4 grid breakthroughs utilities need to know about (including one for smartphones)


It's a cliché to complain that utilities are slow to innovate. Yet if you look around, you'll see innovation everywhere, and at every scale, from giant installations to smartphone apps.


the Edison Electric Institute, the trade association for investor-owned utilities, has an institute devoted solely to tracking and encouraging utility innovations. In this guest editorial, Lisa Wood, Executive Director of the Institute for Electric Innovation tells us about four breakthroughs that are in operation already. - Jesse Berst


By Lisa Wood


Innovations on the evolving power grid

Across the country, electric utilities are investing in innovative technologies to optimize the electric grid and shape the future of how energy is delivered, managed, and used. These innovations are merging previously separate power, information, and telecommunications systems to form an intelligent, resilient, modern, and digital grid. 


The result is a two-way power and information highway that benefits all electricity customers. Helping people understand how the 100-plus year old grid is changing and recognizing the critical importance of these innovative and high-tech projects is sometimes a challenge. The Institute for Electric Innovation has taken up that challenge, though, and I would like to share just a few of the noteworthy projects currently underway.


1. Largest military solar array

Just last month, the groundbreaking of what will be the largest solar array on any U.S. Department of Defense base in the world took place, thanks to a partnership between Tucson Electric Power (TEP) and the U.S. Army. The 18 MWdc array at Fort Huachuca in Arizona will provide the base with clean, cost-effective electricity that will also contribute to the base's long-term energy security plans. The array will provide enough power to satisfy one-quarter of the base's energy needs and is equivalent to the annual electric needs of approximately 3,100 homes.


2. Advanced wind forecasting

Another great example of innovation is how advanced wind forecasting is being used to optimally integrate wind energy into the power grid. In its fifth year of use by Xcel Energy, the WindWX forecast technology has saved Xcel’s customers more than $30 million by reducing wind power forecasting errors. Real-time, turbine-level operating data provide the input and WindWX’s sophisticated algorithms forecast the amount of wind power that will be produced for a full week, every 15 minutes across the entire Xcel Energy service territory which covers 8 Western and Midwestern states. 

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