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Reliability: Studying, coordinating operations both in advance and real-time

by Jen Neville, April 17, 2017

Operating the bulk electric system an​d providing round-the-clock energy is a responsibility system operators take seriously. Following the December 2016 Reliability Assurance Project of the Western Interconnection​     report jointly issued by North American Electric Reliability Corporation and Western Electricity Coordinating Council, WAPA continues to fortify its operational reliability for the 40 million Americans it collectively serves along with its wholesale customers.​

WAPA takes proactive measures to support reliability assurance by:
  • Moving forward with standing up real-time engineer desks in its Phoenix, Loveland and Watertown dispatch centers. These engineers will perform real-time assessments per the NERC standards every 30 minutes and develop operating plans based on the assessments. The assessments increase situational awareness, pre-mitigate incidents, and prevent instability, uncontrolled separation or cascading outages.
  • Using real-time contingency analysis, or RTCA, which runs every 5 minutes looking for possible issues, i.e. overloads, against all the elements in the network model. 
  • Having WAPA engineers maintain and update the network models based on sensitivity analyses of the WECC and Southwest Power Pool planning cases versus the impacts to WAPA’s and neighboring utilities’ facilities.
  • Participating in the WECC standardized data sharing template and the WECC Data Exchange Working Group.
  • Strengthening our advanced communication with neighboring utilities to coordinate transmission outages.
  • Expanding seasonal assessments beyond the standard transfer capability, to expand the path operator methodology and perform stress tests related to projected system configurations. This allows WAPA to develop pre-contingent mitigation plans to prevent cascading outages and identify long-term interconnection reliability operating limits. 
“Of course there is always room for improvement, but I believe WAPA is becoming one of the leaders in these areas,” said WAPA’s Real-time Engineer Lead Zea Flores.

Increasing visibility across system

WAPA has followed a systematic approach to network modeling for several years, which ensures its models’ accuracy and insight into neighboring systems. WAPA engineers continue to add hundreds of facilities into their models to expand the reach of WAPA’s studies. 

For example, operations achieved greater insight across the two balancing authorities and visibility into California, as a result of WAPA’s operational consolidation for the Western Area Lower Colorado and Western Area Colorado Missouri balancing authorities. Now the operations centers in Loveland and Phoenix can quickly assume control of each other’s transmission system in the event of a failure or emergency. And as part of this consolidation the two independent models were merged, enhancing our wide-area analysis capability.

The ability for staff at both centers to operate the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system creates reinforcement for its operations and more than doubles the transmission operators’ and BAs’ situational awareness. The consolidation, model merge, and computer hardware upgrades allow monitoring into twice as many of WAPA’s neighbors’ facilities and simulated contingencies, including a number of smaller generating units that were previously dismissed due to limited computer memory storage. WAPA is simulating events further into our neighboring utility systems.

Additionally, WAPA uses the study results of its reliability coordinators in validating its modeling and evaluating the system. This “two tools” approach strengthens the validity of the independent system studies and allows WAPA operators to analyze discrepancies to ensure the system studies are whole and sound. For instance, operations engineers that manage the WALC and WACM BAs have licenses for Peak Reliability’s Real-time Hosted Advanced Applications for the entire West-wide Model. WAPA engineers use these applications to augment the in-house network modeling and enhance real-time modeling efforts. 

WAPA continues to partner with neighboring utilities, its reliability coordinators, and customers to increase reliability assurance, maintain a baseline culture of compliance and address complex changes to operating the interconnected bulk electric system.
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