56 ELECTRICALCONTRACTOR | AUG. 17 | WWW.ECMAG.COM
> FOCUS GRID INTELLIGENCE
BRIDGE Energy Group has led similar projects in Arizona,
Washington and New England.
“Other states throughout the Eastern Interconnect are
currently in the process of delivery or considering similar synchrophasor initiatives,” Bianco said.
PG&E’s synchrophasor project is in the build and test phase
this year. The company has installed phasor measurement units
at the Colusa Generating Station in California and created Math-
Works models for engineering studies and analysis. The next
steps include continued testing
and validation of the generation
model, defining additional use
cases, and evaluating synchrophasor applications.
A smarter Spokane
Eastern Washington utility
Avista Corp. is part of a three-year project to investigate
smart-city developments and
take advantage of new technologies to make energy available,
efficient, safe and sustainable. Urbanova is a living laboratory
for business and technology developers west of downtown Spokane, Wash., in its University District.
One project focuses on smart and connected street lighting
using a networked, sensor-based solution. Avista Corp. joined
the effort to install environmental sensors to capture air quality,
temperature, ambient light, noise level and motion around each
street lamp. In the long run, the maps are intended to respond
to sensor data, for instance, dimming based on existing light
levels or activity.
Avista Corp. also is participating in an effort to enable
shared energy, to capture and then leverage data about energy
availability and share that energy accordingly. The point is to
optimize the grid and components related to that grid, including power generated from alternative-energy sources, and
stored in energy-storage units to get the most value for the
customer, said Curt Kirkeby, fellow engineer, Avista Corp.
Kirkeby likens energy transmission to road traffic. Utilities
and their customers suffer from slow downs in electricity just
like rush hour delays traffic, and Avista Corp. aims to build
assets to supply more energy capacity in the same way more
lanes accommodate greater traffic. Kirkeby said optimizing
traffic needs to be considered for city roads, just like utilities seek to optimize the distribution and use of energy. With
meters and storage units, a utility can be better at delivering
energy on a rotational basis, for instance. Businesses generating
their own energy—from solar units, for instance—become part
of that equation, since they can supply the grid, at a price, when
they have more than they need.
Research is underway to test how Avista Corp. can accom-
plish that energy management in the most sensible way. The
company is in the conceptual design of a smart city installa-
tion, working with partners that include colleges, agencies and
“The first phase is intended to make sure there’s a value for
all the participants,” Kirkeby said.
The second phase will involve the detailed design and testing of a system in the second half of 2017.
“I think utilities are realizing that something is happening
out there [across the country],” Kirkeby said. “Supply options
are becoming cheaper.”
Technology costs continue
to drop, and most utilities are
responding with investiga-
tion—if not full adoption—of
more alternative options for an
“We know the future will
be different than today,"
Kirkeby said. "We’re not going
backwards. We know that.
Technology is getting cheaper
while our capabilities are get-
ting more expensive. For us,
“It’s about the people, not the technology,” he said. “Ulti-
mately, what we deliver either enriches people’s lives, or it
As such, the goal for Avista Corp. is to keep a focus on sus-
tainability, resiliency, safety and health.
Technologies are becoming more accessible and affordable.
According to Hauser, the number of rooftop solar-power systems installations have skyrocketed in the past two years, and
the cost of batteries is dropping.
“The other big change at the other end of the spectrum is
utility operations,” he said.
The systems are becoming digitized, and the linemen are
more automated, since they work with computers on their
hips and can pinpoint outage information more precisely. Also,
states now are talking to each other about what they are accomplishing, sharing pitfalls, challenges and successes.
However, one of the significant challenges is cybersecurity,
considering the risks that an electrical system could be hacked.
According to Bryan Nicholson, executive director, Grid Wise
Alliance, the smartphone also has a lot to do with grid modernization. Customer-facing mobile applications make energy
use easier to manage and offer benefits to utilities, creating an
incentive to digitize.
S WEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington.
She can be reached at
“It’s about the people, not the
technology. Ultimately, what we deliver
either enriches people’s lives,
or it doesn’t.”
—Curt Kirkeby, Avista Corp.