A wide area synchronous grid (also called an "interconnection" in North America) is a three-phase electric power grid that has regional scale or greater that operates at a synchronized utility frequency and is electrically tied together during normal system conditions. Also known as synchronous zones, the most powerful is the synchronous grid of Continental Europe (ENTSO-E) with 667 gigawatts (GW) of generation, while the widest region served is that of the IPS/UPS system serving countries of the former Soviet Union. Synchronous grids with ample capacity facilitate electricity trading across wide areas. In the ENTSO-E in 2008, over 350,000 megawatt hours were sold per day on the European Energy Exchange (EEX).
Each of the interconnects in North America are synchronized at a nominal 60 Hz, while those of Europe run at 50 Hz. Neighbouring interconnections with the same frequency and standards can be synchronized and directly connected to form a larger interconnection, or they may share power without synchronization via high-voltage direct current power transmission lines (DC ties), solid-state transformers or variable-frequency transformers (VFTs), which permit a controlled flow of energy while also functionally isolating the independent AC frequencies of each side.
The benefits of synchronous zones include pooling of generation, resulting in lower generation costs; pooling of load, resulting in significant equalizing effects; common provisioning of reserves, resulting in cheaper primary and secondary reserve power costs; opening of the market, resulting in possibility of long term contracts and short term power exchanges; and mutual assistance in the event of disturbances.
One disadvantage of a wide-area synchronous grid is that problems in one part can have repercussions across the whole grid.
Wide area synchronous networks improve reliability and permit the pooling of resources. Also, they can level out the load, which reduces the required generating capacity, allow more environmentally-friendly power to be employed; and allow more diverse power generation schemes and permit economies of scale.
Wide area synchronous networks cannot be formed if the two networks to be linked are running at different frequencies or have significantly different standards. For example, in Japan, for historical reasons, the northern part of the country operates on 50 Hz, but the southern part uses 60 Hz. That makes it impossible to form a single synchronous network, which was problematic when the Fukushima Daiichi plant melted down.
Also, even when the networks have compatible standards, failure modes can be problematic. Phase and current limitations can be reached, which can cause widespread outages. The issues are sometimes solved by adding HVDC links within the network to permit greater control during off-nominal events.
As was discovered in the California electricity crisis, there can be strong incentives among some market traders to create deliberate congestion and poor management of generation capacity on an interconnection network to inflate prices. Increasing transmission capacity and expanding the market by uniting with neighboring synchronous networks make such manipulations more difficult.
An entire synchronous grid runs at the same frequency. Where interconnection to a neighboring grid, operating at a different frequency, is required, a frequency converter is required. High voltage direct current, solid-state transformer or variable-frequency transformers links can connect two grids that operate at different frequencies or that are not maintaining synchronism.
In a synchronous grid all the generators must run at the same frequency, and must stay very nearly in phase with each other and the grid. For rotating generators, a local governor regulates the driving torque, maintaining constant speed as loading changes. Droop speed control ensures that multiple parallel generators share load changes in proportion to their rating. Generation and consumption must be balanced across the entire grid, because energy is consumed as it is produced. Energy is stored in the immediate short term by the rotational kinetic energy of the generators.
Small deviations from the nominal system frequency are very important in regulating individual generators and assessing the equilibrium of the grid as a whole. When the grid is heavily loaded, the frequency slows, and governors adjust their generators so that more power is output (droop speed control). When the grid is lightly loaded the grid frequency runs above the nominal frequency, and this is taken as an indication by Automatic Generation Control systems across the network that generators should reduce their output.
In addition, there's often central control, which can change the parameters of the AGC systems over timescales of a minute or longer to further adjust the regional network flows and the operating frequency of the grid.
For timekeeping purposes, over the course of a day the operating frequency will be varied so as to balance out deviations and to prevent line-operated clocks from gaining or losing significant time by ensuring there are 4.32 million on 50 Hz, and 5.184 million cycles on 60 Hz systems each day.
This can, rarely, lead to problems. In 2018 Kosovo used more power than it generated due to a row with Serbia, leading to the phase in the whole synchronous grid of Continental Europe lagging behind what it should have been. The frequency dropped to 49.996 Hz. Over time, this caused synchronous electric clocks to become six minutes slow until the disagreement was resolved.
High-voltage direct current lines, solid-state transformers or variable-frequency transformers can be used to connect two alternating current interconnection networks which are not necessarily synchronized with each other. This provides the benefit of interconnection without the need to synchronize an even wider area. For example, compare the wide area synchronous grid map of Europe (above left) with the map of HVDC lines (below right). Solid state transformers have larger losses than conventional transformers, but DC lines lack reactive impedance and overall HVDC lines have lower losses sending power over long distances within a synchronous grid, or between them.
|Name||Covers||Generation capacity||Yearly generation||Year/Refs|
|Continental Europe||Managed by ENTSO-E. 24 European countries, serving 450 million||859 GW||2569 TWh||2017|
|Eastern Interconnection||Eastern US (except most of Texas) and eastern Canada (except Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI)||610 GW|
|Indian National Grid||India serving over a billion people||370.5 GW||1236 TWh||2017|
|IPS/UPS||12 countries of former Soviet Union serving 280 million||337 GW||1285 TWh||2005|
|Western Interconnection||western US, western Canada, and northern Baja California in Mexico||265 GW||883 TWh||2015|
|National Interconnected System (SIN)||Electricity sector in Brazil||150.33 GW||410 TWh (2007)||2016|
|Synchronous grid of Northern Europe||Nordic countries (Finland, Sweden (except Gotland), Norway and Eastern Denmark) serving 25 million people.||93 GW||390 TWh|
|National Grid (Great Britain)||Great Britain's synchronous zone, serving 65 million. Run by National Grid plc||83 GW (2018)||336 TWh||2017|
|Iran national grid||Iran and Armenia, serving 84 million people||82 GW||2019|
|Texas Interconnection||Electric Reliability Council of Texas serves (ERCOT) serves 24 million customers||78 GW||352 TWh (2016)||2018|
|National Electricity Market||Australia's States and Territories except Western Australia and the Northern Territory. (Tasmania is part of it but not synchronised)||50 GW||196 TWh||2018|
|Quebec Interconnection||Quebec||42 GW||184 TWh|
|Argentine Interconnection System||Argentina||129 TWh||2019|
|SIEPAC||The Central American Electrical Interconnection System serves Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.|
|SWMB||South Western Mediterranean Block serves Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.|
|Southern African Power Pool||SAPP serves 12 countries in Southern Africa.|
|Irish National Grid||Ireland. Run by EirGrid|
|State Grid||Northern Chinese State Grid run by State Grid Corporation of China|
|China Southern Power Grid||Chinese southern grid. Run by China Southern Power Grid|
|South West Interconnected System||Western Australia||17.3 TWh||2016|
|Sistema Interconectado Central||Main Chilean grid||12.9 GW||2011|
A partial table of some of the larger interconnections.
|journal=(help); Check date values in: