How TRC is Adapting to Deliver Unique Resolutions for the Energy Transition
The demands of the energy transition are changing the way we generate, interconnect and deliver power, giving rise to a booming need for a range of complex power system impact studies, analyses and reports. Adding to the pressure, workers in the power industry are retiring at high rates, making external support vital to maintaining operations. With both the transmission and distribution systems being impacted by growing interconnection requests, getting ahead of the game with a partner like TRC is key to being successful.
A Rising Demand
From utility workforce shrinkage to the evolving complexities of a transitioning energy grid, there is no doubt that today’s power providers are challenged like never before. As integrating renewable energy resources becomes a growing priority for utilities, regulators and consumers alike, assessing the capability of the power system to handle the influx is of critical importance. The need to produce power system models that accurately reflect grid conditions is at an all-time high. Interconnection studies and hosting capacity analyses cannot commence without a conclusive system model and can delay new renewable capacity from coming online the longer they remain unavailable.
Transmission and Distribution Impacts
The shift away from traditional generation to renewables like wind, solar and battery energy storage to limit carbon emissions has created a high demand for transmission injection analyses, interconnection application assistance and Transient Recovery Voltage (TRV) and Temporary Overvoltage (TOV) dynamic systems stability studies.
On the distribution side, requests for DER (Distributed Energy Resource) interconnection studies are also rising. Utilities must find solutions to create additional capacity and storage, and more and more independent developers are focusing on interconnection at this level of the grid. Utilities are required to confirm interconnection requests and having the appropriate models and studies in place can limit potentially expensive system upgrades and help make proactive investments for future planned system development.
Additionally, studying the distribution system for interconnection is significantly more complex because system configurations can change weekly, either to accommodate load, repairs and upgrades, or as a reaction to reclosers opening for faults. Traditionally, distribution is arranged in a radial feed having only one power source. With more DER sources of generation connecting into these systems, there now exists more power sources in parallel on the grid feeding into distribution systems that were not designed for this multi-feed scenario.
This generation saturation also means upgrades are becoming increasingly necessary and utilities are often having to replace critical substation equipment. Today, substations need to be sized to not only handle the load, but also control the additional generation from these renewable sources. To be successful, numerous detailed studies are required to determine if and how renewables can connect to distribution. These include interconnection studies, hosting capacity analyses and system impact studies to name a few.
Preparing the Workforce is Essential: TRC is Leading the Way as Your Power Systems Study Partner
While it is a critical time for power systems studies, meeting the rapidly growing demand and complexity of this discipline is difficult in today’s utility workforce environment. As seasoned experts retire and a younger generation less frequently chooses power engineering careers, utility resources to handle the interconnection and related studies in house are under pressure, where they still exist at all. Partnering with industry leading engineers and consultants like TRC can help streamline processes, ensure accuracy and enable DER projects to come online efficiently.
TRC has performed more than 600 transmission and distribution planning studies across the United States to analyze the system interconnection impact of wind, solar, storage, combined-cycle gas, biomass fueled and hydro-electric generators. Our work includes rigorous assessment designed to ensure that new generation added to a region’s transmission and distribution systems will not have an adverse impact on system reliability and operating characteristics. Our attention to detail and high-level thinking brings us beyond just an engineer to serve as a true partner and advisor to our clients. In addition to our industry leading technical skills, we are dedicated to building and refining our team through several key initiatives, all with a focus on supporting our clients to achieve their operational goals.
Staff Augmentation and Remote Hiring
As technical experts, we can provide remote staff augmentation support to utilities in response to either the loss of key staff due to retirements, a lack of expertise in house to support ongoing work, or a need for training permanent utility employees. Recruiting from a remote talent pool can be helpful in these situations because it provides a wider set of potential hires with the skills needed to execute the work. As a global company with reach in all 50 states and Canada, TRC can hire people anywhere support the systems studies programs our clients rely on.
Upcycling and cross-training are key to maintaining a prepared workforce. TRC looks for opportunities to pair senior engineers with more junior engineers on our studies projects. This ensures that projects remain more flexible considering varying budget and delivery timeline constraints, while also providing opportunities for younger engineers to gain valuable on-the-job training. Recruiting is also vital – we recruit proactively by searching for candidates with matching experience that would be an excellent fit for our current established team.
Software Engineering Expertise
As the grid continues to rapidly modernize, there is a growing need for people with software engineering capabilities. Opportunities abound for engineers who can code in languages like Python and C. We work with utilities who need support to develop their own internal grid management software. This requires support from engineers like ours at TRC with a background in software engineering who intimately understand the technical side of grid operations and can translate that knowledge into code. For these more innovative and emerging applications, engineers with coding experience are essential to the future of power systems studies. TRC is well versed in all state-of-the-art software and modeling techniques to address steady state as well as transient and dynamic system simulations including PSS/E, PSLF, MUST, ASPEN, SKM, ETAP, MilSoft, PSCAD, CYME, Synergi, and others.
Information and Expertise Sharing
To ensure our team stays up to date with both vital technical solutions and regulatory issues, we encourage information sharing among interest groups. For example, we have created a specialized group dedicated specifically to those who have experience with or have demonstrated interest in PSSE and PSCAD software. Group members meet weekly to discuss project statuses and get additional support from coworkers as needed to solve problems and deliver the best solutions to our clients. We have also begun developing process and procedure documentation for the different regional ISOs for the purpose of streamlining our internal study practices, so that no matter where teams are assigned to work, they understand and are aware operational processes and procedures requirements without ambiguity.
The power industry is rapidly evolving as renewable energy generation and distributed energy resources revolutionize our energy systems. Meeting the rising need for these studies requires expert resources you can rely on to work seamlessly with all stakeholders. With an experienced professional staff, TRC helps clients make smarter decisions about their power systems. Our planning analyses and impact studies help you address complex issues related to electric delivery systems and the technical requirements of distribution providers, transmission owners, independent system operators and regional reliability councils. Learn about our services below or contact us today.