Boulder’s Smart Grid Project Gets Serious

By Paul Baker
Colorado Energy News
February 9th, 2009

Residents of the People’s Republic of Boulder have a well-earned reputation for
appreciating their environment. It’s easy to understand, even for Coloradoans
who live elsewhere. Set next to the Flatirons and foothills of the Front Range,
and home to CU’s gorgeous campus, Boulderites enjoy a four-seasons approach to
leisure activity. Many are just as serious when it comes to energy efficiency initiatives.

Given the city’s penchant for all things green (It finished 5th in the Best
Green Places competition) , it is no surprise that Boulder is moving forward
with an innovative technological project that will make it America’s first Smart
Grid City - at least for a portion of the citizenry. 50,000 homes in Boulder
will soon be set up with the latest in environmentally-friendly, energy-saving
technology — including solar panels, electric cars and, for some, a specialized
heating, cooling and lighting system — all of which will be integrated into a
monitoring system that reports the home’s carbon footprint to the homeowner.
“We like to think of Smart Grid as bringing the world of Thomas Edison together
with the world of Bill Gates,” said Ray Gogel of Xcel Energy, which is involved
in the system’s installation.

Xcel and several green tech companies have invested $100 million to transform
Boulder into a living laboratory.

“We’re doing something that the whole world is looking at right now,” Gogel said.

The new system allows Val and Bud Peterson to easily control their energy consumption.

“I pretty much get on my computer, tell my house and my car
what to do and then I walk away,” Val said. “My solar panels
are talking to my house, are talking to my car, are talking to
my house. It’s a beautiful system.”

These high-tech gadgets make the Peterson’s home so efficient
that they are not just using less power, sometimes they save so
much power that their meter is essentially spinning backward.

The excess power is stored in the house, charging the batteries
in their car and supplying them with about two days’ worth ofbackup power.

Since they started the program, they have been able to produce
590.7 fewer pounds of carbon, saving enough to microwave 154
pizzas. Multiply that by 50,000 customers — the number
currently expected to install the system — and it can make
quite an impact.

“Our monthly bill was $3,” the resident said.

Each home’s smart meter keeps track of where the energy
powering the house is coming from. Bud Peterson believes the
system could change the way consumers buy energy.

“Today, when you go online to buy an airline ticket, you can
select on schedule or price,” he said. “And with this type of
system, you will be able to select whether you would like to
use renewable energy, sustainable energy or coal-fired.”

For the Petersons, all the decisions can be made over the
Internet, from anywhere in the world.

“If we left to go away for the weekend and we realize we left
the air-conditioning on or we’d left some other things on, we
could go through the Internet, through the Web from any
computer, from your iPod or iPhone, and change the settings in
the house, control the thermostat setting or a lot of the
electrical appliances,” said Bud Peterson.

It’s a system that tempts users, like Val Peterson, to look even further into the future.

“You’ve got a GPS locator that knows your location, and so if
you’re driving back home you can actually program the system so
that when you got within 5 miles of where you lived or where
you worked it would turn the air-conditioning on or off
automatically based on your location,” she said.

Gogel believes the project will prove to the world these kinds
of systems are the future of energy.

“I honestly believe that as new houses are built this will
become the standard that gets incorporated into the house,”
Gogel said. “You want to have a zero-energy house. It makes sense over time.”

It’s obvious Boulder is going to relish the new role as Smart Grid trendsetter.


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