By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
With one of the nation’s top tier universities in Boulder, no one would argue that Boulder isn’t a smart city.
Well, now it’s official. But the reason doesn’t have to do with professors or students — it has to do with energy.
Xcel Energy Monday announced that it has completed construction of infrastructure and launched software needed to enable all SmartGrid operations in Boulder, making it the first fully functioning SmartGrid-enabled city in the world.
When fully functional, the SmartGrid and its companion SmartMeters will allow consumers and utilities to adjust energy based on need.
Future of energy management?
The technology is being hailed as the future of energy management.
“We can now read customer meters remotely, identify and reduce outages and false power outage calls more quickly,” said Jay Herrmann, Xcel Energy regional vice president.
Ultimately, SmartGrid technology is expected to give consumers the power to control energy use in real time — not much different than accessing voice mail on a cell phone.
The hope is that consumers will eventually own appliances that communicate with SmartMeters to adjust energy output based on need.
Home and business owners will be able to remotely access their property’s energy in order to manually adjust usage in specific quadrants based on need — such as if a random business trip pops up and a homeowner won’t be home for a while. Or, simply if an area of the property is not often used and therefore requires less energy.
Web site coming
Sometime later this year, Xcel plans to launch an in-home energy management Web site that will give all Boulder customers with a SmartMeter the ability to review their in-home energy usage.
For utilities, the technology means being able to adjust overall output — less demand would be filtered back into the grid, more demand would be redirected to areas with more need.
A separate experiment is taking place in Fort Collins, but for now, all eyes are on Boulder.
“SmartGridCity is a long-term test, but these first steps are exciting,” added Herrmann.
Already being utilized
The technology is already being utilized at the University of Colorado chancellor’s residence in Boulder. There has been at least a 30 percent reduction in energy use, former Chancellor G.P. “Bud” Peterson said in a past conference call with reporters about the technology.
Xcel executives are excited about the technology because they believe it will mean being able to serve the needs of customers more efficiently. Early results indicate that the technology is allowing Xcel to predict equipment failure and proactively make necessary repairs before an outage occurs.
The utility believes it has already averted four potentially long-term outages by being forewarned about transformers that were ready to fail. The transformers were replaced without any significant disruption to customer service.
“By cutting the number of times we send crews out to those calls, we can make our crews more productive,” said Herrmann. “Combining those efficiencies while reducing outages will allow us to capture cost-savings more appropriately and benefit our customers.”