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Utilities and Lawmakers Plug 'Smart Grid' in Spokane

Smart Grid

A symposium on 'smart grid technology' was held in Spokane this week. Lawmakers, power companies, and business leaders met at the Davenport hotel for the Smart Grid Demonstration Project Regional Symposium to discuss the future of the regions power grid, and how it can become a 'smart grid'.

  Essentially, smart grid is an application of technologies, like advanced metering and distribution, that increases communication between power producers and energy consumers in an automated fashion. It serves to improve the efficiency, economics, and sustainability of the system.

Tom Brim, a contractor who works for Bonneville Power Administration says, for example, home appliances can be regulated to use less power during times of peak demand on the system.

Brim: “So you can have a water that basically shuts down for a period of time, so you can turn it off for a time, and still have hot water, a very low inconvenience to the consumer, but you can help the grid during a peak time if you shut as big fleet of water heaters down.”

Another example is people who decide not to commute on a given day can put power back into the grid from their idle electric vehicle. In a pilot program under way in Pullman, consumers who chose to utilize a smart thermostat in their homes managed to reduce their power consumption by over nine percent during a two year period.

Senator Maria Cantwell attended the symposium and says smart grid technology will also mean more jobs in the northwest.

Cantwell: “And Spokane, because of Avista, Itron, Schweitzer, and Gonzaga University with its power system engineering program, already have a lot of expertise in the area, and can lead the country in where to go with this technology.”

Cantwell says smart grid is also being developed to work with intermittent power sources like wind or solar power, so the system can manage the balance between those sources and hydropower on days when those sources are more active because of weather conditions.

More information on smart grid in the Pacific Northwest:

Avista's smart grid planning:

Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.
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