By John Lowrey | RE Magazine
This is the first in a series of articles on the initial findings of the ongoing Smart Grid Demonstration Project, a $68 million U.S. Department of Energy initiative being undertaken by NRECA’s Cooperative Research Network and 23 electric cooperatives.
A diverse group of electric cooperatives from across the nation recently completed the first phase of the $68 million Smart Grid Demonstration Project (SGDP), the largest project of its kind ever undertaken by NRECA’s Cooperative Research Network (CRN).
The project, funded half by a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) stimulus grant and half by NRECA and participating co-ops, went live in late 2010.
The first phase involved the installation and testing of more than 250,000 pieces of smart grid equipment at 23 electric cooperatives serving 750,000 consumers in 12 states.
“Back in 2010, the NRECA grant proposal was ranked highest among all applicants by DOE for its breadth, vision, and research component,” said Martin Lowery, NRECA executive vice president for member and association relations. “The phase-one results deliver on this commitment and put electric cooperatives at the absolute forefront of the industry in applying and testing smart grid devices and systems.”
The SGDP’s primary phase-one goal was to deploy various smart grid technologies and assess them for technical effectiveness, suitability to the cooperative business model, and return on investment. CRN and a cadre of electric distribution and generation and transmission (G&T) co-ops worked together on procurement and grant compliance. The project team also included vendors and industry leaders like SAIC, Cigital, Power Systems Engineering, ICF, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and EPRI.
“The depth and breadth of experience and expertise on this team is really quite remarkable,” says Project Manager and NRECA Chief Scientist Craig Miller. “And the collaboration is unprecedented. We’ve really set a new standard with this.”
All told, more than 257,000 pieces of equipment were purchased and installed. Components tested included:
- 155,700 smart meter modules
- 16,150 demand-response switches
- 4,000 in-home displays/smart thermostats
- 270 automated capacitor banks
- 200 recloser/three-phase switches
Procurement for the project was centralized, and all hardware was purchased through NRECA.
“This project confirms the ability of electric cooperatives to work together and conduct groundbreaking technology research,” Miller says. “The co-op performance was so exemplary that DOE now solicits research ideas from NRECA as it plans its own funding priorities.”
RE Magazine has a summary of one project report below and will review two reports each month for the next four months. Project reports, case studies and more detailed articles can be found in the Smart Grid Demonstration Project area of the NRECA website.