Elpipes for Energy Arbitrage

I believe that long distance underground power transmission is the "missing piece of the puzzle" on making non-dispatchable and/or remote non-fossil fueled energy generation practical. I've been involved with this issue since 1991 when I was a Full Party & Public Intervenor before the Wisconsin PSC in their Advance Plan 6 process. I made it into a startup business concept in 2009 because Obama seems to understand the significance of a robust grid to make renewable energy practical. Since then I have pitched in two business plan competitions and two Venture forums, and to 12 VCs and/or Angel groups; all the investors have the same point of view: too big, too long term, and where is DOE on this?

I have chased DOE via two ARPA-E grant applications (on which Alcoa was a co-applicant both times). I have spoken to (I think) the right people at DOE: Hank Kenchington, Debbie Haught, Gil Bindewald, and Phil Overholt. I have been working with highly qualified scientists (Markus Zahn @ MIT; J. Keith Nelson @ RPI; Isidor Sauers @ ORNL; Tom Overbye @ UI/Urbana-Champaign), some of whom were with me on my ARPA-E applications.

My polymer-insulated elpipe technology isn't "sexy" like HTS, but it will be easier to make reliable, and the production of the elpipes will generate more jobs than would an HTS electric pipeline with equal capacity. Unlike HTS, elpipes are inter-operable with HVDC technology at 500-800kV, and so fit into a future HVDC supergrid that has all types of HVDC transmission technologies (overhead, cables, GIL, and elpipes); at present HTS cannot operate above 200kV DC. My technology represents an alternative to GIL, which has a different set of problems compared to elpipes; I do certainly admit that GIL (gas insulated lines) are the main practical alternative to elpipes for underground HVDC connections carrying >5 GW. At present the maximum capacity of cables is ~1.1 GW/cable pair).

Elpipes (or GIL) can get very low loss ~ 1%/1000 km simply by using a lot more metal. Elpipes & GIL really are "electric pipelines" in the way ordinary folks think of a pipeline, but interestingly, the cost for purchase of the conductor per se never gets above 15% of project cost up to 25 GW transmission capacity (approximately the maximum capacity for a practical passively-cooled elpipe). There is a crossover in economics with overhead lines, such that at high enough capacity (how high depends acutely on ROW & litigation costs), elpipes will beat overhead lines on pure economics. Compared to GIL lines, elpipes are far more robust and compact; an 800kV GIL line would have to be nearly 1.5 meters in diameter, compared to about 60 cm for an elpipe.

One particular thing that elpipes will enable in the short term is regional energy arbitrage.

Roger Faulkner, President
Electric Pipeline Corporation

No comments:

Post a Comment