As hurricane season begins this year, utilities across the Gulf Coast will have a new partner as they work to keep the lights on after extreme weather events. Starting in late 2013, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) extended its service area from 11 states in the Midwest to cover Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. As the regional transmission organization that serves the Gulf Coast region, MISO is now responsible for ensuring the reliability of the electric grid for 42 million people.
As the grid operator for 15 states and the Canadian province of Manitoba, MISO has wide-ranging experience dealing with extreme weather events. Whether it is bitterly cold subzero temperatures, extreme heat, floods, or tornados, MISO ensures the reliable delivery of electricity across its service area. With the start of hurricane season, MISO will put that experience to work helping utilities in the Gulf Coast region get the lights back on following hurricanes and other extreme weather.
Utilities across the South are no strangers to preparing for and addressing the damage caused by hurricanes. ( Ed.: See “Lessons in Resiliency and Risk” in this issue.) Entergy, the largest utility across the MISO South region, has won numerous awards from the Edison Electric Institute for storm restoration. Starting in 2012, MISO began working with Entergy and other utilities in the South region to coordinate procedures and planning in preparation for ensuring the quickest and most efficient response in any storm’s aftermath.
What MISO provides is a comprehensive overview of the largest regional transmission organization region in the U.S. to help ensure reliability to as many customers as possible. MISO’s tools and data will provide an extra set of eyes to monitor the grid before, during, and following a storm to help get the lights back on as soon as possible.
MISO’s broad regional view and state-of-the-art reliability tools enable improved reliability for the region through transmission system availability. This provides $93 million to $140 million dollars in benefits across the entire MISO region, according to MISO’s most recent value proposition.
A major vulnerability during hurricanes is the damage to data centers that contain critical information needed for utility operations in a region. When IT facilities are damaged, utilities have difficulty monitoring system reliability. MISO has been working to address this issue through the Keep State Estimator Solving project, a simple name for a project that will have a large impact.
MISO’s State Estimator is a tool that provides the largest and most in-depth view of the electric grid. The system uses sophisticated algorithms that gather data from nearly 300,000 data points from across the MISO system to predict events and conditions that could compromise reliability. The accuracy and frequency—MISO’s State Estimator solves every 60 to 90 seconds—provides system operators with invaluable information on grid conditions.
As MISO expanded its service territory into the South Region, it worked closely with utilities to better understand how weather impacts their system performance. This allowed MISO to update the State Estimator to provide a better look at grid reliability during and after extreme weather events.
Additionally, MISO’s Real Time Contingency Analysis tool evaluates and lists the worst single contingencies that could occur, given the current state of the electrical grid, and—more importantly—how the system would react for each. By running 12,000 contingencies that provide constantly updated information, system operators are in a much better position to manage those contingencies and head off potential problems before they occur.
Equipped with these tools providing a wide-area view of the system, MISO is able to coordinate with utilities in the region to provide the best independent picture of possible scenarios and contingencies and how the power system may be affected when damaged.
Working in Concert with Utilities
As a hurricane approaches the region, MISO amplifies its coordination with utilities in the region. In particular, MISO will coordinate with utilities and regulators in the region to evaluate the impact of evacuations on load demand and unit availability.
When a storm is moving across the region, MISO, as a 24/7/365 operation, constantly monitors the bulk electric system for disruptions. Additionally, MISO can utilize state-of-the-art tools to mitigate overloads of the system or prepare for the next contingency, loss of a facility. MISO brings more than 10 years of reliability and market experience that will help prepare the electric system for issues following extreme weather.
MISO also works closely with utilities as they conduct restoration activities. The utilities will identify the extent of the damage and provide that information to MISO. Priority No. 1 is the safety of those involved in restoring power and those affected by outages.
As linemen repair damage throughout the region, MISO will be overseeing and approving restoration activities on high-voltage transmission lines that connect different utilities before they are brought back into service. This coordination ensures the connections are made in a reliable fashion to prevent further disruptions to customers or any cascading issues on the entire system.
MISO is trained, prepared, and equipped with best-in-class tools and experience to proactively assist utilities in the region when this season’s first hurricane rolls through. That experience and knowledge means quicker restoration and getting the lights on faster for customers in affected areas. And although MISO cannot control the forces of Mother Nature, we can be a critical part of getting things back to normal. ■
— Todd Hillman is vice president of MISO South (misoenergy.org).