NW smart grid project goes live
By Christina Williams
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
A control center at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will start evaluating data collected from 11 participating utilities in the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project.
The long-anticipated Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project became operational and started a two-year data collection period this week, aiming to test a system and tweak technology that could make the nation's grid more modern, reliable and efficient.
The project, launched in February 2011, involves 11 utilities across five Northwest states, including Portland General Electric. The U.S. Department of Energy is footing half of the $178 million bill for the project via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Utilities are chipping in the rest.
Each of the utilities will do their own evaluations of the technologies, which help with energy grid issues including congestion in the transmission system and ways to balance out the peaks and valleys of energy demand.
The smart grid project is being managed by Battelle, which operates the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash.
"The data we'll gather during the next two years will enable us to evaluate the costs and benefits of a smart grid to consumers in all types of utilities in the Pacific Northwest. We'll also evaluate how we can optimize our power system while, at the same time, adding more variable, renewable energy resources such as wind and solar," said Carl Imhoff, electricity infrastructure market sector manager for Battelle, in a press release.
The project's evolution to the data collection-phase was marked this week with an event at the University of Washington. The university installed 200 smart meters across its campus and will provide students with real-time data about their energy use.
At the regional level, the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project is testing a concept called "transactive control." At a control center in Richland, information about electricity demand along with wind power and wind forecasts is translated into price signals that are updated every five minutes and sent to the project's participating utilities. The utilities can then make decisions taking into consideration how their energy demands will affect the regional grid.
A smaller-scale version of transactive control was tested on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington with results that promised overall reduction of demand during peak energy use, plus savings on individual power bills of about 10 percent.
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