Innovations in technology
The energy industry is constantly changing and utility companies must stay at the forefront of this change in order to continue to provide the best service possible to customers. At LG&E and KU, our Research and Development team investigates and evaluates new technology to find ways of applying it to our operations in order to better serve our customers.
Research has the potential to be an expensive undertaking and success of efforts is not always guaranteed.
That is one of the reasons why LG&E and KU make the most of research funds by taking part in collaborative studies that reduce risk and minimize research costs.
Working with organizations like the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), which gathers resources and collaborates with other utilities, is an important component of our research and development program. For every dollar we invest in EPRI, we receive about thirty dollars in research benefit. We also support efforts at educational institutions, pooling our efforts with other utilities and industries.
Our research is also aimed at investigating technologies that will reduce the cost of capital, operations and maintenance at our power plants, transmission and distribution systems, which in turn reduces costs to customers. Further, research efforts provide valuable information to our planning groups so they can make the most cost-effective decisions on technology.
Improving safety and reliability
Some of the research and development activities that support safety and reliability – two of our top priorities at LG&E and KU – include:
Energy storage technologies
One of the oldest limitations of electricity is the fact that it must be generated and delivered as customers demand it.
Did you know that the electricity that is lighting up your house at this very moment was produced nearly instantaneously miles away?
There is no way to prepare for an unexpected outage; once the generation is interrupted or the line is broken, the power is immediately out.
Energy storage has the potential to mitigate this fundamental problem. By installing batteries at the generator, along the transmission system, or at a customer’s location, we could provide short-term back-up power to give our crews time to repair the problem. The customer would theoretically never see an interruption in power.
Our research focuses on investigating the operational characteristics and costs associated with these technologies.
EPRI’s Energy Storage program provides us with technical assessments of current installations around the world.
In other locations outside of Kentucky where incentives and high electricity prices support the use of such technologies, we have an opportunity to learn about the technology and provide technical expertise in ways to reduce their cost and increase their potential impact. Currently, energy storage is far from economical in Kentucky and there are still inherent technical issues that need to be resolved.
Educating power engineers for a future distribution grid
The future of the distribution grid is expected to look and work very differently than today. The addition of distributed generation, distributed energy storage, and electrification will change load profiles and create a two-way system for energy transfer. A recent report from EPRI outlines what the future grid will look like.
As a company that will need to manage this grid we hope to have a workforce that is prepared and knowledgeable. We are working the US Department of Energy, EPRI, other utilities, and multiple universities to create a curriculum that will prepare our future power engineers with the knowledge and skills required for the future grid.
Robotic technologies to reduce safety hazards and improve reliability
Through EPRI’s program on Technology Innovation, we are investigating the uses of robotics to reduce the risks to which our employees are exposed.
There are many safety hazards present in our business whether it is a confined space for visual inspections or an investigation in issues on top of a transmission tower. We do everything possible to make the work as safe as possible for our crews but there is always a risk.
The following videos are great examples of how we can remove the human element from the hazard and improve our diagnostics.
Minimizing our environment impact
The company supports research on how to minimize the environmental impacts of our business. Some examples of our leadership in environmental research and development include:
Reducing greenhouse gases through carbon capture and storage
Carbon capture and storage is a technology being investigated to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the flue gas of power plants that use fossil fuels. The technology is not yet commercially viable due to technical, legal and economic reasons. Research is ongoing to work through the technical issues and help reduce the cost of the technology. Our research into this topic includes studies with the University of Kentucky’s Center for Applied Energy Research, The University of Texas at Austin, and EPRI’s program on Carbon Capture and Storage.