Tag: "smart-grid"

Posted May 29, 2012 by christopher

We have been watching Johnson City, Tennessee, examine its options to improve broadband options in their community using extra capacity from fiber-optic investments for smart-grid implementation. Johnson City has been looking for a partner that would offer services to local businesses and perhaps residents.

We were concerned about that approach as a private-sector partner may be interested only in finding the most lucrative high-margin customers rather than seeking ways to serve the whole community.

We are now relieved to learn that Johnson City and BVU Authority have made an initial agreement and are working toward a final contract. BVU Authority originated in and continues to be based out of nearby Bristol, Virginia.

We have long covered BVU Authority and just recently published a case study about them.

BVU Authority should be an excellent match as they provide excellent business services (they are tremendous pioneers in this regard) and have a focus on serving the community as a whole. BVU Authority's investments in southwestern Virginia have led to strong job growth and we expect them to have similar success in northeastern Tennessee.

Posted March 30, 2012 by lgonzalez

The Chattanooga Times Free Press, reports that the City's last IntelliRuptor, or "smart switch," will be installed on April 24th. No wonder EPB was named one of The Networked Grid - Top Ten Utility Smart Grid Deployments in North America by Greentech Media. EPB also received a special award for Best Distribution Automation, thanks to its fiber-optic network. EPB and Chattanooga have been similarly recognized in the past.

Quickly locating and localizing power outages will continue to limit power loss which will save tens of millions of dollars each year. According to Harold DePriest, CEO of EPB, "Nobody has applied them (IntelliRuptors) in the numbers we've applied them." A tornado on March 2nd tested the new system and, while 3,470 customers lost power, estimates are that the number would have been double without the use of the smart switches. Smart meters are also being installed, allowing customer usage data sent to the utility, which means that EPB will immediately know who has power and who does not in the aftermath of storms.

EPB saved about 5 million customer minutes in 2011 with half of the switches installed and half of installed switches set up to function automatically. EPB estimates and annual saving of up to $40 million to $45 million for businesses, and between $6 million and $7 million in savings for the utility because of fewer and limited outages.

Putting a dollar amount on loss due to power outages is no easy task. Estimates for losses in the United States vary but a 2005 research study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) put the figure at $80 billion dollars annually. With more smart grids like the EPB system, that figure could be significantly reduced. Community fiber networks are uniquely poised to offer the best option to electric utilities that need reliable, robust connections across their footprint.

A significant number of smart meters (approximately 60,000) and automation points (approximately 300) remain to be installed in Chattanooga.

Posted January 15, 2012 by christopher

Silicon Valley Power, the muni electric utilty owned by Santa Clara is preparing to launch a citywide Wi-Fi network later this year according to the Santa Clara Weekly. The city took over the failed MetroFi attempt at citywide wireless broadband and has apparently expanded it.

That system never reached the entire city and was limited to outdoor use. Santa Clara FreeWiFi will work citywide, indoors as well as outdoors. A new, high-density design will provide up to 40 access points per square mile - compared with less than 30 access points for the MetroFi system.

I share Esme Vos' reaction regarding its likely difficulties in actually functioning inside but the Santa Clara Free Wifi website strongly recommends that anyone who is planning to use it inside use a Wi-Fi- booster, which can be found at most tech stores.

Silicon Valley Power, as we previously noted, has an extensive fiber-optic system that is already uses for its power management. That will provide the necessary backhaul to the wireless access points.

This will undoubtedly be a nice amenity for those living or traveling in Santa Clara but it is unlikely to suffice for those who need reliable and high capacity connections to the Internet. It will be interesting to see who is ultimately paying for the Internet access charges as well as how the economics work out. The network will be helpful for remote meter readings -- perhaps the savings there will entirely pay for the public's usage of the network.

Ponca City has been taking this approach for some time now and it seems to work for them.

Posted December 15, 2011 by christopher

Tullahoma, home to the LightTUBe FTTH network of Tennessee, is starting to roll out smart meters for its electrical and water utilities (owned by the city). They have initiated a series of public meetings to discuss the AMI - Advanced Metering Infrastructure. From a recent press release:

“The meetings are designed to answer any questions the Tullahoma community has about the AMI technology”, said Ernie Hobbs, Communications and Marketing Specialist for TUB. “We want to assure the community that automated meter reading is the next step in providing exceptional customer service. AMI is a step forward for Tullahoma, and it will provide additional opportunities for our customers by allowing them to monitor their own usage of utilities.”

The AMI installation is a replacement of current water and electric meters. The
new meters can transmit usage data through TUB’s secure fiber network. The infrastructure upgrade has been in the planning stage for several years. However, with Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) moving to Time Of Use (TOU) rates, TUB decided it was time to begin the AMI project to align with the TVA rate change.

A recent newsletter from the utility explains further, noting that the Tennessee Valley Authority (a federal agency that produces the power used by Tullahoma and many other public utilities) is going to start charging time-of-use rates starting in fall of 2013. This is because electricity is more expensive to produce and distribute based on the amount being used - time of use pricing will encourage people to use more power when it is cheaper to produce and less when it is expensive.

This time-of-use pricing is one component of a "smart-grid." Unfortunately, some investor-owned utilities have used time-of-use pricing to increase their revenues without substantially benefiting ratepayers -- which is one reason many are suspicious of the entire concept. Hence the public meetings.

Because Tullahoma has its publicly owned network already connecting much of the community, it is better positioned to deal with TVA's changing rates than other communities.

Posted August 26, 2011 by christopher

Silicon Valley Power, a muni electric in Santa Clara, was smart when fibering-up its electrical plant. They overbuilt their needs and are using the additional capacity to benefit the community. One of the biggest beneficiaries are the schools and taxpayers that support them.

That brought to mind my recent conversation with Larry Owens, manager of customer services at Silicon Valley Power. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based municipal electric utility built fiber between its subsystems to increase the organization’s reliability. But Silicon Valley Power overbuilt that network, which enables it to lease dark fiber to the school district and service providers via its SVP Fiber entity. The electric company also purchased MetroFi, a free Wi-Fi services company that fell on hard times, to connect new smart energy meters to its offices. Those Wi-Fi assets also are being leveraged to deliver free outdoor Wi-Fi access to anyone within Santa Clara.

I remember reading about this network earlier this year in a Public Power Daily release:

The technology and added bandwidth capacity allow teachers to hold virtual field trips and will eventually allow students who are unable to attend school the opportunity to join their classrooms via a home computer, Silicon Valley Power said. Download speeds have made classrooms more efficient, the utility said.

"Before the fiber network, the download process was very slow and sometimes wouldn't work at all when my class tried to use streaming video to add to our lessons," said Jennifer Rodriguez, who teaches a fourth- and fifth- grade combo class at Katherine Hughes Elementary School. "Now I can utilize instructional videos off the web and stream them quickly, making the lesson more interesting and the learning more fun for my students."

Posted February 9, 2011 by christopher
Guy Daniels heads to Chattanooga to learn about the best broadband network in the country -- interviews with Katie Espeseth (VP of EPB Fiber Optics) and Harold DePriest (President and CEO of EPB) from Telecom TV
Posted February 4, 2011 by christopher

We've been raving about Chattanooga' FTTH network and smart-grid for quite some time now, but others are just learning about it. Chattanooga's Electric Power Board serves some 170,000 households and businesses across 600 sq miles. Though we have mostly focused on the triple-play benefits of the network

Chattanooga had been named one of the 2011 Top 21 Intelligent Communities of the year previously, but more recently made the cut to a Top 7 Intelligent Community. Time will tell if is awarded the Intelligent Community of the year.

Green Tech Media covered the completion of the network pass and activation of electric grid smart switches at the end of 2010.

[A]ll of its 170,000 electricity customers could benefit from the infrastructure. The network will serve as the conduit for 80 billion data points on electricity use per year that could help the utility run more efficiently, reduce outages, and give customers more control over their monthly electricity expenses.

“Chattanooga is the epicenter of energy technology,” said Harold DePriest, president and CEO of EPB. “One of our biggest jobs is to exploit this technology for the benefit of our community.”

With power outages previously taking a $100 million/year bite out of private businesses served by EPB, the new FTTH network will enable a much smarter network that will radically decrease those outages and thereby make businesses more productive. By mid 2012, businesses will see a 40% decrease outage time. Over time, as EPB's grid grows ever "smarter," those losses will likely decrease further while also providing energy users (residential and business) more opportunities to manage their power consumption.

For those who only associate the smart-grid with enabling time-of-use pricing (paying more electricity during periods of high demand), there are other important, if hidden benefits:

S&C Electric is supplying EPB with the switches’ pulse-closing technology, which injects a low-energy current pulse into an electric line to determine if a fault has cleared. This saves the utility money by reducing wear and tear on substation...
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Posted November 20, 2010 by christopher

Chattanooga continues to generate a lot of press since their announcement of the nation's fastest broadband speeds.

For those who crave technical details, this article from Cable 360 looks into the tech behind the network:

EPB contracted with Alcatel-Lucent as its GPON network supplier. "We've designed our network a little bit different, with our control center located where our operations center is," says Wade. "We've designed a series of fiber rings that circle our city, allowing us to have multiple 10 Gig MPLS rings, terminating in 17 communications hubs connected back with our control center."

Another article from Cable 360 (affiliate) gets into the smart-grid details of the network:

As far as the cost savings of the smart grid are concerned, users often don't realize that it costs several times more at certain times of day to generate electricity than it does at others, says EPB COO David Wade.

But perhaps the most interesting update from EPB is another window into their take rates (from Tecca.com):

We are ahead of our business plan projections for this time frame. Since our launch last September (2009), we have signed up 18,873 homes to our EPB fiber optics services. That is a 15.45% take rate. Our goal is a 35% take rate, and we believe we will reach that in 2 years. Of our EPB fiber optics customers, 81% are receiving our Fi-Speed internet service. We are still building out fiber optics as well, and our entire 600-square-mile customer service area will have access to these advanced services by the end of the this year (2010).

And finally, a short interview (audio quality is not good) with an EPB employee discussing Chattanooga's community fiber network. An interesting piece: noting that EPB views all employees as ambassadors of their product and offered them public speaking training.

...

Read more
Posted November 14, 2010 by christopher

Communities with both smart-grid investments as well as community networks are again in the news, this time featuring Chattanooga, Leesburg, and Ponca City. Thanks to my colleague at EnergySelfReliantStates.org, who posted this item. ESRS publishes original content about decentralized renewable energy - mostly of a quantitative nature using charts.

Perhaps one of the reasons the broadband networks run by public power utilities are so much more reliable than those run by telco and cablecos is the many decades that public power companies have focused intently on reliability.

Reliability is a good economic development tool, he said. One business looking at Chattanooga asked about the cost of a redundant feed. After EPB explained its smart grid plans, the company chose Chattanooga and decided it didn’t need a redundant feed, he said. In talking to businesses, "I can tell you ... that they get it and they get the importance of this level of automation."

The article offered more details about Ponca City's wireless network that we had previously not discussed. In addition to offering free Wi-Fi to residents, the Ponca City offers fiber-optic-based broadband to local businesses... and two are quite connected.

Perhaps the most eye-opening benefit is that Ponca City offers all of its 26,000 citizens free WiFi service. The city uses its fiber network to sell broadband services to businesses (one has requested 300 mbps service) and those sales pay for the free WiFi, Baird said. The network is basically support-free, said Baird, adding that he gets one or two calls per week. And the free WiFi is "a huge economic development draw," he said.

Posted November 6, 2010 by christopher

Outside Plant Magazine has reprinted some of my "Breaking the Broadband Monopoly" report with a focus and updated numbers on the Chattanooga EPBFi network.

Across the country, hundreds of local governments, public power utilities, non-profits, and cooperatives have built successful and sometimes pioneering telecommunication networks that put community needs first.

These communities are following in the footsteps of the publicly owned power networks put in place a century before. We watch history repeat itself as these new networks are actively being built across the country.

Cities like Lafayette, Louisiana, and Monticello, Minnesota, offer the fastest speeds at the lowest rates in the entire country. Kutztown’s network in Pennsylvania has saved the community millions of dollars. Oklahoma City’s massive wireless mesh has helped modernize its municipal agencies. Cities in Utah have created a true broadband market with many independent service providers competing for subscribers. From Washington, DC, to Santa Monica, California, communities have connected schools and municipal facilities, radically increasing broadband capacity without increasing telecom budgets.

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