- A new study released Wednesday by federal regulators concludes grid operators have sufficient generation capable of restarting without help from the grid. Known as a "blackstart," the report concluded those plants are vital to ensuring a reliable and resilient grid in the event of a widespread outage.
- The report did advise more study of the issue, recommending single-fuel blackstart-capable generators to either diversify or obtain additional fuel security assurances.
- Earlier this year the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved new rules, procedures and standards including emergency preparedness, operations and system restoration from blackstart resources. The new rules were proposed by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), which developed the new study along with FERC staff.
Worried that power could be difficult to restore after a widespread outage, regulators are focused on the blackstart capabilities necessary to reenergize parts of the grid. The FERC-NERC study follows a 2016 joint review that assessed utility recovery plans in the event of a widespread outage. Although the new report cautions about the need for further study, it concludes that grid operators currently have sufficient capabilities.
The study examined nine utilities registered with NERC. Most participants have at least two blackstart generating units per island in their system restoration plan, while one has a single blackstart generating unit for each island.
Plants with blackstart capabilities include coal and gas-fired steam units, gas combustion turbines, and hydroelectric units.
"The joint study team found that none of the participants currently employ wind or solar resources for blackstart services due to the variability or intermittent nature of these resources," the report said. "However, some participants are in discussions with vendors to assess the feasibility of procuring battery storage systems for use as a blackstart resource among other services."
While there may be sufficient capacity, the study recommended taking further precautions. Single fuel dependent blackstart generators should "develop alternative fuel capability or coordinate with their fuel providers to mitigate this risk," the study advised.
Mitigation measures could include firm contracts with specifications to ensure that fuel supplies to the blackstart generating units are "unimpeded during a restoration event," the study said.
The study recommended blackstart resource owners "work with their regulators as necessary, to develop alternative solutions to address potential fuel constraints."