To get an idea of the promise and possibility of the “smart grid,” look no further than what’s happening in the small New England state of Vermont.
With multiple energy sources and a clear focus on the environment spanning many years, Vermont continues to lead the path for other states looking to become “smarter.” Since creating the first energy efficiency utility, Vermont has positioned itself as a leader in implementing strategies that reduce energy demand. Just recently, the University of Vermont revealed the most energy efficient retrofit of any college campus – calling it a “green old building.”
Today, the state is embarking on a revolutionary plan to build the first statewide smart grid in the country, converting its electric infrastructure into a system that uses two-way communications and advanced sensors.
To help make Vermont’s smart grid a reality, IBM is collaborating with the Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO) – the state’s transmission utility – to build a next-generation communications network that will connect transmission substations to utilities, and can enable intelligence to be built into the state’s smart grid. This advanced fiber communications network will span more than 1000 miles and will allow utilities to better monitor and manage the electricity network, including predicting and avoiding power outages, quickly addressing those that do occur, and improving management of the grid. The Vermont network will deliver a more than 6000 times increase in capacity for smart grid programs, and will be designed to handled the state’s needs for the next 15 to 20 years. See VELCO photos here.
This is only one of the many energy-focused projects being led out of Vermont. IBM continues to see Vermont as a leading example, demonstrating a clear focus on energy efficiency, infrastructure transformation and on-going consumer engagement.
IBM’s Vermont campus has been a model for advances in smart grid technologies for nearly a decade. The facility employs more than 5,000 sensors and meters to collect data in real time on equipment loading, usage and trends, power disturbances and other factors. That information is used for engineering analysis, monitoring power quality, load calculations, peak power management, billing, and identifying efficiency and conservation opportunities. The smart grid allows the Vermont team to use advanced data analysis and analytics to drive continuous improvement in the performance of the system.
The site’s smart grid has helped it effectively reduce energy usage by approximately 20 percent over ten years, while production capability increased.
Other IBM projects include:
- Energy management outreach – IBM is working with the Vermont Technical College and HowardCenter, the largest health and human services organization in Vermont, to apply its energy management program to help the two organizations cut energy consumption by at least five percent annually.
- IBM is leading a “Smart Vermont” Initiative – This project unites large Vermont organizations to establish energy management programs and to help them make intelligent use of smart grid data. The project looks to create capabilities, awareness and education on the benefits of using the smart grid.
- University of Vermont Project – A newly named Center for Energy Transformation and Innovation on the campus (in partnership with the University and Sandia National Laboratories) will focus on issues surrounding reliability, security and the integration of renewable energy into the smart grid. In addition, IBM and university researchers, with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, are using complex systems to develop models to improve power grid reliability.
IBM’s project management and networking services expertise and Vermont’s dedication to energy innovation and collaboration have set the stage for the first statewide smart grid implementation, covering all its utilities. Vermont is creating a system that is more efficient and affordable than if handled separately by each utility. Whether on a state or regional basis, this can be a model for the rest of the country to follow.