Building Smart Grid Systems: Is Your Neighborhood on Board?

While Advanced Metering Infrastructure, which allows wireless communication between utilities and meters, has been going in across the country for over a decade, it is only recently that they have been developing into smart grid systems.

Could a smart grid system be popping up in your area?Smart grids are one step up from AMI on the evolutionary ladder because they allow two-way communication between homes and utilities and the ability to remotely control appliances and power consumption, which leads to accurate real-time pricing by utilities, and accurate monitoring and conservation. Utilities can send response demands to homes, such as requesting them to turn down a thermostat during peak hours, homeowner energy use habits can be tracked and adjusted, and a more honest and fair pricing system leads to better conservation abilities.

Angus Doyle from SmartMeters.com describes it best:

AMI meters are designed to be like networks to collect and transmit billing data and AMI communications cannot provide data a different speeds which would be needed to do smart grid work.

If you can think of AMI as a Telephone, it allows you to communicate one to one or one to many, and then consider a smartgrid as an internet/intranet allowing you to control the very infrastructure of the telephone network.

AMI is the root of developed smart grid systems, but many issues stand in the way of progress, including standardization and wireless connections. However, getting smart grids up and running is increasing in priority level, as we see with some of the massive projects highlighted here.

A new report published by The Climate Group entitled "SMART 2020: enabling the low carbon economy in the information age" goes into detail about how implementing this rapidly growing technology could help cut a significant portion of emissions, and even further, save global businesses a whopping $685 billion annually.

That savings is making everyone's palms itch.

So where are we at in terms of integrating smart grids here in the US? Well, we're definitely still taking baby steps. Thanks to the help of SmartMeters and a handy Google Map, we've gathered up the up-and-running smart grid projects currently happening in the states.

Where: Boulder, Colorado
Who: Xcel
When: 2008 to December 2009
How Much: $100m project
How Many: The Project will serve the 100,000 customers in the city.

Where: Chicago, Illinois
Who: Commonwealth Edison
When: 2008 to 2013
How Much: Potential investments range from $20m to $250m per year from 2008-2013.
How Many: Expanding the pilot program that served 1,100 customers to a full-blown project serving 120,000 customers

Where: Tallahassee, Florida
Who: Honeywell, working with Elster
When: Due for completion in 2010
How Much: $35 million ($14.9 awarded to Honeywell by the city)
How Many: 110,000 electricity meters, 25,000 gas meters, and 85,000 water meters.

Where: Portland, Oregon
Who: Portland General Electric Co.
When: Started June of 2008 and due for completion in 2010
How Much: $130 million to $135 million.
How Many: A total of 850,000 customers will be served

Where: Southern California, except Los Angeles
Who: Southern California Edison
When: 2009 through 2012
How Much: $1.3 billion
How Many: 5.3 million meters will be installed across Southern California.

Where: Northern and Central California
Who: Pacific Gas & Electric
When: 2008 through 2011
How Much: $1.74 Billion
How Many: Virtually all of PG&E;'s customers will be served with the 10.3 million SmartMeter gas and electric meters

See also Wide Angle: The Smart Grid by Discovery News.

More on Smart Grids:
Boulder, Colorado: First to Have a Smart Grid?
SMART 2020 Report: Smart Grids Can Cut CO2 Emissions by 15 Percent
Itron and Tendril Create Dialogue Between Smart Homes and Utilities

Tags: Alternative Energy | Electricity | Energy Efficiency

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