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Florida town turning to smart grid

By Donna Donnowitz
December 2, 2011
City officials in Leesburg, Florida, recently announced plans to deploy a new smart grid network which will be initiated by installing smart meters in approximately 24,000 homes. The Orlando Sentinel recently reported the project will cost approximately $20 million, with at least haf of the funding coming from stimulus grants.

While the project itself is relatively expensive upfront, the city government expects the improvements offered through the technology to drive significant savings over the long term. Besides helping consumers track how much electricity they use and better prepare to pay bills, the smart grid network infrastructure will create significant operational benefits in the utility department, the report said.

According to the news source, the first 10 years of running the smart grid program will cost the city approximately $27 million. After six years, however, the gains of the new technology will lead to a financial environment that saves as much as is being spent. By the time the smart grid infrastructure has been around for 20 years, it will have created approximately $15 million in savings.

Paul Kalv, director of Leesburg's electric department, told the Orlando Sentinel the new smart grid investments should make it easier for customers to track how much energy they are using and find the most efficient way to use electricity. This is especially helpful during peak seasons, such as the summer, when power consumption rises to such an extent that the control offered by smart grid is incredibly beneficial.

While this added control pays off for consumers, it also has major benefits for the city. The news source explained that the local power plant charges extra for electricity during peak seasons, making it more expensive for the utility provider when consumers use large quantities of energy. Smart grid should help curtail some of these costs.

The potential gains offered by smart grid technology are making the technology a clear candidate for energy grids of the present and future. In India, for example, electric infrastructure is struggling to keep up with demand as many households still go without power and the overall electric transmission and distribution losses are amongst the worst in the world. Smart grid could help the nation overcome these problems and deploy a more robust power infrastructure, the Hindu reported.

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