The Grid Optimization Blog
Substations, Bananas & Hot Dogs

Substations, Bananas & Hot Dogs

In New York City, there aren’t that many gas stations, but there are many fruit stands and food carts (you may know that by their street name: halal cart). Lately, the number of stands and carts has increased significantly, such that in some places, there may be four or five carts next to one another, all selling the exact same product.

So basically there are hundreds or thousands of places you can get your bananas and/or hot dogs from, yet the cost for the same banana or hot dog varies significantly; in some areas you can get five (5) or more bananas for a dollar, other areas you can only get 1 banana for a dollar; in other areas you will probably pay a dollar just to look at a banana.

The reason for the huge cost variance is mainly tied to “location”, i.e. rent for different apartments vary significantly by location; carts/stands still have to pay rent/lease.

The most expensive project for a utility is building a substation or power plant, of course the substation and power plant equipment are extremely expensive, but in some areas the land may be more expensive than all the equipment combined. To make things worse, you may have the necessary funding, but you cannot find available property; most likely the land you will find will not be properly zoned; you will also have to go through the “not in my backyard” struggle and the land will most likely be an environmental waste hazard that will require ton of cash for cleaning up. Ideally, we want the station closer to the load center; however, we may be forced to build the station further which complicates other matters.

That’s why building a substation is usually the last resort, especially when the substation is needed to meet a forecasted load increase that may occur for few hours every few years. Peak shaving is the direction utilities and regulatory commission are adopting: via using renewable energy, i.e. mixing solar and batteries to meet those few hours; again, implementing other measures to defer the need to acquire property, especially areas where a banana cost more than a dollar.

The next time you are planning a substation, check how much bananas cost in the proposed location.

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