Smart technologies are not just for the home or office anymore. Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy has announced it will put in motion its vision to make Boulder, Colo., the nation’s first fully integrated Smart Grid City.
The advanced, smart grid system, when fully implemented over the next few years, will provide customers with a portfolio of smart grid technologies designed to provide environmental, financial and operational benefits. 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 of last year, Xcel Energy established the Smart Grid Consortium, bringing together leading technologists, engineering firms, business leaders and IT experts. Consortium members will provide guidance, products and services needed to bring the smart grid vision to life.
Smart Grid City could feature a number of infrastructure upgrades and customer offerings, including transformation of existing metering infrastructure; conversion of substations to “smart” substations capable of remote monitoring, near real-time data and optimized performance; installation of programmable in-home control devices and the necessary systems to fully automate home energy use; and integration of infrastructure to support easily dispatched distributed generation technologies.
In addition to its geographic concentration, ideal size and access to all grid components, Boulder was selected as the Smart Grid City because it is home to the University of Colorado and several federal institutions, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which already is involved in smart grid efforts for the federal government.
The potential benefits of the Smart Grid City 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.
With the city now selected, Xcel Energy and its Smart Grid Consortium will study the city’s electricity infrastructure to develop a scope and preliminary design plan for implementing the changes. Work would start soon after, but system changes will take place over the next few years.
The first phase of Smart Grid City is expected to be in place as early as August 2008, with implementation throughout the city continuing through 2009. Beginning in 2009, the consortium also expects to begin an initial assessment of the technologies.