Boulder, CO was chosen as Xcel Energy’s first “Smart Grid City” two months ago. Today, Xcel will begin work to create that smart grid. That includes rebuilding the energy infrastructure (grid) within the town. Xcel and its partners will reportedly spend upwards of $100 million on the work, which is expected to be completed in two years.
15,000 homes should have brand new digital meters by Aug. 1 of this year. Xcel plans to install approximately 50,000 meters by year’s end. The new system will allow customers to set up a monthly energy budget and receive feedback on their actual usage. This concept has been shown to reduce overall consumption. Right now, most of us aren’t highly aware of where every kilowatt-hour of energy use is going. With these systems, most of us will likely work to minimize our usage. Groups will be established to examine and compete to drive usage to all-new lows, much like Prius and MiniCooper users have done with optimizing their mileage.
Additional smart features include being able to select how much renewable energy is used, program the system to use it at certain times and even how to use it. Appliances will be remotely programmed. If available, renewable energy can be sold back to Xcel. I really like that part. Citizens should not be mindless consumers of externally generated power sources. We should be harvesters and be able to market our own energy.
Once people are accustomed to seeing what item uses the most energy in their house, expect them to but a more efficient model. Refrigerators and clothes driers are large energy hogs. But anything that remains plugged into the wall socket typically acts as a constant energy vampire, especially cell phone and iPod chargers. Control over their time spent on, and thus actively drawing power, will reduce tons of carbon emissions going into the climate system.
The Smart Grid will also feature massive batteries that store energy gathered from wind and solar sources. That energy will be available for release when usage peaks. This feature will be a big improvement over the current paradigm: continually running coal and natural gas plants at full capacity. Another possible source of energy for the system? Plug-in vehicles. The city will consider ways to help increase the number of plug-ins in Boulder. Purchase incentives and city fleet conversions are being considered.
As the first large system to be deployed, there will certainly be things that are done either incorrectly or less efficiently than desired. That’s actually a good thing. As the technologies are implemented elsewhere, they will be constantly improved upon.
You can see what’s new at http://www.xcelenergy.com/smartgrid.
X-posted at SquareState.net.