In Smarter Utility news this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will finance 106 renewable energy and smart grid projects in rural America; and scientists may soon be able to send out 24-hour advance warnings about solar flares.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced new funding for 106 projects in 29 states, Guam and Puerto Rico to boost production of renewable energy and implement smarter utility programs. The financing—in the form of grants and loan guarantees— is being made available to agricultural producers and small businesses through USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). One of the projects that will benefit is Meadow Ridge Wind Energy in Adair, Iowa, which has received a guaranteed loan to purchase and install a 1.5 million kilowatt wind turbine. The turbine is expected to generate 5.77 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity annually, enough to meet the annual electricity requirements of more than 500 homes. Another grant will help WTE-Dallmann of Calumet, Wisconsin, to install an anaerobic digester that will generate more than 4.8 million kWh of electricity, enough to power 420 homes annually.
Two Purdue University (News - Alert) researchers, Ephraim Fischbach and Jere Jenkins, have come up with a new theory on how to predict solar flares more than a day before they strike. With this new knowledge, satellites, power grids and even astronauts could eventually be protected from harmful storm radiation. The geomagnetic storms connected to solar flares can damage electronic systems and communication networks, according to the BBC. GPS systems are also at risk, TMCnet reported. Higher elevations are particularly vulnerable. With advance warning, satellite and power grid operators could do things to minimize impact from the solar flare (such as temporarily shutting down) and astronauts could protect themselves from the lethal radiation found in the storms.
Officials from both EPB, a Tennessee-based power provider , and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) have gone on record saying the combination of demand-response technology and smart grid systems has enabled allowed them to reduce strain on the energy infrastructure during the record-breaking heat and high air-conditioning usage of the summer months. With these next-generation platforms, they can distribute energy more efficiently and effectively.
EP2M, LLC, a systems integrator and Gold-level member of Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) has been selected by Spokane, Washington-based Avista Utilities to implement Oracle (News - Alert) Utilities Customer Care and Billing software. Avista will be replacing a legacy system with Oracle software that handles most customer-facing transactions—service connection, meter reads, rating, billing, and more—while also providing associated functions, such as payment processing, collections, field service, and meter management. The product evolves with business demands, minimizing cost and risk. It scales from a few thousand to many millions of customers.
Finally, the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) has named CPS Energy president and CEO Doyle Beneby its 2012 Utility CEO of the Year for his leadership in integrating solar power into the utility’s energy portfolio.CPS Energy of San Antonio, Texas, is the largest municipally owned utility company in the United States. Beneby joined CPS in 2010 and has championed a move toward integration of renewable energy. During 2011, the utility commissioned 30 megawatts (MW) of solar power in a partnership with Beltsville, Maryland-based SunEdison (News - Alert). Last month, Beneby led a ground-breaking public-private partnership between CPS and San Antonio-based OCI Solar Power that is expected to catapult Texas into the ranks of the top five U.S. solar-producing states. The project also will create more than 800 long-term jobs and drive an estimated $700 million in economic impact each year.OCI Solar will develop, own and operate the largest public power utility solar project in the country, which is projected to generate more than 400 megawatts (MW) of solar energy through a consortium of partners.
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