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Florida city looks into potential smart grid installation

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, February 27, 2012

Utilities operating in Alachua, Florida, may soon see an easier way to manage their operations and bill their clients as plans for smart grid deployment are on the lips of city officials.

According to Alachua County Today, the city recently took part in a workshop in which it learned how modernizing the current grid could lead to improvements in its operations and increase energy efficiency. If the city decides to deploy a smart grid, it would replace nearly 80 percent of the current meters, and update the rest.

Still in its nascent stages, the smart grid plan must first be developed, then approved by the Alachua City Commission. Upon approval, the city estimates it could deploy the new features in about four months, and the city would see the benefits soon after. The project would cost an estimated $3.3 million.

Mike New, the Public Services director, told the media outlet the plan calls for implementing the new system without any additional expenses to customers' bills and without the firing of any workers currently employed. New stated the city has studied the positive effects smart grid installation had on nearby city Lakeland, which experienced an estimated 14,000 ton carbon footprint savings. The new grid technology also has saved Lakeland about $400,000 every year.

By installing smart grid devices, area utilities will see increased meter accuracy and have the ability to remotely connect and disconnect electric accounts. It will allow the city to use a smaller workforce for meter-related services, and provide utilities with hourly updates that can be used to bill a customer on a day-to-day basis, compared to current systems that require a 10- to 15-day time frame.

According to the media outlet, the system will also aid utilities in locating and isolating the cause of a power outage quicker than ever. Currently, the city's public service department is only informed of an outage when someone calls to report it. With the addition of the smart grid, the city can be proactive, rather than reactive.

"I’m excited as can be because I’m a technology guy," said Mayor Gib Coerper on the potential project.

However, the City Commission has raised concern over security issues. Due to the wireless nature of the smart grid, data can potentially be accessed by outside parties. SUBNET helps generation, transmission and distribution companies meet NERC CIP standards that have been written in response to these cyber threats. 

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