The Global View

Boulder breaks ground on $100m smart grid plan

plug.jpgIn December next year, there’s going to be a bit of a celebration in Boulder, Colorado. No points if you guessed that’s because of Christmas, a lot of points and a triple word score if you guessed that’s because
Xcel Energy’s $100 million SmartGridCity project will have gone live, after work on construction kicked off recently.

The dodgily-named SmartGridCity is Xcel’s plan to put some cleverness into the electricity grid, allowing it to “better monitor, manage, and even balance itself” using a “portfolio of smart grid technologies designed to provide environmental, financial and operational benefits”. Or to put it another way, the smart grid will give users a bit more insight into where they’re using electricity and how they can cut down consumption, even turning off energy-hogging devices remotely.

According to Xcel, all the design work’s now over with, the company’s put in orders for the necessary kit (including 15,000 smart meters to be installed at the rate of 2,500 a week until this August) and construction on the project has already begun, with the implementation of the high-speed communications network and smart grid sensing equipment.

Here’s how the rollout will work:

Phase I: March 2008 – August 2008
• Includes full-system automation, monitoring and smart meters for the first group of SmartGridCity customers. Involves upgrades to two substations, five feeders and nearly 15,000 meters (representing both residential, commercial and light industrial customers) in Boulder.
• Web portal will provide consumers with insight into their energy use and information for better home energy management.
• A dedicated customer service phone number (1-877-887-3339) and e-mail address ( for SmartGridCity customers.
• Some customers can choose to have in-home automation tools, allowing increased control over home energy use and costs.
• By mid-August, initial capabilities should be demonstrated.

Phase II: September 2008 – December 2009
• Complete the installation of a distribution and communication network for remaining areas within Boulder (an additional two substations, 20 feeders and smart meters for an additional 35,000 premises).
• Expanded in-home automation installations.
• Enable Web portal access to all SmartGridCity customers.
• Begin initial integration of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, solar and wind co-generation sources onto the grid in Boulder.