Southern Company last week demonstrated a new technology at its Power Coordination Center in Birmingham, Alabama, as a top Department of Energy (DOE) official attended the dedication ceremony. The technology, trade-named GenVARR, provides new, real-time calculations of generator reactive power reserves to operators of electric transmission systems, allowing them to increase the reliability of electricity delivered from power plants to customers across large geographic regions.
Kevin Kolevar, director of the DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, observed the GenVARR application in use. Hosting Kolevar was Andy Dearman, Southern Company's chief transmission officer.
During the past two years, Southern Company and the DOE have worked together in a cost-shared technology research partnership. Through this partnership, Southern Company and the DOE developed software capable of providing utility operators with timely updates of generator reactive power reserves using real-time data from electric generating plants. Reactive power reserves must be sufficient to prevent localized outages from expanding into wide-area events or blackouts. Traditional methods for determining reactive power reserves rely on design data that may overestimate the amount of reserves actually available.
To address this problem, Southern Company developed a system to query, retrieve and analyze plant data for determining the generator volt ampere reactive reserve based on actual system conditions, thus helping transmission system operators to take appropriate actions to ensure reliability. The GenVARR technology will allow utilities nationwide to enhance the reliability of their electric grids.
"Through our partnership with the Department of Energy, we have developed a new technology that has far-reaching implications," said Dearman. "User feedback has indicated that GenVARR will be a widely used and extremely valuable product to the transmission system operating and planning community. We're looking forward to continuing our partnership with the Department of Energy as we work to expand application of this new tool."
In his role with DOE, Kolevar leads the development and implementation of national policy pertaining to electric grid reliability; management of research, development, and demonstration activities for "next generation" electric grid infrastructure technologies; and leads federal efforts to help ensure and secure the reliable flow of energy. As Southern Company's chief transmission officer, Dearman has management responsibility for all transmission functions and organizations within Southern Company.