Grid so smart it can see future

A smart-grid demonstration project in the US Pacific Northwest will incorporate wind and solar forecasting to better predict renewable-energy supplies, in addition to adjusting demand through smart meters and appliances.

Seattle: The $178m project, funded in part through a Department of Energy grant, covers sites in five states, some 60,000 electricity customers and 112 megawatts of generation capacity. Research and development group Battelle is managing a group of 12 utilities participating in the project - in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

The project will employ "devices, software and advanced analytical tools that enhance the power grid's reliability and performance", Battelle says.

The project will include wind and solar forecasting from Seattle-based 3TIER. These forecasts will be processed centrally, providing information "to optimally integrate [renewable] energy into the grid, and dispatch other assets when production decreases", says 3TIER chief executive Kenneth Westrick.

Tremendous growth in wind-energy development, concentrated in eastern Oregon and Washington, is testing the limits of the regional transmission grid and causing headaches for transmission companies, which have to deal with rapidly rising and falling production. Several efforts are under way in the region to improve weather forecasting and thereby improve integration of renewable energy.

Work on the various project sites is expected to begin next year, with device installation continuing through 2011. Up to 1,500 jobs may be created by the effort.