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Largest U.S. Municipal Utility Deploys Advanced Smart Grid Network

San Antonio, Texas-based municipal utility CPS Energy will operate on an open IPv6-based networking platform to improve smart grid solutions.

by / March 28, 2013

This week, CPS Energy -- the largest municipal utility in the U.S. -- officially announced a new partnership to help deploy a smart grid network.

The San Antonio, Texas-based utility, which serves more than 740,000 electric and gas customers in the San Antonio metropolitan area, partnered with Silver Spring Networks to deploy features such as advanced metering and distribution automation. 

The smart grid network operates on Silver Spring’s open IPv6-based networking platform, which the company says enables utilities and infrastructure operators to deploy advanced smart grid features.

“Because we’re all using that standardized [IPv6] platform, we can work with other types of technologies to incorporate them as new technologies become available,” said Lisa Lewis, a spokeswoman for CPS Energy. “This is such a rapidly changing and growing field that as new things become available, as long as they’re formatted and fit this platform, we should be able to plug them in.”

CPS Energy would like to develop long-term strategies for making its smart grid more efficient, Lewis said. Thanks to the new partnership, the utility is now investing in plants and resources that have low- or no-air emissions to address concerns over air quality in the San Antonio area, as well as other infrastructure improvements to create efficiencies.

Lewis said CPS Energy will now be able to add a spectrum of new devices to the network, like smart meters, smart switches and other technologies that make the grid function more efficiently, thanks to Silver Spring's optimization of the electric grid in San Antonio combined with the company’s mesh network.

On the West Coast, the Sacramento, Calif., Municipal Utility District (SMUD) has partnered with Silver Spring since 2009 and has worked on a number of utility improvements with the company, said Don Jacobs, SMUD’s PMO manager and technology coordinator. 

SMUD plans to work with Silver Spring to go beyond traditional smart grid infrastructure -- a pilot program to extend the Silver Spring infrastructure to host vehicle charging stations is currently being rolled out. Approximately 60 electric vehicle customers will take part in the pilot, Jacobs said.

Previously, Silver Spring hosted SMUD’s mesh network, and it helps the utility with two-way wireless communications to all of the smart meters in its service territory. 

Through the communication, SMUD reads customers’ smart meters and completes billing remotely, which reduces the need for field forces and ultimately lowers overall costs for the utility. As a result, SMUD is able to lower rates charged to customers, Jacobs said.

The infrastructure also allows SMUD to offer a Web portal and other tools that customers can access and monitor real-time information on their electricity usage and its cost of their usage.

“It also provides the ability for the utility to offer new rates to customers in exchange for the utility’s ability to control or curtail customer’s usage during limited number of critical peak periods during the summer months,” Jacobs said. “The rest of the year, the customer benefits with lower rates in exchange for those few occasions when we may need to curtail it.”

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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Sarah Rich

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. She wrote for for Government Technology magazine from 2010 through 2013.

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