What is a Smart Grid City? It’s a new concept that is being built in Boulder, Colorado to make using conventional grid energy more efficient in it’s use and cost. it is probably best put by the chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy, Dick Kelly:

  • “We’re on our way toward building the grid of the future and making SmartGridCity a reality. This is a forward-thinking project that will transform the way we do business. In SmartGridCity, our customers will have more information, including the tools to communicate directly with us, and will choose when and how they use their energy based on price, generating resource or convenience.”

The design phase completion was announced on May 15, 2008 and that the equipment needed has been ordered and construction has already started. Since the study done by the Smart Grid Consortium and Xcel Energy to develop a scope and design to implement this change was just completed this past April. To say this is on the fast track seems to be an understatement. Though as we American’s have shown time and time again when we are fired up bu something we can do it at an extremely efficient rate. If this planned project goes as well as expected then by December 2009 the city of Boulder will be adding renewable energy to it’s power sources as well as integrating plug-in hybrid cars for it’s citizens.

The idea to use the technology we have as well and push the envelope to lower consumption of the energy we have available on the grid is a great step to helping people become more involved in their energy choices. If everyone had the information about what the cost of plugging something in or turning it on would cost in both energy and cash then questioning the need for it could become second nature to everyone. How many times do people turn on lights in the middle of the day because shades haven’t been opened yet, or charging a mobile device when it’s not empty or longer then needed, or left lights on because they would be right back, or any of hundreds of little things that because we don’t see the cost at time of use we don’t always think about it.

Hoping for this to be a success for more then the city of Boulder should be anyones hope that wishes to change the way we treat energy. If a city can be taught to conserve and use wisely as a whole then us that are working towards that on our own can benefit, too. The technology to do this will be improved, price should become more realistic for the common person, and more information about problems and solutions will be available. Of course, that’s a best case scenerio and here at The Off Grid Home that is what we all hope for.

Included below is an excerpt from the Xcel Energy May 15, 2008 press release on the schedule and phases they hope to accomplish in order to make Boulder, CO a SmartGridCity.

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Phase I, which runs from March 2008 to August 2008, is the demonstration phase, and initial installations will take place to test capabilities and gauge customer reaction. Phase II, which runs from September 2008 to December 2009, will be a full deployment phase to a broader customer base. Xcel Energy and its partners will dedicate up to 115 people to SmartGridCity, to install and monitor more distribution as well as in-home equipment, and work with customers to begin using the new technology.

Phase I: March 2008 – August 2008

  • Includes full-system automation, monitoring and smart meters for the first group of SmartGridCity customers. Involves upgrades to two substations, five feeders and nearly 15,000 meters (representing both residential, commercial and light industrial customers) in Boulder.
  • Web portal will provide consumers with insight into their energy use and information for better home energy management.
  • A dedicated customer service phone number (1-877-887-3339) and e-mail address (SmartGridCity@xcelenergy.com) for SmartGridCity customers.
  • Some customers can choose to have in-home automation tools, allowing increased control over home energy use and costs.
  • By mid-August, initial capabilities should be demonstrated.

Phase II: September 2008 – December 2009

  • Complete the installation of a distribution and communication network for remaining areas within Boulder (an additional two substations, 20 feeders and smart meters for an additional 35,000 premises).
  • Expanded in-home automation installations.
  • Enable Web portal access to all SmartGridCity customers.
  • Begin initial integration of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, solar and wind co-generation sources onto the grid in Boulder.

Xcel Energy and its partners have started installing the high-speed communications network and smart grid sensing equipment necessary for deploying SmartGridCity, which will enable two-way communication between customers and the company.

The company has ordered approximately 15,000 Landis+Gyr smart meters, which will be installed by August 2008. In June, crews will begin installing them, at approximately 2,500 meters each week. The new smart meters provide detailed usage history and automated meter reading. The meter installation will be at no charge to the customer.

The potential benefits of SmartGridCity include operational savings, customer-choice energy management, better grid reliability, greater energy efficiency and conservation options, increased use of renewable energy sources and support for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and intelligent-home appliances.

Xcel Energy anticipates funding only a portion of the project, and plans to leverage other sources including government grants for the remainder of what could be up to a $100 million effort.

In December 2007, Xcel Energy established the Smart Grid Consortium, bringing together leading technologists, engineering firms, business leaders and IT experts. Consortium members include Accenture, Current Group, GridPoint, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories and Ventyx. The group will provide guidance, products and services needed to bring Xcel Energy’s smart grid vision to life.

For the full design and scope plan, and additional information on SmartGridCity, visit www.xcelenergy.com/smartgrid.
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