Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Save energy and get a bonus

Posted By on Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 4:31 PM

Here's something that's hard to pass up. Get $25 toward your energy bill and help Colorado Springs Utilities control the city's power load in peak usage times.
click to enlarge City seeks to control air conditioners from remotely. - TODD MORRIS
  • Todd Morris
  • City seeks to control air conditioners from remotely.

It's part of Utilities ECO Saver program, and here's how it works.

If you live in the Briargate area in the northeast part of the city, Utilities is interested in installing a thermostat in your home — free of charge — so that your air conditioning can be controlled when peak demands happen, usually between 3 and 8 p.m. in the summer. The variation is only two to four degrees, but can have a big impact on the city's costs for energy should demand soar beyond the amount power generated by the city. Peak power is the most expensive to buy.

The city recently chose a contractor for the thermostats, which was announced like this by the Sacramento Bee PR newswire link:
Colorado Springs Utilities has signed an agreement with Landis+Gyr to initiate an advanced load management program to reduce load on distribution system assets during peak power consumption.

Over the next four years, the utility will deploy 1,900 smart thermostats and software applications to enable load shedding on specific feeder circuits to protect transformers and other distribution equipment, while maintaining reliable electric service.

The smart thermostats are equipped with Gridstream® communications technology and will utilize the utility's existing smart grid network to communicate with sophisticated load management software. During peak power events, the software will use accurate load information to determine the number of customer thermostats to control. If a customer opts out of a control period, the software automatically adjusts to find replacement load curtailment to ensure load shedding requirements are met. Consumers who participate in the program will have access to a mobile device application to monitor thermostat settings and make decisions about participation during a peak event.

"This is a unique application of load management technology because our main objective is managing our distribution infrastructure during peak, as opposed to dealing with supply constraints," said Angie Thoma, Smart Grid Project Manager at Colorado Springs Utilities. "The smart thermostat option provides greater flexibility and extends the value of our existing smart grid infrastructure beyond meter reading. The available consumer engagement tools also play an important role in promoting the program's success."

This program is an extension of Colorado Springs Utilities' smart grid relationship with Landis+Gyr that began in 2005 with deployment of a Gridstream advanced metering network to communicate with electric, water and gas meters. In addition, Landis+Gyr provides cloud services for data and software hosting, as well as maintenance of network assets as part of a long-term services contract with the utility.
The Landis+Gyr contract is for $184,590, says Utilities spokesperson Patrice Lehermeier via e-mail.
"With air conditioner use and temperatures on the rise, our community is using more and more energy during the summer. To support demand, we must create or purchase power, and both options mean greater costs that can impact rates," she writes. "Purchasing power from the grid in the middle of the day (when most A/C units are operated) is extremely costly. Creating increased amount of energy stresses our local system and increases the need for new or improved infrastructure."

So instead of building a new power plant, Utilities is looking to control power usage; hence, the thermostat program.

The program is voluntary, and participants can, sparingly, override the temperature change imposed during peak times.

From Lehermeier: 
Thanks to new meter technology, we better understand where the greatest load demand is originating. Using that information, we are now addressing those specific areas of town, or circuits, rather than blanketing the entire community. For 2014, we are focused on the Briargate circuit in the northeast portion of the city. We begin program recruitment in March. Participating customers will receive a free programmable thermostat and a one-time $25 energy bill credit, in addition to the savings accrued from using less energy. Participants will be able to manage their energy use online or via a mobile app.
Says Lehermeier, "Because we are targeting the Briargate circuit, energy customers in that area (primarily 80920 and 80924) will be contacted directly by us beginning in March. Over the next years, we will evaluate other areas of town that have increased demand and begin to target them as well."

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