day, buying and selling electricity and managing the electricity market, long-term planning, and developing new technologies.

In 2002, the NYISO launched its demand management programs. The center forecasts a peak energy usage each day, depending on weather reports and other factors; it builds in a cushion of 1,800 extra mega watts, just in case use exceeds what is predicted.

The NYISO broke the state down into 11 different zones, and established two programs — the Emergency Demand Response program and the Special Case Resource program.

The EDRP is a voluntary program, in which businesses can tell the NYISO that, on high-demand days, they will reduce their energy usage, if possible. If they succeed in a reduction, they are paid for each hour during which they save, Klapp explained.

The SCR is a program in which the ISO pays companies just for being available for energy reduction. Businesses that join the program get a payment each year for agreeing to participate, but they also get real-time energy payment when the program is called into effect.

Businesses in the SCR that do not perform, are penalized; there are no such penalties in the EDRP because it is strictly voluntary.

Businesses and industries in the programs determine how much they believe they can save during peak hours, and report that number to the ISO. Metering devices are installed and tested twice a year to prove each program member can reasonably save the amount it has reported.

“It could be a large factory that chooses to switch its hours so it isn’t running big machines during the day; large apartment buildings could turn down some lights and set the thermostat higher; office buildings can alternate light and shut down elevator banks,” said Klapp.

When the programs are called into effect, it is normally for at least five hours. On July 21, they were launched at 1 p.m. in the regions toward New York City and south, and called off at 6 p.m. On July 22, they were called into effect at noon for the areas around New York City, and 1 p.m. for most of the rest of the state, again ending at 6 p.m.

“July 2011 saw almost record-breaking loads,” said Klapp. The average forecast for the heat spell in July was 32,699 mega watts, and the actual peak load on July 22 was 33,865 mega watts.

“That number would have been much higher without the demand management programs,” Klapp said.

The record is 33,939 mega watts, reached in 2006; July 22 was only 74 mega watts off the record. 

New facility

The new $35.5 million facility in East Greenbush will feature the latest technologies, including capacitor banks and phasor measurement units. Capacitor banks improve efficiency of the transmission system by reducing the amount of electricity lost when carried over long distances. PMUs will improve the NYISOs situational awareness, and eventually they will be connected to other PMU networks, allowing a broader awareness of situations throughout the Northeast.

The President of the ISO, Stephen G. Whitely, said in a press conference on Monday that the new facility will save energy users in New York State an estimated $190 million per year.

The press conference was used the highlight the smart grid initiative, which is being supported by a grant of more than $37 million from the federal Department of Energy. The new facility will have high-technology visual grid displays to improve the NYISO’s ability to receive, process, and monitor changing conditions.

“It’s a win for jobs, green energy, and the tax payer’s bill,” said Senator Charles Schumer at the conference that preceded a groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility.

“Not only is this better for the environment, its cost effective,” said Klapp, of both the demand management programs and the development of the new facility.

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