The Smart Grid and all of its energy-saving intelligence is coming to Boulder, Colorado, making this picturesque town at the foot of the Rockies poised to become the nation’s first fully integrated Smart Grid City within the next few years! Chosen by Xcel Energy for its location, ideal size and current infrastructure, Boulder was also chosen because of in-place smart grid initiatives through University of Colorado and several other nearby institutions. Xcel Energy and its Smart Grid Consortium will start research over the next few weeks and the first phase of Smart Grid City could be in place as early as August 2008!

The key difference between the centralized, inefficient grid of today and smart grids are identifiable access points, enabling interaction between nodes in the system to give more control over consumption. This builds a more distributed, flexible and reliable system. Energy can be collected from a range of sources connected to it, such as wind turbines or even, in times of exceptional need, grid-connected hybrid cars.

Monitoring and communication across the grid is done remotely in real-time, optimizing the entire system by making it more responsive and informative. Feedback to users and appliances is also much better, improving understanding to reduce energy use. Dynamic pricing reduces pressure at peak times. Fault detection will improve. Supply will be better matched to demand. And power and broadband could even be supplied over the same lines. New devices are being developed to make the most of the technology, such as a new washing machine by Whirlpool which powers down certain functions when it discovers that the grid is under pressure.

Widespread adoption of smart grid technology is likely to be years down the line, but it’s great to see we’re making headway!

+ XCel Energy