The Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project has gone live with technology to track information across the power system.
It's the most recent phase of a Battelle-led project intended to help develop the base information needed to allow the nation's policymakers and utilities to understand the costs and benefits of smart grid technology.
"Demonstrating the benefits of smart grid outweigh the costs is crucial for any utility considering moving forward with these investments," said Bill Drummond, Bonneville Power Administration deputy director, in a statement. BPA is collaborating on the project.
Smart grid technology allows intelligent two-way communication from producer to utility to consumer.
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"The two-way information exchange in the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project allows grid operators to make the existing electric grid more efficient -- while also exploring how using other technologies, such as energy storage devices, smart appliances and wind power, can bolster the reliability of our system," said Carl Imhoff, electricity infrastructure market sector manager at Battelle in Richland.
Researchers in Richland now have a transactive control system up and running that will allow them to follow the flow of electricity through the power system and calculate what it is costing to deliver power at different places.
The information exchange is based at the Electricity Infrastructure Operations Center on the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory campus in Richland, where data will be analyzed.
So far, the transactive control system is deployed to eight of the 11 utilities across the Northwest that are participating in the demonstration program. Benton Public Utility District, which has teamed with Franklin Public Utility District and Richland, is expected also to connect to the system soon as one of the participating utilities.
The Tri-City-area utilities are using "demand shifter" devices already installed but not connected to the transactive control system. They use batteries to store electricity at times it is not needed, with each utility able to store 10 kilowatts for four hours under the pilot project.
Battelle researchers plan to quantify the costs and benefits of the demand shifters, which could save customers money and make better use of wind sources, allowing electricity produced when the wind is blowing to be saved for some of the times when it is not.
Battelle's smart grid project, one of several sponsored across the nation by the Department of Energy, will be the only one to look at the regional issue of integrating utilities' use of renewable energy resources, primarily wind, said Ron Melton, project director of the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project.
The transactive control system will be used to capture how the wind supply and forecast varies to translate that into incentive signals, or prices, which are updated every five minutes and sent to participating utilities.
Now other power production can be adjusted if wind production fluctuates, but that comes at a price and, in the case of hydropower systems, causes wear and tear. A smart grid could help shift the change to the other end of the electrical delivery system, with the need to use less power communicated when wind production slows.
There already has been a test of consumer response in the Northwest.
Six years ago, a smart grid project was tested on the Olympic Peninsula with a small group of consumers using a smart energy signal similar to transactive control.
They used smart water heaters and electric dryers that responded to a smart signal and would intermittently turn their heating elements off for 20 seconds to two minutes during times of peak demand on the grid.
They saved about 10 percent on their monthly power bills and helped their utility reduce peak demand by 15 percent, Imhoff said.
"Now, we'll be able to see how a broader set of customers, from different climate and geographic regions, can save energy or money or both," he said.
Among the participants in the demonstration project is the University of Washington, which had seven meters on campus before it began. Now it has more than 200 smart meters across the campus at almost every building.
The meters will give energy users real-time information and analysis on energy usage and will improve the UW's understanding of how much energy is being used, according to Battelle. At new residence halls on campus, students will have real-time access to their energy use data with in-room energy management devices.
Milton-Freewater City Light and Power also is participating, modernizing its program that already allowed some communication with customers' water heaters and air conditioners.
The Northwest already has a history of leading the nation and world in the development and deployment of new power system technology, Melton said.
The project is being paid for by DOE's Recovery Act money and the project's utility and vendor partners.