If you thought the smart grid was a distant future, in some cities it’s already here. Xcel Energy, which sells electricity and gas in eight western and mid-western states, says its SmartGridCity Project in Boulder, Colo. is now live. At least the smart distribution piece is up and running. That includes the network infrastructure and software for routing power to automated substations and around impacted power lines, and Xcel says the deployed technology is already enabling the company to anticipate network failures and fix broken gear before a major outage occurs.
The milestone is important because it shows how quickly utilities are now moving to get smart grid projects deployed. The utility started construction on the project last year, and SmartGridCity is now one of the projects that is the farthest along in the U.S. and one of the first that can claim to have a distribution piece up and running. The technology was built by Accenture, Current Group, GridPoint, OSIsoft, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, SmartSynch and Ventyx.
However, the consumer energy management portion, where home owners will use energy dashboards, software and websites to control their energy consumption, will have to wait a bit. In the fourth quarter of this year Xcel plans to rollout an in-home energy management web portal courtesy of GridPoint.
That’s got to be GridPoint’s new energy management software courtesy of its Lixar SRS acquisition. Supposedly the software is pretty slick, though, I’ve never seen a demo of it, outside of this image I grabbed (above) during a recent congressional testimony.
Current Group largely provides the sensors that monitor different conditions on the electrical network, like voltage and current, as well as the software that processes the sensor information for Xcel. Current is also providing communication gear and sensors for smart meters and in-home gateways for the SmartGridCity rollout.
SmartGridCity is also one of the first projects I’ve heard about that will be using DSL networks for smart meter connections, and will be working with local telecom Qwest. Because DSL networks have already been built out the option is more affordable and faster for a utility than building out its own communications network.