Smart Grid

November 14, 2012

Benton County Electric Upgrades Grid as Part of TVA Master Plan

Southern comfort with new technology is increasing rapidly. Raleigh, NC-based Elster has been selected by Benton County Electric System (BCES) in Tennessee, to deliver an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) system. The new smart grid is expected to enable the utility to improve operational efficiency, energy management and customer service, as well as to integrate future technologies.

BCES is one of 155 Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) power distributors. The Tennessee Valley Authority, a corporation owned by the U.S. government, provides electricity to nine million people in parts of seven southeastern states at prices below the national average. TVA, which receives no taxpayer money and makes no profits, is developing a smart grid deployment plan for its service area that will demonstrate key applications, such as:

  • Wide-area visualization of power system assets and operating conditions
  • More efficient use of existing transmission paths
  • Integration of renewable storage technologies
  • Smart asset management using advanced sensing devices
  • Engagement of end use consumers in energy efficiency and demand response

Within the next three months, BCES will install Elster's EnergyAxis System (see video), a complete suite of smart grid solutions that comprises AMI, demand response, distribution automation, outage detection/restoration, revenue protection, and a host of other utility requirements. EnergyAxis is engineered on open standards, allowing the platform to interface with a range of powerful third-party technologies; and providing a wide choice of communication paths, including IP, cellular, Wi-Fi and more. In addition, the system’s scalability enables utilities to maximize return on investment.

Image via Tennessee Valley Authority

"BCES is joining fellow TVA utilities in modernizing electricity management with the implementation of an AMI solution," said Raymond Barnes, general manager, BCES. "Elster's EnergyAxis is giving us [a] reliable and field-proven toolkit that will help increase productivity [and] reduce costs by implementing time of use (TOU) rates, where appropriate, that will result in overall improvement to our bottom line."

"Elster worked with BCES to provide the AMI tailored solution the utility needed to make smart grid benefits more tangible for its customers, while ensuring that the system had an ease of use the utility's management desired," added Bruce Russell, director, Smart Grid BU-South, Elster Solutions."Elster's EnergyAxis system continues to serve as the foundation for TVA member Smart Grid projects like BCES. We look forward to supporting the TVPPA's mission to meet Smart Grid initiatives and deliver value to utility customers throughout the Tennessee Valley. "

Campbell Creek Residential Research

In related news, the TVA and its partners Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Electric Power Research Institute, have built three experimental homes in Campbell Creek, TN—the TVA’s first such project since the 1980s—to evaluate residential building techniques, energy efficiency technologies, smart grid concepts and consumer energy usage behaviors.

The homes have been built on a three-tiered model, with increasingly complex technology:

  • One home serves as a control for the project and represents a typical house currently built in the Tennessee Valley. It incorporates local building codes and will serve as a control against which the other homes are compared. It is projected to use slightly less energy than a new house built to the International Energy Conservation Code.
  • The second home, also built as a typical house, has been retrofitted with energy efficiency technologies that an existing homeowner could add to improve efficiency. It is projected to use two-thirds of the energy of a new house built to code.
  • The third home has been built using the latest construction technologies to make it as efficient as possible and still provide excellent curb appeal. It employs photovoltaic panels and solar water heating to help make it a near zero-energy house. It is projected to use one-third the energy of a "code" house.

Consistent living conditions are simulated in each home so that comparable data can be gathered. Simulations include opening and closing the refrigerator door, turning showers on and off, and washing clothes. TVA also will use the homes to test other new technologies as they are developed.

As TVA and the distributors of TVA power evaluate smart grid concepts for the residential environment, TVA will be able to test those concepts at Campbell Creek. Smart grid technology incorporates information and communications technology to improve the efficiency, reliability and cost of delivering power to consumers. These homes will enable builders, developers and consumers to learn how to apply these new technologies, as well as their costs and benefits.

Edited by Jamie Epstein