USA Power Grid and hydroelectric plants Black Start

USA Power Grid and hydroelectric plants Black Start (

Technology – Security

A black start is the process of restoring an electric power station or a part of an electric grid to operation without relying on the external transmission network.[1]

Normally, the electric power used within the plant is provided from the station’s own generators. If all of the plant’s main generators are shut down, station service power is provided by drawing power from the grid through the plant’s transmission line. However, during a wide-area outage, off-site power supply from the grid will not be available. In the absence of grid power, a so-called black start needs to be performed to bootstrap the power grid into operation.

To provide a black start, some power stations have small diesel generators, normally called the black start diesel generator (BSDG), which can be used to start larger generators (of several megawatts capacity), which in turn can be used to start the main power station generators. Generating plants using steam turbines require station service power of up to 10% of their capacity for boiler feedwater pumps, boiler forced-draft combustion air blowers, and for fuel preparation. It is uneconomical to provide such a large standby capacity at each station, so black-start power must be provided over designated tie lines from another station. Often hydroelectric power plants are designated as the black-start sources to restore network interconnections. A hydroelectric station needs very little initial power to start (just enough to open the intake gates and provide excitation current to the generator field coils), and can put a large block of power on line very quickly to allow start-up of fossil-fueled or nuclear stations. Certain types of combustion turbine can be configured for black start, providing another option in places without suitable hydroelectric plants.

My Two Cents:
I have been working with hydroelectric Power plants since 2005 with regard to their Software Technology. I was amazed to find out that FERC (ISO/RTO/Electric Power Markets), have made it economic unprofitable for most hydroelectric plants to remain a Black Start system for our power grid(s). Over the years I have been inside many hydroelectric power plants and pump storage power plants, and to my amazement 90 % of them have had the black start systems removed, 8 % were still there but deemed unoperational, and only 1 was still good to go….Seriously…. So over the years based on deregulation and the way our capital system is setup, AND how these power firms have been bought and sold, the fact that it is so expensive and the regulations required by FERC (ISO/RTO/Electric Power Markets), it is cheaper to remove the black start features from these plants. Even the Insurance companies that insure these firms somehow where either kept in the dark or allowed this to happen. I feel that every hydroelectric power plant in the USA should be black start operational, especially Hydro facilities that have an ongoing source of water for generation like rivers. I believe it should not be an economic policy with regard to national security. I am just dumbfounded on the logic behind this…

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