DENVER - Xcel Energy has announced that it will make Boulder, Colo., the nation’s first “Smart Grid City.” Starting in August and continuing through next year, Xcel Energy will upgrade the city’s electrical distribution grid with advanced smart grid technologies, including a metering system that allows real-time, high-speed, two-way communication between the utility and its customers. Customers will also be able to fully automate their home’s energy use through the installation of programmable in-home control devices. The effort will draw on the expertise of the Smart Grid Consortium, a group of leading technologists, engineering firms, business leaders, and information technology companies established by Xcel Energy in late 2007.
Among the advantages of a smart grid is its ability to make better use of customer-located energy systems, such as solar panels, fuel cells, and battery systems. Such distributed energy systems can earn more for the power they produce during periods of peak power use, and systems such as fuel cells and small generators can be powered up by the utility to supplement the grid, while battery systems can be drawn down.
Smart grids also make it easier to use demand reduction technologies, which shut down energy-intensive equipment or delay equipment from running during peak periods. The grid could interface with a home’s HVAC system and with intelligent appliances, such as a refrigerator that delays its cooling cycle for a short time during peak periods. It would also enable vehicle-to-grid technologies for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which could delay charging the vehicles until off-peak hours or could even draw power from the vehicles if needed. The result should be a more efficient, reliable electrical grid that also reduces the cost of power.