Technology and Innovation

The Integrated Grid

Today, we are seeing new technology being applied and implemented all along the value chain from generation through transmission and distribution, to homes and businesses. Integrated appropriately, these advancements will over time serve to strengthen the robustness of the network by providing greater diversity of resources and better responsiveness in the grid itself, supporting reliable, efficient and cost-effective delivery of power to all consumers.

We see a grid that is more intelligent and responsive and is valued for the services it provides. Technology innovation and entrepreneurship in our work force are the ingredients for success.

As we invest in the grid, we are learning more about what it takes to achieve the level of flexibility and reliability that is needed. Our work on the Texas Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) gave us valuable experience integrating new technologies with the grid including sophisticated and advanced monitoring of the volatile voltage levels produced by wind turbines, enabling grid operators to manage the grid in real time, which is necessary for grid stability and reliability.

A key element of any “utility of the future” model will be a modern, efficient grid that not only handles new generation and end-use technologies, but also enhances the efficiency of the existing grid. To succeed in the future, our industry not only must continue doing what it does today in terms of enhancing and improving reliability and connectivity, it also must enable the integration of new technologies. As our customers are able to more fully use the electric grid as a technology integration network, they will realize its full value.

The demands on today’s grid have changed from a few decades ago, and the demands in the future will continue to be shaped by consumer consumption patterns, which are in turn shaped by new technologies, such as smart appliances, plug-in electric vehicles, and customers managing their electric use with mobile devices. The continued evolution of the grid to incorporate new technologies is essential and will provide for a more flexible, resilient and interactive grid to advance evolving societal needs.

Electric Power Research Institute
An integrated grid is one that optimizes the electric power system while providing safe, reliable power to customers.
Source – The Electric Power Research Institute

Three forces shape AEP’s advanced energy and digital technology strategy to ensure we are meeting customers’ needs:

  • The types of technologies being deployed;
  • When these technologies become cost-effective; and
  • The policies that can influence the deployment of these technologies onto the electrical grid.

Our growth in transmission-related investments led to the expanded use of Drop in Control Modules (DICM), a pre-fabricated control room module made to AEP specifications that can be placed into service in half the time of a conventional control building. These control modules have been available for several years, but we designed AEP’s units to be both flexible and expandable. Since 2011, we have installed more than 200 DICMs throughout our service territory. We are currently seeking a patent for a DICM expansion concept.

The variable frequency transformer (VFT) is a two-way power flow control device used to transmit electricity between two systems. AEP used VFT for the first time in the U.S. to connect the Texas and Mexico grids in order to address reliability issues in Laredo, Texas. The VFT stabilized the situation by allowing power exchanges between the two electric grids, which was not possible with conventional technology.

Phase shifting transformers (PST) connect with transmission to control the flow of power between two ends of a line. We are using PSTs to balance power flows to avoid thermal overloads and to more efficiently and effectively use the full capacity of the grid. This improves reliability and gives us extra flexibility to manage the system.

AEP is among seven Central Ohio companies participating in the Columbus Collaboratory, a partnership across several industries to help companies tackle common challenges in big data analytics and cyber security. The Ohio Third Frontier Commission approved a state grant of about $5 million to support the initiative, which is supplemented by $21 million of private funding. AEP is contributing $4 million over the next four years.

While still in its infancy, the Columbus Collaboratory has already returned value to AEP. We have advanced our understanding of the application of ‘big data’ to improve customer service and have established a close cooperation with the member companies on cyber security practices and tools.

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