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GCN : January 2014
SMUD provides electricity for 1.4 million customers across 900 square miles of California's Sacramento County. Being community owned, it is sensitive to the need to keep customer rates down and is progressive about the use of technology to improve ef ciency. The smart grid upgrade was expected to save the utility --- and its customers --- from 1 to 3 percent. Not a huge amount, but "it becomes an opportunity to avoid rate cases" for raising electricity rates, smart grid director Michael Greenhalgh said. The savings from improved ef ciency comes not only in the form of reduced costs but also from avoided expenses. By better understanding and controlling the power ow over the system's circuits, SMUD expects to reduce peak summer loads by 10.4 megawatts and reduce annual energy use by 36,520 megawatt-hours. This could help the utility avoid major investment in new transmission and generation facilities, saving hundreds of millions in capital costs. Ironically, the makeover was helped along by the poor economy. SMUD knew it needed to upgrade, but spinning out new technology in a growing utility is dif cult to do. When the recession hit in 2008 growth slowed, and in 2009 federal assistance for the project became available under the Recovery and Reinvestment Act. "It was perfect timing for us," said Greenhalgh. "The project was shovel ready," and SMUD received a $127.5 million Department of Energy smart grid infrastructure grant, which covered a little more than a third of the cost of the project. The grant accounted for 58 percent of the DOE smart grid money awarded in California, Greenhalgh said. "We have a very broad implementation." --William Jackson For Sacramento smart grid, timing was perfect GCN JANUARY 2014 • GCN.COM 29 use of capacitor banks to switch voltage to maintain steady levels across the system. This required retrofitting transformers with SCADA software. The utility's outage management system was upgraded to in- tegrate with these new elements and take advantage of the data being provided. In 2012 SMUD line-maintenance crews were equipped with mobile terminals for the out- age management system that provide Web- based access displays of line condition and usage. SMUD began looking in late 2011 for a tool to help make sense of data being gener- ated by the new smarter technology. At that time there were a number of information management products available, but what made Space-Time Insight attractive was its use of geospatial tools to help correlate in- formation. This lets users see what usage, transmission line and even weather condi- tions are in different locations, to help plan for and respond to loads and demand. The SI Server accepts data feeds from existing sensors in the grid, meters and in- SCADA systems. It produces charts, tables and visualizations of both real-time condi- tions and historical trends. This is the back- bone of the distribution operations center, where the data can be displayed on a 30- foot by 8-foot video wall as well as on users' desktops. "It doesn't store any data," Ehrlich said. The system already has its own storage, which the server can draw on as needed for historical data. The system provides some data and views out of the box, but it is configured to cus- tomers' specific needs and took about six months to become fully functional. The op- erators, "the ones who are most interested in keeping the lights on," were the first us- ers of the system, Greenhalgh said. They are most interested in current conditions rather than trends, but other departments began finding ways to use historical data and ana- lytics to help with planning. City designers can see what loads on spe- cific transformers are over time to help with neighborhood planning and locating new feeder lines. The maintenance department can use the data to see where work has been done, where it needs to be done next, where crews are in the field at the moment and where they need to be to prepare for current or expected conditions. The data also is being used to plan for the growth in use of electric vehicles. De- mographic data can help determine where owners are likely to live, work and travel so that demand can be anticipated and loads can be balanced. At this point, grid data management sys- tems still are maturing, but they have the potential to be a robust tool in making sys- tems more efficient, Greenhalgh said. Early adopters such as SMUD are helping to refine the tools for the industry. • Early adopters such as SMUD are helping to refine the tools for the industry.