Science, Energy & Environment
Technology Demonstration Projects Pave Way for U.S. Smart Grid
10 April 2009
Documents & Texts from America.gov
This is the second in a series of articles about the transformation of the U.S. electric power system into a 21st-century smart grid. You can read the first in the series here.
Washington -- Around the United States, teams of utility companies, universities, national laboratories, state regulators and private companies are developing and demonstrating on a limited scale some of the key technologies that will eventually make up the 21st-century version of the nation’s aging electric power infrastructure.
These pilot projects are part of a larger national effort, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and a multi-agency Smart Grid Task Force, to turn the old grid -- even as it keeps lights on and systems running for 142 million homes, businesses and government facilities -- into a smart grid.
The modernized network will be automated and widely distributed. Electricity and information will flow to and from utilities and consumers. It will be able to monitor everything from power plants to customer preferences and individual appliances. And it will be able integrate power from wind, solar, biomass and even plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles into the grid. (See “U.S. Electric System Begins Long Transformation to a Smart Grid.”)
States such as Texas, California, Ohio, New Jersey, Illinois, New York and others are exploring ways to increase the use of smart-grid tools and technologies, and some of the capabilities are being showcased today in nine projects co-funded by DOE and project partners.
Smart Grid Investment
In April 2008, DOE announced plans to invest up to $50 million over five years in nine large, competitively selected smart-grid demonstration projects for what the agency calls renewable and distributed systems integration. The projects officially began operations in October 2008.
“Each project represents $10 million to $20 million,” Steve Pullins, president of Tennessee-based Horizon Energy Group, told America.gov, “and orders of magnitude more projects were submitted” by utilities and their partners than DOE had the money to co-fund.
Horizon is a partner in one of the DOE projects -- San Diego Gas & Electric’s Beach Cities Microgrid -- and is a smart-grid consultant to DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. Horizon also leads a team that is developing the first statewide smart grid implementation plan for West Virginia.
The DOE project partners proposed to integrate renewable energy, distributed generation, energy storage, thermally activated technologies and demand response into the electric distribution and transmission system, which helps power companies manage peak loads.
In the context of a smart grid, demand response refers to autonomous mechanisms used to encourage consumers to reduce demand during peak energy periods. During peak demand, for example, smart-grid-enabled air conditioning and clothes dryers might receive a digital message from the grid asking them to curtail power use. Consumers would have the option to override such requests.
Each DOE project seeks to reduce peak electricity demand at distribution feeders — power lines that deliver electricity to consumers — by at least 15 percent.
In San Diego, the Beach Cities Microgrid project will prove the effectiveness of integrating multiple distributed-energy resources with advanced controls and communications. The intent is to improve reliability and reduce peak loads on grid components such as distribution feeders and substations.
In West Virginia, Allegheny Energy’s Super Circuit project will improve the reliability and security of a power-distribution circuit by integrating advanced monitoring, control and protection technologies. The circuit will integrate biodiesel electricity generation and energy storage with advanced metering infrastructure (smart meters) and a communications network that will rapidly anticipate, locate and help fix network problems.
In Colorado, Fort Collins and its city-owned utility support a variety of clean energy initiatives. One of these involves the integration of a mix of nearly 30 kinds of resources, including renewables like solar and wind, across five customer locations. These and other distributed resources will be integrated into the electrical distribution system to support a zero-energy district in the city called FortZED.
The University of Hawaii will demonstrate a platform for a distribution-management system that integrates smart metering as a home portal for demand response; home automation for energy conservation; optimal handling of distributed generation, storage and loads in the distribution system; and controls to allow the distribution system to collaborate with other systems in the main grid.
The Illinois Institute of Technology’s Perfect Power program will demonstrate a prototype system that uses advanced technology to create microgrids that respond to main grid conditions, increase grid reliability and reduce electricity demand.
More information about the smart grid is available at the Department of Energy Web site.
Quick reference assistance available from the Information Resource Center between 10.00 a.m. and 12 noon, Monday to Friday, on 020-7894-0925.
Further research services are provided to U.K. media, government departments and academics.