Posted by: nialljmcshane | July 25, 2010

Dispatches from the Smart Grid Front

Sometimes it is important to stop and take stock of what has been happening so this week’s column is a round-up of news items and updates on topics that I have covered previously.

The Green Technology Organization of Greater Chicago continues to grow and, as of this writing, membership has increased to 107 making this the largest group on meetup.com dealing with issues related to Smart Grid.  We are also the largest meetup group for Electricity and Natural Gas and the third largest for Electric Vehicles behind groups  in Vancouver BC and Toronto ON.   We recently picked up sponsorship from GE ecomagination as part of their efforts to promote the GE ecomagination Challenge: Powering the Grid.  This month’s meeting is on Thursday, July 29 at 7:00 pm in the Schaumburg Public Library and will feature representatives from the City of Naperville Smart Grid Project.  Check in next week for an update on the meeting and our local Smart Grid project here in the Chicago area.

Speaking of local Smart Grid projects, the US Department of Energy has launched a new Smart Grid Information Clearinghouse website which provides access to a host of information on what is happening in Smart Grid around the country.  The site, which is currently in Beta mode will launch officially in the fall. Because the site is Beta, I am not providing direct links to pages on the site since these are unlikely to be persistent links.  This is a great resource for anybody seeking to learn more about Smart Grid and I suggest that you bookmark the link to the site’s home page for future reference.

A map is provided on the site that shows the location of  ARRA-funded Smart Grid Investment Grant Projects, ARRA-funded Smart Grid Demonstration Projects and non-ARRA-funded projects.  Each project shown on the map has a link for further information.  This is a great way to find out what’s happening to bring the Smart Grid to your neighborhood.

The site also provides access to federal, state and private industry consumer awareness programs.  As an example; for the state of Illinois, the site provides links to information from the City of Naperville, IL Smart Grid Project, The ComEd Smart Meter Program, The Illinois Smart Grid Initiative and the Illinois Smart Grid Collaborative.  The federal page provides links to NIST, FERC and other government bodies while the private sector page includes resources from Edison Electric Institute, Galvin Electricity Initiative, General Electric, Google (yes Google!!) and others as well as links to non-profits and industry groups such as The Gridwise Alliance and IEEE.

Under In-Depth Information, there is a great section on technologies that provides an expanded glossary of Smart Grid terms with links to further information and sample vendors of these technologies.  Other sections provide a summary of federal and state legislation and regulatory activities, access to applicable standards including cyber security standards, and DoE sponsored workforce training programs.

Returning to topics that I have covered in the past:

  • Intelligent Utility Daily reported on a story in the Chicago Tribune about a $25 Million investment by the government of South Korea to install Korean energy saving technology in up to 14 high rise buildings in Chicago over the next few months.  The Koreans are taking Smart Grid very seriously and see this as a huge export opportunity for their technology firms.  The island of Jeju off the south coast of South Korea is one of the largest Smart Grid demonstration projects in the world and serves as an R&D lab for Korean Smart Grid Technology.  The Chicago project represents a significant ramp-up of building energy efficiency efforts and helps to reinforce the message that the city was projecting at the conference on Chicago’s Clean Energy Economy that I attended back in May.
  • Returning to the topic of Smart Grid Technology Wars, a reader sent me a link to a story on the local utility in Stratford Ontario turning the provincial government’s smart meter mandate into a new business opportunity by deploying WiFi technology throughout the city.  In addition to providing secure, reliable backhaul for the meter data, the system will also provide WiFi internet access to the city’s residents.  Free access to websites related to city services, local events etc will help to bridge the digital divide for low income residents while full internet access will be available for an additional fee.  The system uses WiFi access points provided by Motorola which implement a mesh network based on 802.11a/b/g/n technology.  This is a good example of a utility innovating not just around the technology but also around the business model which helps to increase the value of the service to local consumers.
  • A good example of a utility making the effort to reach out and educate consumers in anticipation of the uptake of Electric Vehicles was featured in another Intelligent Utility Daily article recently.  Citing some of the same concerns that I highlighted in a column on Electric Vehicles in May, Southern California Edison has developed a range of charging rate options which include a standard residential flat rate, a whole-house time of use rate and a EV-only time of use rate.  SCE are using various outreach methods, including a web presence, information included in customers bills and a relationship with EV vendors in their service area to try to inform customers about these options before they bring an EV home and plug it in.  Of course, if this outreach effort is successful, it will also allow SCE to track the adoption of EV’s and plan for necessary transformer upgrades before any problems occur as a result of the additional demand placed on the system by the EV’s.
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