Across the country, electric utilities are investing in innovative technologies to optimize the electric grid and shape the future of how energy is delivered, managed, and used. These innovations are merging previously separate power, information, and telecommunications systems to form an intelligent, resilient, modern, and digital grid.
The result is a two-way power and information highway that benefits all electricity customers. Helping people understand how the 100-plus year old grid is changing and recognizing the critical importance of these innovative and high-tech projects is sometimes a challenge. The Institute for Electric Innovation has taken up that challenge, though, and I would like to share just a few of the noteworthy projects currently underway.
1. Largest military solar array
Just last month, the groundbreaking of what will be the largest solar array on any U.S. Department of Defense base in the world took place, thanks to a partnership between Tucson Electric Power (TEP) and the U.S. Army. The 18 MWdc array at Fort Huachuca in Arizona will provide the base with clean, cost-effective electricity that will also contribute to the base's long-term energy security plans. The array will provide enough power to satisfy one-quarter of the base's energy needs and is equivalent to the annual electric needs of approximately 3,100 homes.
2. Advanced wind forecasting
Another great example of innovation is how advanced wind forecasting is being used to optimally integrate wind energy into the power grid. In its fifth year of use by Xcel Energy, the WindWX forecast technology has saved Xcels customers more than $30 million by reducing wind power forecasting errors. Real-time, turbine-level operating data provide the input and WindWXs sophisticated algorithms forecast the amount of wind power that will be produced for a full week, every 15 minutes across the entire Xcel Energy service territory which covers 8 Western and Midwestern states.
3. Advanced energy storage
Considering current and planned additions of intermittent wind and solar resources, utilities are investing in technologies and resources that position the grid as a flexible, reliable, and resilient platform. Investments in advanced battery storage systems are a key component. AES Corporations 40 MW Tait Energy Storage Array in Moraine, OH provides fast responding battery energy resources to the PJM Interconnection for frequency regulation, helping to keep the grid stable. The facility also performs double-duty by offsetting power generation from inefficient or retiring power plants, reducing overall system emissions while optimizing existing grid resources.
4. Smartphone app for air conditioner load control
In New York, Consolidated Edisons coolNYC program helps customers manage their air conditioning usage more efficiently. Participants receive a free smartAC modlet which allows them to control their room air conditioning unit remotely with a smartphone and set temperature schedules. The modlets are essentially plug-level meters with load control capabilities. This is especially exciting in a city with over 6 million room air-conditioning units. Plus, the technology meets consumers where they are today on their smartphones and mobile devices.
Electric utilities are increasing customer engagement, improving energy efficiency, integrating renewable and distributed resources, and building a more resilient, flexible, visible, and reliable 21st century power grid.
It is up to the utility industry, working with its technology partners, to adopt and implement the innovations that will keep our nation supplied with secure, reliable, affordable, and increasingly clean energy. Looking towards the future, there is no doubt that technologies and innovations yet to be introduced will continue to transform how the electricity that powers our economy and our lives is delivered, managed, and used.
Source: Smart Grid News
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