The Tres Amigas (meaning “three friends” in Spanish) Superstation has been called the world’s first high-capacity “Renewable Energy Hub.”
This new system is designed to connect the three major electricity grids in the United States, allowing for easier integration of renewable energy such as wind and solar into the grid. A smart electricity grid is needed to allow power from clean wind and solar resources to reach far-flung parts of the country with large power demands.
The Tres Amigas Superstation will be constructed in Clovis, New Mexico, a location with many unique and strategic advantages. Clovis, located in New Mexico and close to the border of Texas, is located near current and planned transmission lines for America’s three power grids (Eastern Interconnection, Western Interconnection and Texas Interconnection). Tres Amigas, LLC has already been granted the right to lease 14,400 acres (22.5 square miles) of land in Clovis by the New Mexico State Land Office for this system.
Bringing the Tres Amigas Superstation to fruition will likely require a minimum expenditure of $1.5 billion, not to mention significant transmission and distribution technology know-how. Work on the Superstation will demand advanced networking and communications input to coordinate many complex interactions, including multiple power sources, markets and prices.
Chief Operating Officer David Stidham says many of the technology innovations needed to complete this ambitious grid project did not exist a few short years ago. For example, the Superstation will feature cutting-edge Voltage Source Converters, or VSCs, that can efficiently connect two or more asynchronous grids by converting alternating current (AC) power from one network into direct current (DC) power and then back into AC power that’s fed into another grid. The Superstation will utilize powerful software to manage the massive amounts of data.
The Tres Amigas project has succeeded in bringing global trading, IT and infrastructure services company Mitsui on board. Mitsui will invest $12 million into Tres Amigas and contribute its expertise in smart-grid IT, renewable energy development and management, and carbon dioxide emissions mitigation strategies.
“Apart from the purely electrical engineering aspects of the project, the commercial operation of the Superstation requires intensive use of information systems and technology, as well as management of large-scale infrastructure,” said Phillip Harris, president, CEO and chairman of Tres Amigas. “Mitsui’s worldwide experience in these areas will be invaluable.”
Construction of the first phase of Tres Amigas is scheduled to start this year, with early commercial operations expected to begin in 2015.