SEATTLE - A utility, two paper companies, and the U.S. Navy recently helped the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) successfully test the ability to reduce congestion on transmission lines on the Olympic Peninsula by voluntarily reducing transmission loads during times of critical peak demand as part of a pilot project.

Using an Internet-based trading platform, known as the Demand Exchange, BPA simulated severe weather and asked the four pilot participants to reduce their need for transmission services. BPA then posted an hourly price per megawatt, giving pilot participants the chance to accept, reject, or counter the offer. Participants then bid to reduce their demand using backup generation or shifting load to other hours.

The tests occurred over four days in March. During the tests, BPA was able to purchase an average of 22 megawatts of peak demand reduction during each hour of a simulated event. This is about one year's load growth on the Peninsula. "We were hoping to achieve between 10 to 20 megawatts of deferred peak demand and potential generation, so this pilot gave us solid results" said Brad Miller, BPA project manager.

BPA developed the pilot to test the feasibility of contracting with large energy users to reduce their transmission use during critical periods, thus reducing the likelihood of voltage instability and ultimately a blackout.

"The Olympic Peninsula offered us an ideal location because it is an environmentally sensitive area with increasing demand for electricity and limited transmission capacity. We will now analyze this information to see if a demand reduction program can adequately reduce load and provide us with a viable alternative for postponing construction of a new transmission line at least several years," Miller said.

Publication date: 05/17/2004