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Pullman will be ‘smart grid’ model city November 29, 2009

Avista will lead a smart grid demonstration project that will create the first “smart community” in the Pacific Northwest. Matching funds for the $38 million project are part of a U.S. Department of Energy grant for a larger $178 million regional project which is administered by Battelle.

According to an Avista news release, the company will team up with several regional entities for the Pullman project. Participants include the City of Pullman, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Washington State University, Itron, Hewlett Packard and Spirae. Avista’s portion of the matching funds will be $12.9 million.

According to Avista, the project involves automation of many parts of the electric distribution system using advanced metering, enhanced utility communication and other elements of smart grid technologies. Once the work is completed, customers in the City of Pullman and nearby Albion are expected to experience greater reliability, shorter outage times and access to their own energy use information, allowing them to better manage energy expenses.

“This project will demonstrate the viability of modernizing our electric system with proven technology, and it will prepare us for things to come in the future,” said Scott Morris, Avista chairman, president and CEO.

“I have to especially thank Senator Maria Cantwell for her outstanding leadership in making smart grid a national priority,” Morris added. “I would also like to express my appreciation to the rest of our congressional delegation and to Governor Chris Gregoire for their support on this initiative.”

The project is expected to help move the region and the nation closer to establishing a more efficient and effective electricity infrastructure that is intended to help contain costs, reduce emissions, incorporate more wind power and other types of renewable energy, increase power grid reliability and provide greater flexibility for consumers.

A group of Washington State University researchers will be working with Avista on the project.

As part of the project, WSU along with Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories are set to serve as ‘micro-grids,’ locally-based, electricity producing power grids, says Anjan Bose, Regents Professor in the WSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS). Serving as a micro-grid, WSU will communicate with Avista to improve electric power efficiency throughout the community.

WSU has its own generating plant, which runs on natural gas and diesel fuel. The generating plant is used primarily to produce steam to heat buildings on campus, but it also includes back-up generators which produce electricity. The campus back-up generators are used to provide power to critical facilities and systems in the event a utility power outage occurs. As part of the smart grid project, WSU will be communicating with Avista for the first time to optimize power generation throughout the community, so that the WSU power-producing facilities might be called upon to provide electricity if the Avista power grid should become unstable or over-loaded.

WSU will also identify loads which could be temporarily shed in response to Avista signals to assist with stabilizing the power grid. The EECS power engineering researchers and students will be involved in research, development, design, testing, and data analysis of the ‘micro-grid’ system.

“The micro-grid provides a local way of controlling electricity production and distribution and should make the whole system more responsive to people’s needs,’’ says Bose. “This is a good demonstration project of one of the ways that we can make the grid smarter.’’

“This Smart Grid project allows WSU to take a important role in addressing our nation’s most critical challenges in energy and the environment,’’ says Candis Claiborn, dean of the College of Engineering and Architecture. “I look forward to a future in which these smart grid innovations being studied here at WSU will lead to cleaner and more efficient energy use for all of us.’’

In addition to Bose, other EECS researchers on the project include Mani Venkatasubramanian, Dave Bakken, and Carl Hauser. Terry Ryan, director of WSU’s energy systems operations, has also taken a leading role on the project. In addition to WSU and Avista, other team members on the Pullman project include Schweitzer Engineering, Itron, Hewlett Packard, and Spirae.

Work is expected to begin by the end of 2009 and should be completed in 2014.

KLEW (TV) – http://www.klewtv.com/news/local/73024247.html

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