Energy efficiency and the FACTS

How flexible alternating current transmission systems can help build a low carbon future

Oil, gas and coal may power the world, but managing and restraining energy consumption is actually our “first fuel,” and the most significant action we can take towards achieving an energy secure, environmentally sound and economically healthy world.

The International Energy Agency says that if the world became energy efficient right now, we would save about 7.6 giga tonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year by 2030 – almost 1.5 times the current annual CO2 emissions of the United States.

Energy not used, or used more wisely, is really our greatest hope of building a low carbon future.

In the electricity sector there are many ways of doing this, big and small – from using efficient light bulbs and appliances to constructing energy efficient buildings, to improving the way power transmission systems generate and deliver electricity.

It’s crucial that we leverage as many of them as possible, because electricity generation is the largest single and fastest growing source of CO2 in the energy sector. And also because many of the solutions to rising CO2 emissions – end user efficiency, renewable generation, carbon capture and storage – lie within the electricity sector.

Flexible alternating current transmission systems (FACTS) is one such area that offers significant efficiency potential. FACTS represents a portfolio of advanced technologies that stabilize power delivery networks, making them more efficient and able to handle more power through existing lines. That means less power generation plants and transmission lines need to be built. FACTS technology also supports isolated and weak power networks. Look at some real-life benefits of this technology in action:

A Colombian oil field installed an ABB Static Var Compensator (SVC) – a device that quickly and reliably controls transmission line voltage – resulting in an additional 30 megawatts (MW) of power for a production plant plagued by breakdowns and interruptions. Voltage dips fell by more than 95 percent. The oil field and the 230 kilovolt (kV), 160-km long power line feeding it became more energy efficient.

In Canada, two ABB series capacitors installed midpoint on a 280-km long, 500 kV transmission interconnector improved power capacity by 30 percent, so additional lines don’t have to be built (series capacitors improve capacity and voltage stability of transmission lines). ABB installed  the most recent protective devices to help the lines cope with extreme grid conditions.

By making power networks more efficient, FACTS solutions can improve productivity. An  iron ore mine in northern Sweden solved its power quality problems by installing an ABB SVC, improving the capacity of the hoists bringing ore to the surface by 30 percent. More ore moved in a day, using existing power facilities more efficiently.

Using the power resources we already have to reduce waste, increase efficiency and enhance productivity should be a priority for all of us and there are technologies to help us achieve these goals.


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About the author

Rolf Grunbaum

I joined ASEA a number of years ago and now work for ABB's FACTS business, where I am senior marketing manager. I also a member of Cigré, IEEE, and the author of numerous papers.
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