The first extra-high-voltage regional transmission project to be selected through PJM’s competitive solicitation process, which opened system improvement opportunities to non-incumbent developers, is on the cusp of completion.
The Artificial Island Project resolves a potentially serious stability issue at the Salem and Hope Creek nuclear generating stations complex in southern New Jersey while also relieving energy bottlenecks on the Delmarva Peninsula. The three nuclear units represent a total of 3,447 MW, making Artificial Island the biggest power generation site in all of PJM.
Previously, operators had to follow a complex operating procedure special to Artificial Island in the event a transmission line connection was lost and the nuclear units needed to be reduced to return to steady-state operations.
The project’s new and upgraded substations are energized, and the new 230 kV line – including 3 miles of cable under the Delaware River – is complete and has been in operation since the fall of 2020, along with the new 500 kV/230 kV transformer at Hope Creek. The remaining work, including ties to second the 500 kV bus at Hope Creek, is scheduled to be complete this spring during the Hope Creek refueling outage.
A Pilot Project for Competitive Planning
At the time PJM identified the need for a robust solution, PJM planners also realized there could be a variety of potential alternatives – making it a good pilot case for the grid operator’s competitive proposal window process, said Dr. Ake Almgren, then the chair of the PJM Board of Managers Reliability Committee (BRC).
This process was coalescing at the time the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was rolling out its Order 1000, designed to stimulate innovative solutions and to enable non-incumbent developers seeking to invest in transmission infrastructure to compete with transmission owners.
The project proved ambitious, involving challenges around project evaluations, interconnections, siting and cost allocation. Success demanded integrity and transparency of the evaluation considerations, as well as collaboration among corporate, environmental, regulatory and consumer interests in four states – not to mention FERC approvals.
“The magnitude of challenges we, PJM Planning and the BRC, had to overcome were some of the most difficult I have experienced,” Dr. Almgren said.
“The result was worth the effort. The potentially serious stability issue has been resolved, and we learned a lot about implementing and evaluating competitive solicitations going forward.”
Solicitation Window Drew Innovative Approaches
After initial discussions in the fall of 2012, PJM opened the window for competitive proposals in April 2013. Twenty-six proposals were received, consisting of vastly different solutions.
Evaluating that number of proposals using the competitive window process for the first time was challenging.
Not only did PJM Planning perform the technical analysis for each proposal to determine if it robustly resolved the stability problem, but planners also looked at the cost factors. Further considerations included schedule, project complexity (such as outage requirements and modification to other transmission facilities), rights-of-way and land acquisition, siting and permitting, and operational impact.
During 2014, PJM narrowed the field to four finalists who offered different, unique and innovative solutions. Two of the projects were a new 500 kV transmission line, one proposal consisted of thyristor-controlled series capacitors (TCSC) and another called for a 230 kV submarine cable over to Delaware.
In July 2015, the Board approved a plan for LS Power, a non-incumbent transmission developer, to construct a 230 kV line under the Delaware River from Artificial Island to Delaware and a new substation in Delaware. Transmission Owners, PSE&G and Pepco Holdings, were designated to upgrade the connection facilities in New Jersey and Delaware, respectively.
Silver Run Electric, a subsidiary of LS Power, broke ground on its portion of the Artificial Island project in May 2019. Silver Run completed construction of the new line and substation in May 2020.
Today, with the experience and expertise gained from convening two dozen competitive windows over the past seven years and approving more than 160 competitive projects under PJM’s Order 1000 competitive sponsorship model – more than any other regional grid operator – PJM is well positioned to solicit project proposals that encourage creative solutions that will help PJM plan for the grid of the future and solve complex transmission challenges.