California lays out its five-year smart grid plan

Summary:California will need six or more transmission lines and multiple technology architecture and system upgrades to meet its the state's clean air and water standards, according to a report.

California will need six or more transmission lines and multiple technology architecture and system upgrades to meet its the state's clean air and water standards, according to a report.

California's Independent System Operator (ISO) unveiled its five-year outlook on Thursday. The report addresses the "vision for 2020 and beyond" and lays out upgrades that will be needed to create a smart grid that's sustainable.

A few key points:

  • The state needs 55,657 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of new renewable generation to meet the 20 percent standard and 102,000 GWh to meet the 33 percent standard. To access these clean resources and deliver the output to customers, the ISO estimates the state needs six or more major transmission lines in the next decade.
  • To hit those targets, more than 800 circuit-miles of 500 kilovolt transmission lines have to be approved and constructed by 2020.
  • Reaching California's water quality regulations will require the retirement of 19,000 MW of thermal plants and replacements by 2024. These plans are on the coasts.
  • More investment in smart grid technologies will be needed. These investments will need to be coordinated with spending on high-speed rails and other electric transportation efforts.
  • The state's plan focuses on the foundation system, environmental policy and regulation and organization.

Here's the timeline for system upgrades:

Intertwined with that upgrade path will be implementation of other energy sources such as wind and solar. In addition, the state will have to manage spikes and storage in alternative energy sources.

According to the report:

Wind and solar renewable generators have highly variable energy production as they depend on the wind blowing and the sun shining. As the amount of renewable generation in California increases, our existing fleet of traditional generators will be called upon more than ever before to ramp up and ramp down their production to compensate for the variability of renewable power production.

In addition, our existing fleet will need to provide more regulation energy to maintain grid stability within the parameters set by North American Electric Reliability Corporation reliability standards. To adapt to this new operating reality, the ISO is creating procedures and modifying existing ones to create more sophisticated forecasting and dispatch tools to manage grid voltages and transmission line loadings as more renewable generation comes online. An area needing more sophisticated management is congestion, especially in the south where 80 percent or more of the renewable resources are concentrated.

Managing those moving parts, will require more systems and investment.

Delivering on ISO's vision has multiple challenges, but the blueprint is worth a read.

This post was originally published on

Topics: Innovation


Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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