Photo via Blude via Flickr CC
It's been quite awhile since we talked about Boulder, Colorado's SmartGridCity, a project by Xcel Energy to get an entire city up and running on a smart grid. While there are numerous projects underway nationwide, and lots of pieces of a potential connected smart grid being put in place, we have yet to see a full city with a completed smart grid connecting homes to utilities to power generation sources and so on. SmartGridCity can now safely claim to be the farthest along. The wires at Reuters are abuzz with the news. Xcel Energy has wrapped up infrastructure construction and launched the software needed to get the city's smart grid operational. It can now claim to be the farthest along of any project currently underway in the world. They aren't quite finished yet - homeowners need to still be brought on board with home energy monitoring - but they're getting their fast. All the important infrastructure pieces are now in place.
Xcel Energy reports that the latest software is showing that a smart grid's ability to reduce power outages and predict equipment failure are panning out. Hopefully the project also proves the validity of estimates on how much a smart grid can cut carbon emissions based on effective use of resources, as well as allow for broader use of renewables. Their next step is to start looking for customers to test in-home energy monitoring devices so that customers can take an active role in minimizing energy consumption.
As the smart grid moves further along and projects like SmartGridCity come to fruition, it's more important than ever to have standards put in place so that technologies and infrastructure created and implemented now are not obsolete in a year or two. SmartGridCity is a perfect opportunity to experiment with what works and what doesn't in a smart grid for a city, and possibly for a nation.
Of course, no smart grid post would be complete without some mention of security. There's been quite a lot of buzz about that in the news lately. Security is a major concern, the primary fear being that hackers can get in to the system and shut down power sources. Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon are all looking to be part of the cybersecurity solution. Other concerns include erosion of privacy, with both a customer's personal information as well as energy being too open for the taking. These are all issues being taken with extreme seriousness by utilities, smart grid companies, and the government.