Flow Away from Bruce Complex (FABC)

I live in Bruce County, where many young people leave the area to go to school, and to find work. But the Flow Away from Bruce Complex is not a medical condition, or a state of mind. Nor does it describe the population flows of young people.
It is an interface in the electricity network. The Bruce nuclear plant is a monster plant. There are 8 reactors, each with generating capacity of about 750 MW. Only 6 of the reactors are working right now, since 2 were laid up in the late 90’s, so the total capacity of the plant is about 4500 MW. The government has signed a contract with Bruce Power, the plant owner, to refurbish the two laid up reactors, so the total capacity will be 6000 MW by late this decade.

To put that in perspective, 6000 MW is 50% larger than Ontario’s 2nd largest nuclear plant, and 50% larger than the largest US plant. So it is by far the largest nuclear plant in North America. It is a testament to the gigantism syndrome that existed at the old Ontario Hydro, and the thinking of their political masters.

The plant is in the town of Municipality of Kincardine, which has a population of about 12000, so most of the power produced must be exported. This is why the Flow Away from Bruce is important.

According to a report released by the Independent Electricity System Operator, the capacity of transmission lines to carry power away from Bruce is between 4500 and 5300 MW. So the transmission system in the area is already close to capacity, and that is before the 2 new refurbished units are brought back. The limitation on the transmission is not thermal in nature. That is, it is not excess heat on the lines that limits the transmission. It would be better for the wind industry if it was a thermal limit. If it was a thermal limit, an argument can be made that the production from the wind turbines is highest only in high winds. High winds cool the lines. So the thermal limit is naturally self correcting, which should allow an increased capacity on the lines. But the limit in this case is based on contigency planning for voltage support.

In addition to the refurbished units, there are some substantial wind projects planned in the area. Kingsbridge 2 plans to expand their 39 MW project by 158 MW. Enbridge has 200 MW planned. The Ripley project is 76 MW. These projects have all received contracts to sell power based on the Renewables II Request for Proposal. So in total, there are about 475 MW of planned or built projects within the vicinity of the Bruce plant.

The Bruce area is located on the coast of Lake Huron, one of the best wind locations in the province. Winds accelerate as they cross the lake, often in a westerly or southwesterly direction, and hit Ontario’s shoreline with full force. So it is natural that the coast of Lake Huron would be one of the first areas of the province to see wind development. The wind is where it is. It can’t be moved. The same is true of the Bruce Complex.

Unfortunately, it looks like this transmission problem may affect the Standard Offer. Transmission planners appear reluctant to allow any connection of new generating capacity, even the small facilities that would be built for the Standard Offer (<10MW). This would be a real shame, and may not reflect broad thinking.

The IESO report stated, “The FABC limit is required for preserving system and/or plant stability, and maintaining acceptable post-contingency voltages. Separate stability and voltage limits are defined for each recognized continency. The limit ranges presented in this document are based on the most restrictive contingency.” Whew. What does that mean?

It means it is a conservative estimate of the line capacity, accomodating all contingencies.
But in addition to a conservative estimate of the line capacity, the limit is not reached until the new wind capacity is built, and the refurbished nuclear capacity is on line. But even when the new capacity is on line, it of course doesn’t generate all the time. Plants still need maintenance. One of the six operating reactors is down today for maintenance, and this is not an unusual day. With 8 reactors on line, the odds of all 8 operating at the same time are slim. The wind doesn’t always blow. The odds of the 8 reactors being on, the wind all completed and operating at capacity, and all the contingencies in the planning assumption being in place becomes infinitessimal.

There is another problem with limiting the Standard Offer due to the transmission constraint. Such a measure takes no account of where the power produced by Standard Offer is consumed. It is consumed locally, because it comes from small projects. True, this means more power must be moved out of Bruce, since less is required locally, much like more must be moved out in the case of a local blackout (is this one of the contingencies?) . But the planning process must consider Standard Offer projects more as load reduction, than new generation.

My 5.1 MW project will be entirely consumed on its feeder 97% of the time, based on 2004 data. 3% of the time, it will reduce the load on an adjacent feeder. It simply prevents the transmission system from supplying some of the power on the distribution power bus in Owen Sound. It never feeds the transmission system. And this would be the case in almost for almost all Standard Offer Project. They as small, so their power is consumed nearby. If electricity consumption in Owen Sound is the same per capita as elsewhere in the Province, then Owen Sound alone would consume the output of 94 MW of wind energy on average. And Owen Sound isn’t the only load in Bruce and Grey Counties.

Intelligent use of generation rejection, consideration of real versus theoretical generation capacity, investing in voltage stabilization, reviewing of contingencies, and consideration of Standard Offer projects as load reduction, should allow Standard Offer to proceed in the Bruce area in an appropriate and safe way.

There will be a lot of disappointed wind developers, land owners, environmentalists, community groups, and investors if the coast of Lake Huron is made ineligible for Standard Offer.  And there will be a lot of coal burned to supply us with electricity, instead of clean renewable energy.

Leave a Reply