Case Analysis: the Early Bird – Electric Power Load Despatching

1038 words 5 pages
Case Analysis: The Early Bird – Electric Power Load Despatching
The Early Bird – Electric Power Load Dispatching
Electric utility firms have, for more than two decades, used marginal productmarginal cost concepts to generate and dispatch electric power in a more efficient, lowercost manner. Southern Company, the nation’s third largest utility, refers to its load dispatching method as the “Early Bird” system. Southern’s Early Bird is designed to provide automatic, computerized control of all the company’s power production and transmission facilities. The Early Bird continuously calculates the marginal cost of delivering additional kilowatts of electricity to Southern Company customers anywhere in the company’s service area; then, as
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At periods of peak demand, when on-line generating units are already operating at or near their minimum cost points, and assuming that water levels in Southern’s dam reservoirs are ample, Early Bird sends impulses to Southern’s hydroelectric facilities to open the gates and generate enough power to get across the peak.
Southern’s power system control center is also equipped to forecast short-term loads for the next hour, day, or week. For example, weather data from all round
Southern’s four-state service area are fed into the Early Bird network several times a day to help forecast heating and air-conditioning loads. The hourly, daily, and weekly Early
Bird forecasts of upcoming load demands are used to preplan the mix of generating units to put on line and those to put on standby, to schedule maintenance, and to determine whether to exchange blocks of electricity with neighboring utilities. For instance, approximately 15 minutes prior to the beginning of an hour, Early Bird calculations as to the next hour’s generating and transmission costs are made; this information is then compared immediately with similar information obtained from adjoining utilities having interconnections with Southern’s transmission network. If it is determined that it would be more economical for Southern to buy a “block” of electricity from an adjacent company than to generate the electricity needed itself (because at the forecasted generating rates the other company will