Large-scale renewables driving flexible AC transmission systems

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Flexible Alternating Current Transmission Systems (FACTS), which mitigate voltage drops on the power grid, have evolved significantly during the past 40 years. With the rapid growth of large-scale renewable energy projects, which often supply intermittent power, demand is driving the need for FACTS, according to Navigant Research.

Complex engineered solutions such as static VAR compensators (SVC) and static synchronous compensators (STATCOM) have been developed to address emerging local transmission grid conditions and improve the reliability and stability of the high-voltage (HV) transmission grid.

Since AC transmission systems are prevalent in the transmission industry, the installation of FACTS solutions will continue, both to replace existing aging infrastructure and to support the trouble-free interconnection of wind and renewable generation. In fact, Navigant predicts cumulative FACTS investments by utilities and power grid operators will total $42.3 billion from 2014 through 2022.

“The majority of electricity transmission systems in service today rely on many of the same technologies that existed at their conception more than a century ago,” said James McCray, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “Sophisticated FACTS technologies demonstrate tremendous potential to provide solutions to problems — such as localized voltage sag, power factor fluctuations, and flicker — that are caused by renewables intermittency, increasing industrial loads, and power plant retirements.”

The capital costs and uncertainty associated with new transmission grid and high-voltage substation construction are very high, especially in an era of distributed renewable energy resources, according to the report, resulting in transmission grid operators and utilities seeking to mitigate voltage drops over long-haul transmission lines — driving the requirement for new, large-scale FACTS deployments.

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