"Reconductoring" the electric power grid

Here is a way to increase the amount of power a transmission line can carry. Cost of the new cables is higher than standard materials, but since new towers don’t need to be built, overall costs are lower.

From the link:
Most of our existing power lines consist of a steel core surrounded by strands of aluminum.

In reconductoring, advanced conductors replace the steel core with a core made of a composite material, such as carbon fiber that’s not only lighter but stronger. This might seem like a very subtle shift in materials and design; however, it allows power lines to operate at higher temperatures and sag less, significantly increasing their load capacity.

Whereas advanced conductors cost 2-4 times more than conventional power lines, upgrading existing lines using advanced conductors actually costs less than half what a new power line would cost because it does away with much of the construction spending as well as fees from permitting for new rights-of-way, with power companies only needing to apply for a maintenance permit to put new wires, the researchers have found.

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Sounds like a winning way to increase the capacity of the existing power grid, as more of the country becomes electrified.

A list of power infrastructure companies are also given in the article. I don’t know which of those companies might be a good investment, but since several of them have already increased in price lately, it may not be the best time to buy right now.

  • Pete
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I was wondering if the infrastructure companies mentioned actually make the carbon fiber cable replacement? Or are they just doing infrastructure installs/replacements?

JimA

This is really such terrific news. It allows a piecemeal replacement of the busiest corridors without significant disruptions and at costs which can be managed as the grid moves to higher and higher levels of use.

The addition of more towers and more lines would be an environmental and legal nightmare, this is a wonderful development.

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There seems to be a lot of interest in HVDC transmission lines. I happened to watch a couple of videos yesterday.

  1. The Grain Belt Express HVDC line connecting Kansas wind farms to midwest big cities.
  1. A longer line moving wind power from Africa to the United Kingdom.
  1. China is building a 1 million volt line from the windy NW plateau to Goquan on the East Coast

intercst

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From the original post, the main article starts out with this sentence…
The Biden administration has set an ambitious target to generate 80% of the United States’ electricity from renewables by 2030 and 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Last year, renewables generated 23% of the electricity in the US. This is up from 18% in 2019. Is there anyone who thinks the US can get to 80% renewables by 2030 or 100% carbon free by 2035? Maybe I should create a Motley Fool poll? :grinning: Hah!

  • Pete
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Only if I can vote for more than one option!

JimA

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No harm in going down Biden’s road.

The money was only okayed a little over one year ago.

Except for when it costs the consumer more. An example from New York:

“State officials said that, for the two winning projects, the weighted average all-in development cost is $150.15 per megawatt-hour over the life of the contracts. That’s significantly higher than the projects’ all-in development cost of $83.36 per MWh announced in October 2019, when NYSERDA finalized the first contracts for Empire Wind and Sunrise Wind.”

150.15/83.36 ==> 80% increase

“The average bill impact for residential customers is now expected to be about $2.09 per month, up from 73 cents per month under the original agreements.”

2.09/0.73 ==> 186% increase

Not such a good result for the consumer.

DB2

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But still not more than a nuclear plant by a long shot.

But that is different than what you wrote about going down the POTATUS road.

And when you figure in the system costs renewable costs jump. From a thread from last June:

Here are the US numbers for 30% penetration levels:

        Total grid-level system costs
              USD/MWhr
Nuclear           1.67
Coal              1.03
Nat gas           0.51
Onshore wind     14.31
Offshore wind    22.10
Solar            18.87

DB2

Bob the other guy looks depressed. His tone of voice is depressed.

Bob,

That does not change that renewables are deflationary.

Nuclear is inflationary.

But we’re nowhere near 30% penetration for offshore wind, right?

Do you mean does offshore wind generate 30% of US electricity? No. Total renewables are about 20%. But the point is that renewables in the system tend to lead to higher prices for the consumer (which is not deflationary).

Back in June I looked at the correlation between the percentage of wind penetration for electricity production and average household electricity rates ($/kWh) in the 20 largest GDP countries by GDP. The correlation was highly significant (p=0.0011).

DB2

Texas is mostly natural gas electricity generation, but we are about 20% wind and are a leader in the country on wind generation. We trail only California on solar electric generation. About 11% nuclear. Little coal. And we have some of the cheapest electricity in the nation.

The amount of wind farms we have put up is staggering, and it’s only increasing. Some of these wind farms are a sight to behold and they just keep getting bigger.

At our house I opted into the renewable energy plan from our utility, Perdenales Electric Cooperative, www.pec.coop. The additional surcharge for this is so tiny you cannot notice it on your monthly bill. I elected to go this route, rather than install panels on the house. Cheap, and we are supporting a green grid transition.

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I thought that’s what the study you linked to said. In fact, it did say it. If not that, what do you mean by 30% penetration?

@Leap1 didn’t say renewables are the low cost solution. He said they are deflationary. Is that true?

Well shoot, if you look at a chart of non-hydro renewable energy costs over the last 25–which is basically the history of the industry–costs have come down by an astonishing amount. That is the definition of deflationary. It hasn’t been linear, and as you point out, not always down, but the overall trend is way, way down.

The reason is no mystery at all. The more you build, the cheaper each unit gets, and the cheaper each unit gets, the more you build. It is a virtuous cycle.

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Not true for nuclear power plants because they are one-off major construction projects.

Solar, wind, and batteries have had technological advances. As we all have witnessed.

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That was all wind and solar, not just offshore wind.

DB2

Wright’s Law

https://www.ark-invest.com/wrights-law/

Cost cannot get to zero, the curve is asymptotic.

The Captain

Then regulators take over and make everything more expensive.

Sometimes. Not always. Regulators made freight fares cheaper for everyone except Rockefeller when the ICC began by rationalizing fares. Regulation made stock buying cheaper and safer for investors by stopping big investors from running corners and scams. Regulators made savings banks more secure by insuring deposits and requiring banks to adhere to standards for depositors.

Regulations vastly brought down medical costs of auto accidents by requiring seat belts and air bags in cars. Those costs declined 30% even as miles driven increased 300% over the ensuing decades. Cars became slightly more expensive, but on the whole, transit costs declined.

There are certainly lots of examples where regulation increases prices, but then some of us are willing to pay a bit more to have clean water, clean air, safe airplane flights, and the rest. On balance, regulation is a good thing; that’s why every advanced civilization has it, and every third world and gangster country does not.

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