Reliability in Power

Reliability in Power

This is the Fifth episode in this series called ‘Understanding Power’.

This episode’s topic is all about understanding the cost of your utility bills.

This video and blog covers two topics

  1. Reliability in Power
  2. Reliability in Transmission

Relability in Power Generation

on January 13, the Alberta Electrical System Operator (AESO) released two notices, each more serious than the other: The grid was at risk of having province wide blackouts. What caused this? Well, it was two-fold:

  • High Demand: because it was winter and it was extremely cold  (-30C), there was a lot of extra load. In fact, Alberta hit an all time high record that week.
  • Limited Power Generation: Alberta has a large percentage of wind power capacity(shown in pie chart on left below) but the thermal gradients that create wind are limited in very cold weather meaning there was very little wind power being generated (shown in pie chart on right below)

this created the perfect storm where we had an elevated load and an undersupplied grid almost resulted in calamity.

Ensuring Sufficient Power Generation

It is probably very clear that a territory needs to ensure that there is more power generation capacity than there is load, what may not be as straight forward is how the different types of power generation operate throughout the day and respond to load variability.

above is a fictitious example of a typical 24 hour day within an example jurisdiction.  What this chart is aiming to show is how throughout an average day, most grids see dramatic load change with two main spikes: the first in the morning as people get up and get ready for work, and the second at nighttime when people leave work and start cooking.

Our grid power generation mix is made up of 3 main groups: (Get more information on power generation technologies)

  • Baseline power: Power generation capacity that cannot easily be ramped up or ramped down. 
  • Variable Power: Power generation systems that produce power when available such as solar (during sunlight hours) and wind (when the wind blows)
  • ‘Agile’ Power: Power generation systems that can easily be ramped up or ramped down to allow for overall grid load response. 

In the chart shown above, you can see how the baseline power (Nuclear, Hydro and Large thermal) remain relatively consistent throughout the day. Additionally, you will notice how solar comes on during sunlight hours. Though wind appears to be consistent, Wind power is a function of wind and can be unreliable as seen above. Finally you can see how the major load variability is responded to by small and responsive thermal plants which operate using engines and aero derivative turbines. The benefit of these types of systems are that they can be easily turned on, ramped up and then turned off as necessary.

This mix of generation capabilities allows the grid to quickly respond to load changes ensuring reliability of power supply.

Reliability in Transmission

The second part of this topic is about reliability in the transmission systems we employ to transmit power from the point of generation to the eventual location of where the load is, whether that is our house or a facility.

It is straight forward to understand that we need to have adequate power generation for the load of our grid at any given time; but equally, we need to ensure that this transportation infrastructure can supply the amount of power to the locations required. The major portion of our system is the transmission lines, whether that’s the transmission portion, or the distribution portion, the power lines play a huge role in the reliability of our power system.

Transmission Reliability Problem 1: Capacity Overload:

The first thing we need to make sure is that we are never in a scenario where our load exceeds the capacity of our transmission lines. In scenarios where the load of the system exceeds the capacity of the power lines or transformers, we end up in scenario where we will have system wide power failure. Want more information how the transmission system works?

Transmission Reliability Problem 2:

Powerline obstruction

The second scenario that we see a lot with power lines is power lines are highly susceptible to weather: They’re above ground, easily exposed to flying debris, for example, in hurricanes, and also susceptible to easily sparking fires and we’re seeing this happen quite a bit in California these days.




In 2019 act, we actually saw a utility actively choose to turn off their high voltage power lines, because of fears that their lines would cause fires and that resulted in massive power outages and failures within the the Northern California region.

How can we increase reliability in transmission?

 Well, one of the ways that a utility can increase the reliability of the grid, is by generating power closer to the load, and ont he distribution side of the transmission system. This is called distributed generation. By moving the generation closer, the likelihood of line failure between generation and load has been dramatically reduced.

Onsite Power Generation

So let’s say you lose power at your facility and there is no distributed power generation or in fact, the power outage is right outside of your building, how are you going to ensure that you have reliability? this is where standby generation or on site power generation support power reliability.

Below is an example of a backup diesel generator installed at a hospital to provide backup power in the case of grid power failure. Want more information? 


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Siemens SGE-100EM 2MW Engine






“The best-in-class solution with the best-in-class cycle time”

  • Robust, compact design provides more relief for long-lasting performance
  • Spark-ignited lean-burn unit ensures low emissions
  • Innovative pre-combustion chambers provide efficient and stable combustion
  • 12 unique high-volume cylinders deliver highest displacement
  • Less maintenance compared to 16-cylinder engine options
  • Fast cycle times and implementation
  • Smallest footprint in the competitive set



“Highest electrical efficiency in the 2 MW-class”

Before the EM series, when it came to 2 MW-class engines, your options were limited. Now, there’s a powerful new choice available:

the new SGE-EM gas engines from Siemens

The result of years of development, testing, refinement, and innovative engineering, they deliver a number of benefits that make them a true competitive choice.

Uncompromising performance to meet ever-growing demands

Economic pressures. Customer demands. Reliability concerns. Regulatory standards. In the world of power generation, you face plenty of challenges. If you want to successfully overcome them, you need to have the best solution in place. The new SGE-EM gas engines are your best solution.



“Innovative engine design and combustion technology”


Siemens is known for innovation, and the new E-Series engines carry that torch of ingenuity with a unique cylinder design that produces the highest displacement in the 2 MW-class, innovative pre-combustion chambers, spark-ignited lean-burn control capabilities, and a robust overall design that ensures maximum flexibility in a wide variety of conditions.

  • Natural gas–powered engines
  • Efficient and stable Combustion
  • Exceptional Displacemen
  • Low maintenance
  • Optimized materials

Maximum efficiencies in the smallest footprint.

The new E-Series engines are not only the new competitive choice in the 2 MW-class, they’re also the most compact. Their unique ability to deliver high power output with incredibly low emissions helps you create a smaller footprint—both physical and environmental.


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S1:E3 – Remote Power

Problem 3: Remote power

We are continuing in our series on three main problems with the way we do power

This is part three: remote power

Did you know that in Canada 200,000 people are disconnected from the electrical grid and natural gas distribution system? 

Because of the remoteness of these locations, power can cost as much as $1/kWh

Additionally, most of this power generation is powered by diesel which produces carbon intensive power.

Communities aren’t limited simply to the north but are anywhere where geography or high CAPEX to install infrastructure prevents simple and easy connection.

What are ways that Collicutt can help promote communities and operations combat these problems?

Collicutt is champion a technology called Combined Heat and Power which uses clean and cheap liquefied natural gas to generate power and heat at remote locations.

By swapping out diesel for LNG, the cost of fuel can be reduced dramatically and the overall carbon output per unit of energy can be dropped swiftly.

In communities where logistics is complicated and diesel generation is the only option, Collicutt has designed and installed diesel powered CHP facilities where the heat can be effectively recovered from the engine and can offset other fuels required to provide heating: whether that is propane or heating oil.#CollicuttEnergy #PowerGeneration 

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Grid Limitations

Grid Limitations

Series: Three Main Problems With the Way We Do Power

We’re continuing in our power generation series. And today we’re talking about Problem #2, which is ‘Grid limitations’.

So what are some of the limitations of our power grid system? And how does that affect us?

The first problem is, is that it’s expensive.

Most people pay actually 50% of their utility bill is actually the cost of just getting power to your facility. And the other half is actually the cost of the energy.

The second problem is delayed access.

A lot of times we’ll have projects where we want to increase our capacity at our facility, or we want to create a new location where we need power, and there just isn’t grid access or there isn’t the capacity. This has the ability to delay projects, or significantly limit their size.

And the third issue is unreliability.

This issue is super relevant to California these days. As as we move into the dry season and there’s concerns of fires, and we see those rolling blackouts again: Power reliability is a huge issue and it’s going to cause issues around power shortages, power outages and facility shutdowns.

So what are some of the ways that Collicutt can help you with some of these limitations?

Using a technology called Combined Heat and Power, or CHP, we’re able to generate both electricity and heat onsite using a single fuel source while achieving fuel efficiencies of 93%.

Combined Heat and Power

And one of the reasons why this is so much more efficient than what currently we’re using the grid is that we’re actually getting rid of a lot of the waste along the way. We’re getting rid of that that lost heat at the point of generation, and we’re able to achieve as high as 93% overall fuel efficiency.

So Why CHP? (3 Reasons)

First reason: Cost Savings

CHO can save you significant amounts of money by generating power on site, especially when you look at the rates that we’re paying here in California. In California, we’re paying about 26 cents ($0.26/kWh) in total: 13 cents of that is the cost of transmission and the other 13 cents is the energy cost.

With CHP, you can generate power for as little as 7-9c/kWh, saving 2c/kWh in heat (fuel) costs:

Combined Heat and Power can save your money

Combined Heat and Power is an effective way of generating power and heat onsite while incurring great savings. Additionally, by having generation capabilities on site, your power reliability is increased

Second Reason: Sustainability.

in Alberta, we can save as much as 3000 tons of CO2 output per year for every megawatt of CHP installed. Why is that? Because power here in Alberta is predominantly generated by coal. And by by using clean fuel source like natural gas, salvaging the heat, offsetting the fuel source that would have provided that heat in the facility, we can get that down to a 0.2-0.25 tonnes/MWh.

Lower your facility’s environmental output


Let’s look in California. Even in California, where we have incredibly clean power, You can actually see a 14% reduction in CO2 output by using CHP.

Third Reason: Reliability.

By having on-site power generation capacity, the power reliability at the facility is dramatically increased.



So, cost effective, reliable, sustainable. CHP is a great application for a lot of these problems relating to the grid limitations.

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