The smart grid in Detroit is about to get smarter – and so are utility industry executives exploring options for real-time grid data and analytics. Distribution grid sensor developer Tollgrade Communications recently announced a $300,000 project to deploy its LightHouse sensors and predictive grid analytics solution across DTE Energy’s Detroit network. The companies aim to demonstrate how outages can be prevented.
The 3-year program was selected as a Commitment to Action project by the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) at the recent CGI event in Denver, where Tollgrade CEO Ed Kennedy took to the stage with former president Bill Clinton to discuss the project. Tollgrade, Kennedy said, will make public quarterly reports on the project, beginning in 1Q 2015, identifying best practices and sharing detailed performance statistics.
Cheaper Than Building a Substation
With 2.1 million customers and 2,600 feeder circuits, DTE Energy has already begun piloting the system around Detroit, and Tollgrade says that it hopes to prevent 500,000 outage minutes over the next 3 years. Because of the heavy concentration of auto manufacturing in the Detroit area, those saved minutes should translate into substantial economic benefits. The system will leverage several communications protocols, including DTE’s advanced metering infrastructure communications network, reducing the startup cost and improving the return on investment.
The sensors will be placed along troublesome feeders as well as outside substations where older infrastructure increases the likelihood of outages. Combined with the predictive analytics solution, the sensors cost just a few thousand dollars per location and could help DTE Energy avoid or defer replacing a million-dollar substation. Both investors and regulators are sure to like those stats.
Predictive grid analytics has been a hot topic in the industry for the last few years, but only recently have the prices of solutions and sensors fallen to a level where utilities can justify the cost to deploy them widely throughout the distribution network. Navigant Research expects the market for distribution grid sensor equipment to grow from less than $400 million worldwide today to 4 times that amount by 2023. (Detailed analysis of distribution grid sensors can be found in Navigant Research’s report, Asset Management and Condition Monitoring.)
Since its first meeting in 2011, CGI America participants have made more than 400 commitments valued at nearly $16 billion when fully funded and implemented. The Modern Grid was one of 10 working groups this year; others include efforts in Sustainable Buildings and Infrastructure for Cities and States.
Another CGI Commitment to Action grant announced last week will fund a market-based, fixed-price funding program for solar and renewable technologies. The Feed-Out Program from Demeter Power will support solar-powered carports with electric vehicle charging stations at a net-negative cost to the customer. In other words, eligible businesses pay a fixed monthly fee to Demeter Power (lower than their previous monthly electricity bill) and their employees and customers enjoy free car charging while parked there. Demeter will own and maintain the infrastructure.
The program will initially make financing available to commercial properties located in Northern California communities participating in the California FIRST property assessed clean energy (PACE) Program, which is offered through the California Statewide Community Development Authority. Interested participants must register with Demeter Power Group to participate in the program, which is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2015.
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