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DOE selects NW and Seattle City Light for Smart Grid demo

DOE selects NW and Seattle City Light for $178M smart grid demonstration. The Pacific Northwest Grid Demonstration Project includes City Light, University of Washington and McKinstry Energy Services among others.

RICHLAND, Wash. – The Department of Energy has selected a Pacific Northwest team, including Seattle City Light, to conduct a regional smart grid demonstration project designed to expand upon existing electric infrastructure and test new smart grid technology with up to 60,000 customers in five states.  

The Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project was the largest of 16 demonstration projects announced by DOE today ( The Pacific Northwest team combines energy providers, utilities, vendors and research organizations. 

Total estimated cost for the project is $178 million.  DOE will provide half the funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The project’s participants, primarily utilities and industry team members, including Seattle City Light, will provide the remaining funds.

The Northwest study will involve more than 60,000 metered customers in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.  Using smart grid technologies, the study will test new combinations of devices, software and advanced analytical tools that enhance the power grid’s reliability and performance.

Seattle City Light, the University of Washington and their project manager, McKinstry Energy Services, will be developing a $9.6M smart micro grid project with four major components:

  • Install utility-grade “smart meters” that can monitor electric consumption for 200 buildings on the university’s campus;
  • Upgrade and create a common communication capability for the 33 individual building management systems currently in use across the campus;
  • Install data management equipment at one location to allow a regional grid operator to monitor and control energy uses and important generation assets, such as solar panels, steam turbines or emergency diesel generators;
  • And install monitoring and control equipment in two lab or classroom buildings and two dormitories. This will allow UW administrators to better understand how energy is used on campus and apply that knowledge in ways to better manage their facilities and control energy costs.

At its peak, the DOE project could create about 1,500 total jobs in manufacturing, installation and operating smart grid equipment, telecommunications networks, software and controls in the five states.

“Seattle City Light wanted to be a part of this smart grid project team,” Superintendent Jorge Carrasco said. “This is another step in our efforts to move to a different relationship with our customers in energy management.  Advances in this area could help our customers reduce their energy consumption, shorten our restoration times for outages, and increase the overall efficiency of our distribution system.”

The project team will install equipment and technology in 2010 and 2011.  Then, for the next two to three years, project leaders will gather data on smart grid performance from 15 test sites that represent the region’s diverse terrain, weather, and demographics.  The test sites range from Fox Island in Washington State’s Puget Sound, to the Teton Mountains in western Wyoming, and include the campuses at the University of Washington and Washington State University. 

“This will be a wonderful test vehicle for our researchers to investigate the deployment of smart-grid technologies,” said Matthew O’Donnell, Dean of the UW’s College of Engineering. “Having users on campus will allow us to do rapid-cycle testing of important concepts related to user interface and cyber-security.”  The project will involve more than 112 megawatts of power, enough to serve 86,000 households.  

In 2006, the region participated in the DOE-funded Pacific Northwest GridWise Demonstration Project on the Olympic Peninsula.  The project was designed to test and speed adoption of new smart grid technologies that can make the power grid more resilient and efficient.  The study showed that advanced technologies enabled consumers to be active participants in improving power grid efficiency and reliability, while saving about 10 percent on their electricity bills in the process.  The new project builds on those results expanding the scale of the effort and introducing additional technologies.

Smart grid technology includes everything from interactive appliances in homes to substation automation and sensors on transmission lines.  It is a system that uses various technologies to improve power delivery and use through intelligent, two-way communication.  Generators of electricity, suppliers and users are all part of the equation.  With increased communication and information, smart grid technology enables real time monitoring of electric energy use, exchange of data about supply and demand and adjustments of power use to changing load requirements. 

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