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Boulder SmartGridCity Claims to Be Fully Functional

But it in fact is not fully functional in the senses some will expect

1 min read

Xcel Energy issued a press statement this week saying that its pioneering smart grid experiment in Boulder, Colorado, is now complete--that SmartGridCity is the "first fully functioning smart city in the world." What that turns out to mean is that the aspects of the experiment bearing on electric reliability and more effective and economical maintenance are up and running: fully automated substations, the ability to re-route power around overloaded or blocked lines, fast detection of localized outages, and early detection of blackout risks. What it does not mean is that customers can now closely monitor home or business usage, find ways to use electricity more frugally, and seek greener sources of power. That will happen only in the fourth quarter of this year, when "Xcel Energy plans to launch an in-home energy management Web portal provided by GridPoint that will  give all Boulder customers with a smart meter the ability to review their in-home energy usage."

Xcel "will soon be seeking customers for testing of in-home energy management devices," the press release continues. So don't bother staying tuned. Rather, tune back in, say, six months from now.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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