Daniel Martínez
FACTS & HVDC Manager
ABB México
View from the Top

New Grid Code Tightens Interconnection Requirements

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 15:19

Q: What are the main differences between the old and new Grid Codes?
A: The main difference compared with the old version is that the new one is more stringent regarding interconnection requirements. The new Grid Code’s objective is the preservation of the electricity transmission network and whoever connects to this network must comply with certain criteria. This Grid Code is so restraining in many technical aspects that some industry players are actually questioning whether it is needed for the Mexican grid. Some companies think the network is too robust as CFE has done a lot of work in the past 35 years to place enough reactive power compensation along the entire network to avoid problems. For every particular case or region, a deeper and serious study is required to state if the code is needed or not but we support the general thinking behind this new code. We did an analysis to compare the new Mexican Grid Code against international examples, such as the code applicable in Europe by the Electrical Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO), which is used in 35 European countries and by 43 utilities, and that applied in the UK. Our findings show that there are many similarities between them. All transmission system operators around the globe seem to be going in the same direction. If the Energy Transition Law expects a larger percentage of the power mix to be renewable by 2035, we do need a robust network and ABB has the Flexible Alternating Current Transmission Systems (FACTS) technologies to help its customers and business partners comply with this Grid Code.

Q: What has been your experience regarding the adoption of ABB’s FACTS technology?

A: The negotiations to install the first FACTS system in Mexico were done in the late 1970s and the first Static VAr Compensators (SVCs) were finally shipped and installed in the Mexican grid in the early 1980s. We have 38 ABB FACTS installed in Mexico, including both (SVCs) and series capacitors (SCs). This means that around 80 percent of the total FACTS base installed in the country belongs to ABB, with around 85 percent of this installed for CFE. Most of our FACTS technologies are used for the national transmission system and just a few for industrial installations, mainly in the steel manufacturing industry where arc-furnaces are commonly used. Arc-furnaces are electrical equipment used to melt scrap using short-circuit electrodes that produce a lot of heat, which in turn melts the metal. In the transmission grid, most of our FACTS systems in Mexico are found at the 400 and 230kV levels.

Q: Which of your products might be used to ease the integration of renewables to the grid?

A: SVCs could be used for this purpose but we mainly suggest using our Statcom product instead, which is a more sophisticated and powerful technology. Statcom uses a different semiconductor and has higher capacities than SVCs. This is the product we are suggesting to our clients in the renewable energy industry introduce to comply with the new Grid Code. ABB can offer Statcoms for transmission network applications together with its MACH technology, as well as its PCS6000 technology for renewable interconnection applications with convenient features such as a containerized production. We consider our products to be among the most attractive solutions to comply with the new Grid Code in terms of renewable energy integration.

Q: What are the benefits of using HVDC technologies such as that for the Oaxaca transmission line?

A: HVDC offers the big advantage of enhancing grid management and stability while increasing its capacity, being able to transmit large amounts of energy. The capacity of Oaxaca’s HVDC line is 3GW. HVDC lines transmit electricity through a couple of conductors, which are known as a bipole, making it possible to handle more energy than traditional lines and with less energy loss. The fact that HVDC permits the transmission of more energy with shorter lengths also means there is less social and environmental impact. Moreover, HVDC can interconnect power networks with different characteristics and sizes.