Boulder, Colorado has just become the world's first city to benefit from an intelligent power supply monitoring system. The Smart Grid City system aims to make outages easier to predict and/or prevent, manage power flow throughout the infrastructure and give customers greater access to energy information and more control over how much they use. Xcel Energy constantly monitors the grid network for any irregularities, allowing the company to fix problems before they happen.

16,000 smart meters have already been connected to the system, along with 4,600 residential and small business transformers. Performance data from substations and feeders is analyzed in real time and any irregularities immediately flagged for investigation. An under-performing part of the grid can be dealt with well before any failure occurs, which obviously benefits the consumer but also the company, as crews are dispatched for repair or maintenance only when needed.

Pro-active repair has already taken place on the grid. As the system was being rolled out, monitoring software spotted some failing transformers and crews were quickly dispatched to replace them without any noticeable disruption to service. Without the system, customers may have had to suffer hours without power as such work was undertaken.

Not only can Xcel now read meters remotely but customers will shortly be able to access an in-home energy management Web portal. This will give them the ability to monitor and manage energy usage for themselves.

Until better ways to distribute power to homes and businesses are introduced (see the Solar Roadways announcement), real-time intelligent grid management offers consumers the advantage of more control of our own usage and gives suppliers the ability to better maintain the infrastructure.

For more information on the system, visit Xcel's website.