Renewable Energy Pushing Utilities & Grid Operators To Invest In FACTS

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Though the first flexible alternating current transmission systems (FACTS) were implemented in electric grids in the 1920s, the recent surge in renewable energy deployment has rapidly increased their demand. And according to a new report compiled by Navigant Research, utilities and grid operators are soon to be investing more than $42 billion into FACTS between 2014 and 2022.

Flexible alternating current transmission systems mitigate drops in voltage across a power grid — not something that was as vital in the 1900s with their reliance upon very stable fossil-fuel energy sources. However, with the recent increase in renewable energy sources being installed across energy grids the world over, FACTS have become a necessity.

“New utility-scale generation resources like wind farms and large solar parks now compete with traditional coal, gas, and nuclear generation plants in global markets, creating new transmission grid problems and opportunities,” the authors write, adding that “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.”

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“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,” says 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 study also showed that the FACTS industry will surpass $5 billion in annual revenue worldwide by 2022, thanks primarily to the “rapid worldwide expansion in large-scale wind and solar projects.”

“Flexible AC transmission systems can be used creatively to help solve some of the most demanding transmission challenges on the power grid,” said McCray. “These new distributed solutions are showing tremendous potential for helping to correct problems like localized voltage sag, power factor fluctuations, and flicker.”

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Joshua S Hill

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