Greentech Media recognizes SMUD as grid innovator

Sacramento Municipal Utility District  You are leaving WAPA.gov. (SMUD) was among the 20 companies to receive the Grid Edge 20 award You are leaving WAPA.gov. for contributions to the transformation of the U.S. electrical grid.

Sponsored by GreenTech Media Research, the award highlights energy-related businesses using new products, disruptive strategies and forward-looking vision to shift our traditional, centralized grid to a more distributed, responsive system. SMUD earned the award for implementing Space-Time Insight’s You are leaving WAPA.gov. (STI) geospatial and visual analytics software to improve the analysis and management of data from its smart grid devices.

Good-news-bad-news scenario
The project is part of SMUD’s SmartSacramento initiative to improve the reliability and efficiency of the grid and to give customers more control over their energy use. The first step was the installation of 630,000 new smart meters capable of two-way wireless communication, which allowed SMUD customers to see their daily and hourly energy use on the web. The meters also enabled the utility to remotely read use, and set the stage for smarter thermostats, home energy management systems, energy-efficient smart appliances and time-of-use (TOU) rates.

Customer reaction to the installation was overwhelmingly positive. “The business case for smart meters was based on operational efficiencies rather than energy savings, but the TOU rates can drive efficiency improvements,” explained Jim Parks, SMUD program manager for energy research and development. “In the pilot project, customers on TOU or CPP [critical peak pricing] rates, or both, were able to reduce their peak energy use by 6 to 25 percent during peak periods.”

SMUD also installed dozens of other intelligent grid-connected assets to provide data on the condition and performance of equipment to improve system reliability. All that data, however, came with a downside: figuring out how to incorporate it into grid decision-making. Traditional manual operation simply could not burrow through this mountain of data to realize the benefits. It was time to automate, and SMUD chose  STI’s geospatial and visual analytics technology.

Grid planning, beyond
The software platform visualizes and coordinates data from more than 30 different systems. A large “electronic wall map” in SMUD’s Distribution Operations Center displays the synthesized data as a common operational view of grid and asset health, weather, wind and fire conditions and power supply and demand, to name a few.

The electronic wall map in SMUD's operational center gives operations staff an overview of the grid right down to cameras like the one on the Meadowview-Mack substation.
The electronic wall map in SMUD’s Distribution Operations Center gives operations staff an overview of the grid right down to cameras on grid assets like the Meadowview-Mack substation.

Managers and operators are now able to respond more quickly to outages, rapidly develop switching plans and make more informed decisions regarding equipment maintenance and investments. “This gives our operations staff the view they need of what’s happening on the grid, right down to zeroing in on cameras on substations or loading on individual feeders,” said Parks.

In addition to tying together many utility operations, the platform includes data links with state and federal firefighting agencies and water districts for coordinating emergency responses to fires and floods. It also pulls weather data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the utility’s fifteen weather stations. Managers can turn data on temperature forecasts into predictions of coming peak power demand, or transform wind-speed readings into dynamic line ratings.

Now that situational intelligence technology has proven its value in grid operations, other SMUD departments are showing an interest. The utility has launched a second phase of the system to meet some of these demands. Geospatial and visual analytics could be valuable for neighborhood design and transformer loading, customer demographics for new programs, vegetation analysis or understanding the impact of electric vehicles on single circuits. “Some of the departments have found uses for it that we didn’t anticipate, while some of the planned uses were less effective than we expected,” Parks acknowledged.

Stakeholders select awardees
Grid Edge 20 recognizes vision and innovation in the energy services and utility industries. A network of energy industry stakeholders, including the team of analysts at GreenTech Media Research nominate and vote on the awardees. Final award recipients were selected with input from Greentech Media’s Grid Edge Executive Council. Since its launch in the fall of 2013, the council has grown to more than 75 member companies. Duke Energy, Embertec, Enphase Energy, Electric Power Research Institute, SunEdison and 3M are the newest members.

Many of the awardees will be attending or presenting at Grid Edge Live 2015You are leaving WAPA.gov. June 23-25, in San Diego. The conference covers issues surrounding grid modernization and customer and business model transformation.

Source: GreenTech Media via Public Power Daily, 4/30/15