Wireless Technology for Energy Efficient Utilities
Around the world, businesses and governments are using wireless technology to make them more efficient in their utility and water usage and monitoring. Wireless technology can be especially valuable in creating more energy efficient utilities. By 2030, the Electric Power Research Institute estimated the implementation of smart grid technologies will have saved $20.4 billion for U.S. consumers and businesses by reducing electricity usage by 4 percent. This is significant savings since Xcel Energy projects a 40 percent increase in consumer demand for utilities over the next 25 years.
By deploying mobile meters and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication technologies that interconnect water or utility grids, these wireless technologies alerts employees to potential problems and monitors energy and water usage. Wireless technology allows businesses and governments to meet their customers' needs, by providing on-demand or real-time information that saves millions (or potentially billions) of dollars and reduce everyone's environmental footprint. In fact, investment bank Morgan Stanley predicts the worldwide smart grid market will grow annually from about $20 billion in 2010 to almost $100 billion by the year 2030.
While "smart grids" is a relatively new concept, President Obama, many Members of Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have identified it as a solution to advancing our nation's energy efficiency and independence. Accenture, a consultancy firm, listed more than 90 smart grid projects around the world and estimates that by the end of 2009, there were more than 76 million smart meters installed worldwide. By 2015, ABI Research says there will be approximately 212 million smart meter systems and smart grid projects installed worldwide.
Smart grids refer to an interconnected network of two-way communications – source and hub – in which highly-automated signals ping back and forth from wireless radios and monitoring devices (or "smart meters"). These signals allow utility companies to monitor and manage these highly complex utility, energy and water systems, which stabilize their grid by preventing outages and other potential issues. This technical smart grid system means utility and water companies are more cost-efficient by managing their supply with consumer demand. At the same time, smart meters allow consumers to better manage their water and energy usage, which lowers their costs and carbon footprint.
In SmartGridCity™, or more commonly known as Boulder, Colorado, citizens are already reaping the benefits of wireless smart grid technology. Xcel Energy, the city's electrical provider, installed and connected more than 23,000 smart meters through a fiber-optic network. Consumers track their usage via a personalized and secure website and when they shifted their energy consumption to off-peak hours, they paid a lower price for their energy. In addition, some households were equipped with "demand response" monitoring systems for air-conditioning, which turn the systems off when the demand for electricity was at its highest. Since Xcel's electrical grid was running more efficiently, the company could monitor its supply and ensure it met consumer demand. While the project is ongoing, it has nearly eliminated power cuts and when they do occur, Xcel can pinpoint and fix the issue faster.
In 2002, the Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) replaced its old walk-by meter-reading system with wireless communications devices. These new devices transmit a reading every five minutes to a central database hub, which means JEA employees can remotely read meters for current information, or even review the last 90 days of consumption. This real-time information means JEA planners and engineers can review a neighborhood or town to ensure the utility is fulfilling the area's needs. With more than 355,000 electronic and 227,000 water customers, this upgrade has improved billing operations, and is projected to save JEA more than $90 million over the next 15 years and improve customer service.
Boston, Massachusetts is home to the oldest and largest water and sewer system in New England, but it's also one of the smartest thanks to its wireless smart grid system. The Boston Water and Sewer Commission installed more than 88,000 wireless automatic meter reading systems that send the company four daily readings of its customers' usage, which means improved customer service and better utility management.
In addition, New York City's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications announced in 2009 its plans to install more than 800,000 of the same types of wireless meter reading devices as are used in Boston.
Wireless technology helps businesses and governments be more cost-efficient and effective, ensures their customers or citizens' utility and water needs are met and helps preserve our environment.
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