Drama, drama, drama. I'm pretty sure the media over-dramatized the outages in DC yesterday. Maybe not a bad thing to raise awareness, but they've missed the real message.
OMG - like this outage affected IMPORTANT people doing IMPORTANT things! Like Pepco is sooooooo bad!
This article covers the basics, and with a few additional details from WaPo's more dramatic version, here's the story:
A hot 230-kV transmission line (conductor) just randomly fell off its tower in Southern Maryland. No storm. No damage. It just broke for no apparent reason. Live, uninsulated transmission line on the ground started a grass fire. Lucky it didn't fall on any people, vehicles, etc. that happened to be in the right-of-way at that time. The fault caused a bunch of other lines and generators to trip offline in self-defense against resulting voltage swings. And the lights went out many miles away in Washington, D.C.
So, no big deal, faults happen. But the grid is supposed to be designed so that other lines instantly spring to life and take the load of the one out of service and the fault ends up being nothing more than a barely-noticed blip. But that didn't happen, it started to cascade to other lines and generators. Comparison was made to the 2003 northeast blackout, when a fault on a transmission line in Ohio cascaded into a regional blackout. The concept is quite the same, but the effect not as far-reaching. Do you suppose we'll need a multi-million dollar government task force to examine the incident?
What's the real problem here?
Lack of maintenance and upgrades to existing transmission lines. The industry is so busy chasing the big profits that come from building NEW transmission that they aren't investing their money in maintaining the assets already in service. Perhaps our federal regulatory agencies need to start encouraging maintenance and rebuilds of aging lines with financial incentives?
And then there's the problem of parasites like DC that have no generation of their own and depend on transmission lines from distant generators. The more transmission lines we build, and the more centralized the system that supplies electricity, the bigger this problem becomes.
Stop it. Stupid.
Distributed generation and less transmission lines = reliability.
The Committee expected the mayor to give an opening statement and then JCP&L would give their presentation, followed by a question-and-answer period. A committee member said that it turned out to be a JCP&L public relations presentation, and the company made no effort to discuss the problems and possible solutions.
So, now the town will be holding its own public meeting, where residents and town leaders will make their own list of demands. The town expects JCP&L will subsequently negotiate modifications to the plan that would lessen impact on residents. Good luck, Montville, and remember, delay is your friend! :-)
Will the utilities ever learn? Their old routines no longer work on an increasingly educated and savvy public. The "open house" is no longer effective in dividing and neutralizing potential opposition. Heck, we use your stupid "open houses" as handy-dandy meet-n-greets to recruit new opposition. It's cheaper and easier when you all do the mailings and media to get affected landowners to a centralized location where they can be recruited by opposition groups.
The only citizens who leave those meetings with a warm, fuzzy feeling are those who find out that their property is nowhere near the project. The rest of them leave confused, shell-shocked... and angry. And they form and join opposition groups that increase costs and delay projects, sometimes even causing the project to be abandoned.
The days of running over the public with stupid PR tricks in order to build overhead transmission are over. The public demands transparency, integrity and better solutions.
Time for a new schtick, FirstEnergy.
It has been my pleasure to work with Dr. Luther Gerlach a couple of times over the past few years as he continues his studies of transmission line opposition groups. Dr. Gerlach is professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, and has been studying transmission opposition since the 1970s.
In 2013, Luther updated his encyclopedia article, Public Reaction to Transmission Lines (EEI has made the article publicly available for download here
). After it was published in 2014, the Edison Electric Institute invited him to present at their recent Utility Siting Workshop
. I again participated in discussions with Luther over several months as he put together his presentation for the workshop, Transmission Lines: Characteristics and Effects of Opposition.
Discussion with Luther has a way of making you think! During the most recent discussions, Luther shared with me a film he narrated in the 1990s from footage he had acquired during the CU power line fight in Minnesota in the 1970s. This battle was the subject of Paul Wellstone's book, Powerline: The First Battle of America's Energy War, which is sort of a transmission opposition primer. A lot of us have read it to analyze what went wrong with their fight so we can improve on our own. If you haven't read it yet, go get a copy!
I downloaded Luther's film, Grassroots Energy, and settled in to watched it by myself.
Then I invited a fellow transmission opponent over to watch it with me a second time so we could discuss the similarities to our own fight.
Then, with Luther's permission, I shared it with a few other transmission opposition leaders across the country.
Now, I can share it here... Download and watch this film! For even more fun, watch it with your transmission opposition buddies and plan a discussion afterwards.
Although it's been 40 years since the CU battle, I was struck by how much we're still reacting to new transmission proposals with the same emotions and actions that formed these opposition groups many years ago. We still share information with others, and we still try to find better solutions.
Now I'm going to go watch it again... while waiting for better solutions!
I've been away for the past week. No emails, no blog posts, no piles of electronic files, no transmission whatsoever. So, what has transmission being doing while I wasn't paying attention? Same old, same old.
A browse of news I missed:
The Sierra Club is still trying to plan the transmission grid and getting it wrong.
PJM despot Steven Herling sent a nasty-gram to NJ Sierra Club's Jeff Tittel, claiming that he was spreading misinformation.
The chief planning official for PJM Interconnection Inc., the grid operator, said in a letter to New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel that continued operations of the B.L. England power station in Cape May County would not create reliability problems, but that the plant's shutdown would.
"Recent media statements attributed to you about reliability and cost impacts associated with the B.L. England generating units' remaining in service are based on a misunderstanding of PJM Interconnection's planning process," Steven R. Herling, PJM's vice president of planning, wrote Thursday to Tittel.
"Our transmission-planning process is very complex, dynamic, and - as a consequence - can be misunderstood," Herling said in his letter to Tittel. "I would have been very happy to explain the process and underlying facts to help you avoid confusion, and would be willing to clarify PJM's study results at any time."
Transmission developers held their "public input" open house dog & pony shows on lines they want to build. The "public" showed up en masse to participate, but the real decisions have already been made. Here's one example from Wisconsin
, where ATC plays coy about its preferred route, hoping to foment discord among community groups that wish to foist the transmission line on someone else. The media helps out by framing its story as a NIMBY issue, and failing to examine the need issue.
“I have no doubt, in the long run, we need power and we need power transmission lines, and they’re going to go somewhere,” said Don McKay, general manager of Tyrol Basin Ski and Snowboard Area.
“Nothing here is very negotiable,” said McKay, who also is a Vermont town supervisor.
Robert and Danuta Pyzalski said it was too preliminary to get answers about their town of Middleton home, in the study area.
“My concern is how close the lines would be to residential areas,” Robert Pyzalski said. “To say there would be no danger would be naive.”
Members of a new resident-led work group created to grapple with Dominion Virginia Power’s plans to run a transmission line through Alexandria did not mince words following the utility’s first presentation on the project.
“I’m just looking at statements here with nothing to back them up.”
Both officials and work group members are growing more suspicious as Dominion’s application date creeps closer.
“There’s some healthy skepticism,” Smedberg said. “While Dominion says they don’t know what a final route would be, many people in the community find that a little hard to believe. They know exactly what they want to do and have known for a while.”
With permits to build an underwater and underground power line from the Canadian border to New York City all but fully in hand, the developer is turning its attention to a similar proposal for a 1,000-megawatt power line that would run down Lake Champlain and then across Vermont to feed the New England electric grid.
Once out of the water all the cable will be laid in public rights of way and the company TDI New England has been working with the state of Vermont and local communities along the route on the minutiae: Everything from how to be sure the under-road conduits don’t worsen spring frost heaves to how the cables cross beneath bridges or how to ensure that once the cables are buried they aren’t disturbed.
Benson Selectboard member Sue Janssen said TDI New England has worked hard to meet the concerns of her community of just over 1,000. They are even paying a lawyer of the town’s choosing to represent the community in the detailed discussions that are coming.
“I have the impression if we’d said we wanted our dirt roads painted pink they’d have done it,” she said.
So far there has been no significant opposition to TDI New England’s major electrical infrastructure project such as has faced plans to build ridge-top industrial wind projects, extend a natural gas power line from the Burlington area to Rutland or build a 180-mile above-ground power line between the Canadian border and northern New Hampshire.
“I think that one of the key differentiators of other proposed projects is that we are all buried,” said TDI New England CEO Donald Jessome.
That's right... people can support transmission projects proposed by companies willing to work with communities to lessen a project's impact.
Opposition has a cost.
Meanwhile, as more buried projects are proposed, traditional overhead transmission builders are whining about the cost of buried lines. Funny position for companies that make money on transmission investments -- the more they spend, the more they make. Why not bury the projects? Oh, right, they don't know how. They're still living in the horse and buggy days, telling the same lies about how the technology doesn't exist to bury lines, or that the cost will be 10 or 20 times an overhead line. That just isn't true.
Matt Valle’s solution to energy shortages in Eastern Massachusetts eschews the usual approach of running miles of new transmission lines on unsightly towers. Instead, Valle proposes to bury 50 miles of high-power cable in the ocean floor, using an underwater robot that resembles a lunar rover.
The robot would dig a trench 4 to 6 feet deep in an arc from Salisbury to Lynn for a power line that would bring 520 megawatts of electricity from the Seabrook generating station into Greater Boston.
If approved, the so-called SeaLink line would be the first underwater transmission line in Massachusetts, and Valle argued that it would be more reliable than high-voltage lines that are exposed to New England weather.
“It’s a buried system. It is protected against extreme weather — high winds, flooding, icing,” said Valle, president of New Hampshire Transmission, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, one of the country’s largest power companies.
But there is one major drawback: With a price tag of more than $1 billion, SeaLink looks on paper to cost about $350 million more than a competing project, which includes a new 25-mile transmission line running from Londonderry, N.H., to Tewksbury, as well as upgrades to the existing high-voltage power network.
“Ours is the most cost-effective solution. That’s a fact,” said Rudy Wynter, president of the transmission business at National Grid, which is partnering with Northeast Utilities on the project. It would feature a combination of high-voltage 115 kV lines and extra-high-voltage 345 kV lines constructed on rights of way that are already held by the two companies.
Is it really all about the cost to ratepayers? Anyone thought of asking ratepayers if it's worth a few extra cents in their power bill to bury high-tech transmission projects in order to make them more reliable? I think the people would overwhelmingly support buried lines from a reliability standpoint alone. A majority would also probably support more expensive buried lines in order to get lines built quicker and with less burden on host landowners, viewsheds and the environment.
Americans for a Clean Energy Grid sounds like a grassroots uprising of ordinary "Americans" who support building electric transmission. This group's website says it:
supports policies that will modernize the nation’s electric power network and unlock clean energy and economic opportunities across the country. Smart state and federal policies that improve the way the grid is developed, planned, and paid for will help it become a more robust, reliable, and secure network that supports expansion of renewable energy, competitive power markets, energy efficiency, and lower costs for consumers. The backbone of a clean electricity system and a strong economy is a resilient and reliable transmission grid.
But the organization's true purpose is to support the policy goals of its environmental group funders for the profits of its transmission and generator developer members.
Ordinary Americans DO NOT Support Transmission, even if it's "clean!"
Remember this guy?
He knew there were children around somewhere because he could smell them. It's easy to smell a front group, and this one has all the telltale signs.
Creating fake public support in order to influence someone to do something isn't anything new. In Act I, Scene 2 of Julius Caesar, Cassius schemes up his own plan to make Brutus think the citizens of Rome love Caesar:
I will this night,
In several hands, in at his windows throw,
As if they came from several citizens,
Writings all tending to the great opinion
That Rome holds of his name; wherein obscurely
Caesar's ambition shall be glanced at:
And after this let Caesar seat him sure;
For we will shake him, or worse days endure.
It makes me as giddy as a Child Catcher to watch this silly front group struggle and fail under the weight of its own treachery. Today, I got an "invitation" to this front group's "Electricity Transmission Summit."
Real business conferences are planned months in advance, speakers invited, attendance confirmed. And then there's ACEG. Their "agenda" for their October 16 "summit" is a laugh riot!
18 out of 25 speakers or moderators for this conference have yet to be invited or confirmed. Only 7 people have confirmed their role at this "summit." Just like the Child Catcher's wagon, the agenda looks good, until you look beyond the decorative fluff and notice all the names with (invited) after them. I also like the multiple Moderators "Journalist/Reporter/Blogger" whose identity has yet to be determined. October 16 is 3 weeks away and these clowns have yet to invite and confirm the vast majority of their speakers?
And the pinnacle? Even Farmer Jimmy Glotfelty isn't yet confirmed for their "summit"!
Thanks for the laughs, fellas! As long as you know you're not really fooling anyone, no harm done, right? ;-)
P.S. I'd fire the public relations company that screwed this up so badly.
Loren Sprouse, a Block Grain Belt Express-Missouri member and electrical engineer, went to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) earlier this year with his concerns about the electric fields that would be created by Grain Belt Express, and their possible corrosive effect on nearby infrastructure. In response, MoDOT has compiled a research report of the most current studies available on the subject. The report, entitled "Effects of Ground Voltage of Stray Current on Infrastructure Caused by High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) Transmission Lines,"
cites numerous studies which indicate that DC lines may have a harmful impact on metallic infrastructure when operated in the monopolar mode, or under emergency conditions.
Although Grain Belt Express's website claims that its project will be a bipolar line, Sprouse is still concerned about the extremely high voltage of the line, and the electric fields and stray currents it may produce.
"This is just another example of not fully understanding the potential long term negative consequences of this project. Our regulators need to enforce extremely high design standards when reviewing such projects around distances from homes, areas where people work around and under these lines, and especially around proximity to pipelines carrying natural gas and other petroleum products," Sprouse said.
The report indicates that monopolar HVDC transmission lines have an extremely corrosive effect on adjacent infrastructure, such as pipelines. Sprouse says that electric fields will always produce some stray currents, even in Grain Belt Express's bipolar HVDC model, or alternating current (AC) transmission lines.
The report confirmed Sprouse's worry, stating "The effect of stray current corrosion on underground infrastructure has been a concern for decades. As one example, a 1967 article warned about the "stray current corrosion of underground metallic structures" caused by HVDC transmission lines. In the literature, most studies are concerned about potential damage to pipeline structures." The report also quoted a 2008 GAO report that identified a risk "associated with siting HVDC electric transmission lines along active transportation ROW ... Stray current could interfere with railroad signaling systems and highway traffic operations, and accelerate pipeline corrosion, resulting in accidents."
Curt Jacobs from Erie, Illinois, echoed the concerns of Sprouse when commenting on a pipeline explosion that occurred last August adjacent to an AC transmission line near the proposed Rock Island Clean Line route.
"This pipeline explosion opened our eyes to the dangers of power lines close to pipelines. The suggestion that DC power can be even more corrosive than AC power raises significant safety questions for those of us that would be forced to live and work near Clean Line's proposed projects and the existing pipelines the routes attempt to parallel," he said.
Block GBE spokeswoman Jennifer Gatrel is worried that siting Grain Belt Express parallel to buried pipelines for approximately 119 miles across Missouri is too risky to the families who live and work close by. Approximately 53% of the GBE proposed route is sited within a mile of the pipeline corridor.
"We are very concerned about the implications of this report. Grain Belt wants to run their massive line close to pipelines through much of the state. The report makes it clear that there could be a real and present danger of doing so," she said. "As a mother to small children the idea that they could be put in danger is not acceptable!"
Some of Block GBE's major concerns, in addition to safety issues, are property rights, property devaluation, health effects, and the impediments to farming posed by the lines. Citizens interested in reading the report in full or learning more about the issue can find more information at www.blockgbemo.com
or by calling 660-232-1280. The public will also have a chance to weigh in on the issue directly to the Missouri PSC who will decide whether to allow Grain Belt to build the lines. The schedule is located at the group's website here
EUCI and its stable of vacationing utility executives are going to be partying it up at the Roosevelt Hotel
in midtown Manhattan next month.
So, what pretense are they using this time? "Strategic Communication for Transmission Projects." Well, at least they have abandoned the charade that their public relations fabrications are about "participating with the public" this time.
Instead, it's all about manipulating public opinion, or so they think. Topics include:
How Utilities Effectively Manage the Media
Industry experts will discuss how to frame and "sell" transmission projects as the beneficial investments that they are on behalf of the customers. Attendees will learn how these energy executives keep messaging succinct, consistent and well-positioned. Panelists will discuss successful strategies and tactics for interacting with the media.
Does this include a lesson in gagging and tying opposition leaders up in the corner? Otherwise, they're only fooling themselves. The opposition also knows how to "effectively manage the local media," and they know how to do it better, without resorting to threats and lies.
Is this really about educating the public about the truth and reality of transmission, or is it about "selling" a fantasy version of transmission that doesn't include any detriments or drawbacks? Sorry, that ship has sailed. The public simply doesn't believe you anymore. And reporters hate you and all the smoke you blow up their ass.
And speaking of "selling," I'm starting to wonder if EUCI is more about selling the products and services of its "instructors" to conference attendees:
EMF: What the Public Wants to Know and Why It Matters to Your Project
Public concern about electric and magnetic fields (EMF) and related potential health effects began in the late 1970s in association with higher voltage transmission lines and desk top computers. While concern about the latter has largely diminished, concern about EMF from transmission lines and substations continues and is sometimes a major issue in the siting and permitting of these facilities. Our experience demonstrates that presenting technically accurate comparisons of exposures from existing and proposed facilities provides a good context for communicating with the public. Sharing the results of experimental and epidemiology research studies and the perspectives of national and international health and scientific agencies is an effective method to assuage public concern. This session will teach you how to get the science right in your public outreach messages about EMF.
William H. Bailey, Ph.D., Principal Scientist, Center for Exposure Assessment & Dose Reconstruction, Exponent
I think Dr. Bailey has no idea what the public really wants to know about EMF, but he probably does know why it matter$ to "you."
Here's what the public really wants to know about EMF:
The professional opinion of a local physician, not the opinion of a company-paid, industry-funded "scientist." Sorry, transmission developers, you just can't buy local credibility.
But, the real fun is at the "post-conference workshop" where the blind will lead the blind in this exercise:
Utilizing Mediation and Negotiation Skills to Diffuse Project Opposition
Inevitably, utility infrastructure projects draw some opposition, in person or through social media. This workshop is designed to identify the real issues behind project opposition, and to utilize mediation and negotiation strategies to gain support. Participants will explore the dynamics of conflict, perceived power imbalances, communication skills, and neutral positioning. Utilizing skill building exercises and strategies for reaching agreements, attendees will learn how to be an effective medium between the project owner and project communities. You will also learn effective strategies and tactics, and share in resolving real opposition issues from current and past projects. You are encouraged to bring your current project issues to develop a resolution strategy.
Identify the concerns behind opposition
Evaluate when and when not to utilize social media to counter opposition attacks
Demonstrate how to properly communicate your message through application and critique.
Knowing your demographics and what is important to your project community
Understanding how to communicate project needs
Utilizing data to create visuals showing system constraints, demand, growth
Educating the opposition through clearly understood messaging
Opposition Working Groups
Seeing your project from the view of the opposition
Working group structure
Using project benefits to the communities advantage
Formulating the strategy of "give and take"
Evaluating how to answer questions such as:
Why not go underground?
Will this harm my property value?
Should we be concerned about EMF?
Developing resolution strategies for your current project opposition
"Seeing your project from the view of the opposition?" And how many transmission projects has EUCI's instructor opposed? My guess would be none. There they go again, attempting to teach a subject they know nothing about.
I do like the new theme I see running through all EUCI's more recent transmission opposition workshops, though. The acknowledgement that opposition has changed, the public is more knowledgeable than before, and that transmission developers are embarking on a strange, new world where their opposition is increasingly organized, strategic and successful is a nice change of pace. Because the first step on the road to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right, EUCI?
1) Why would the school district get involved at all?
2) Did the district check with its constituents in the affected areas before endorsing?
3) Was this a unanimous decision made by the board?
4) What analysis of the project did the board undertake to understand the need and impact of the project before endorsing?
5) What expertise did the board utilize to make this decision?
6) What meetings with Xcel and its representatives has the board (or school staff) held regarding Xcel's proposed plan, when were those meetings held and what was the substance of those meetings?
Ut-oh, Xcel! When are power companies going to get with the program and realize this ain't their Daddy's transmission line battle?
Opposition has evolved and the rules have changed. Forever.
UPDATE: Last night, the school board voted 4 to 2 to rescind the letter it had sent to the PUC. In its place, it will send a letter saying they don't want the power lines near schools. We believe this is a huge (and quick) victory!
Several Halt the Power Lines supporters were there and two spoke, including Colonel Curt Dale.
Board president (Kevin Larsen) reported that when he signed the letter in early May, he thought it related to a different matter and signed it without anyone else seeing it beforehand. He voted to let the letter stand as sent to the PUC. He said he likes and defended Xcel's proposal (as long as they keep the lines a safe distance from schools). We asked what about the kids in residential neighborhoods. Director Richardson, who was the second vote to let the letter stand as is, later said not having it close to schools (but close to residents) was a matter of density. I'm pretty sure, unbelievable as it is, that he actually used the word "density." Nettled, he also said he might personally send a letter to the PUC endorsing the project. (For what it's worth, he works for a gas pipe company that has many business dealings and business arrangements with Xcel.)
Voting to rescind the letter were directors Geddes, Reynolds, Robbins and Silverton. The four felt that the school board had no business in the matter, except ensuring the power lines weren't near schools. (Mr. Benevento was not at the meeting.)
Memorandum, schmemorandum. The only thing Clean Line's "Memorandum of Understanding" with the TVA
is good for anymore is wall papering the loo.
Clean Line thought they'd hit a sweet spot and found a quasi-governmental customer for their expensive 3500MW payload that was going to help them convince the federal government to go ahead with the worst abuse of federal eminent domain land takings in modern day history.
But, apparently the TVA is not the congregation of chumps Clean Line thought they were. The TVA is now making inroads toward a distributed generation future.
TVA has formed a new "stakeholder" group (get your stakes, folks, and hang on tightly!) to determine the value of distributed generation. The initiative aims to develop a methodology to gauge the value DG provides to the electric grid and the benefit the distribution grid provides to the DG owner.
Let's hope these "stakeholders" can drop the rhetoric and get the job done.
Updates and opportunities to comment will be posted on TVA's DG-IV page here.
Carol Overland, transmission slayer of the great north, brings us the story of an apparent transmission line routing goof that has transmission opponents all over wiping away tears of laughter. It seems that American Transmission Company's Badger Coulee 345kV transmission project got routed through the "back yard" of the CEO of Alliant Energy. The spouse of the CEO has intervened in the Wisconsin Public Service Commission case to try to save his million dollar property from having transmission nasties constructed on it.
Read more about it on Carol's blog here.