$89M in stimulus funds to support Smart Grid project

By the Herald staff October 1, 2010 

RICHLAND -- Battelle and the Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory have completed a cooperative agreement that will authorize release of $89 million in economic stimulus money for the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project.

The money will be added to another $89 million from the Bonneville Power Administration, 11 utilities and five technology companies that make up the demonstration project team.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., announced the release of $47 million in partial project funding in August, which allowed project participants to start testing new smart grid technology and maintain project momentum.

With the full funding now authorized, the team can solidify contracts and equipment purchases for the project's entire five years. At its peak, the project could create about 1,500 jobs in manufacturing, installation and operation of smart grid equipment, telecommunications networks, software and controls.

"We are eager to help the nation create a more efficient and reliable electricity infrastructure, sharing knowledge and learning along the way," said Mike Kluse, a Battelle senior vice president, in a statement.

Smart grid technology is designed to improve the power grid's reliability and performance by optimizing the push and pull of supply and demand. Electricity generators, suppliers and consumers are each part of the equation and can benefit from improvements.

A smart grid enhances power delivery and use through intelligent, two-way communication between suppliers and consumers. It can include interactive appliances in homes, improved substation automation and sensors on transmission lines to monitor activities in real time, exchange information about supply and demand and adjust power use based on instantaneous data.

The project will expand existing electric infrastructure and test new combinations of devices, software and analytical tools in homes and on the grid in 12 Northwest communities, including the Benton Public Utility District.

Information from consumers involved in the study will flow back to the Electricity Infrastructure Operations Center at Battelle's Richland campus for analysis. There researchers will quantify costs and benefits of smart grid technology at both locally and regionally.

Data from the demonstration project is expected to enable a level of grid performance and transparency not currently attainable and could be used to reduce operating costs and lower ratepayer bills.

The project team will install equipment and technology through mid-2012. Then, for about the next two years, project leaders will gather data on smart grid performance from 13 test sites.

The sites stretch from Fox Island in Washington's Puget Sound to the Teton Mountains in western Wyoming and include the main campuses of the University of Washington and Washington State University.

For more information, visit the project's website at www.pnwsmartgrid.org.

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