Projects of the Year Award Winners Show Innovation, Ingenuity


The City of Ruston gets to work on implementing their winning smart grid strategy.

By Kathleen Davis, Senior Editor

The editors of POWERGRID International magazine announced the winners for the magazine’s annual Projects of the Year awards program on March 23, 2010 during the keynote session at DistribuTECH 2010 in Tampa, Fla. POWERGRID International magazine’s annual awards are distributed to the best projects in four categories: energy efficiency/demand response, grid integration of renewables, smart grid and smart metering. Each year, the judges select winners based on five specific criteria: ingenuity, scope, practicality, vision and follow-through.


Best Energy Efficiency/Demand Response Project


The winner of the Energy Efficiency/Demand Response Project of the Year is PJM for the organization’s Interconnect Demand Response Integration project.

The PJM Interconnection regional transmission organization is the world’s largest power grid, serving 51 million people across 13 states and the District of Columbia. In June 2009, PJM implemented a next-generation software system to expand demand-side resources and improve the operational efficiency of demand-side programs in its wholesale electricity markets. The software, eLRS, based on UISOL’s DRBizNet, links and automates wholesale power market transactions that involve PJM, utilities and demand response curtailment service providers. Some 750 users in 200 market participant organizations are using eLRS to enable more than 7,500 MW of demand response in PJM energy, capacity or ancillary services markets.

A look at PJM’s service territory.

“One of the biggest challenges of a project of this scale and complexity was to adapt to market rule changes during a period of extensive growth in terms of the number of curtailment service providers, end use customers and wholesale services across the diverse set of jurisdictions,” said Pete Langbein, PJM demand response operations manager. “The team was able to overcome the hurdle through flexible design and rapid implementation with the help of our partner, which included extensive integration to a wide range of PJM systems to ensure an end-to-end business process for the membership.”

A screen capture of the software in use at PJM for the Interconnect Demand Response Integration project.

PJM sought a flexible secure, standards-based system that could cost effectively adapt to meet future needs and market rule changes. It markets over 7,000 MW of demand resources that represent approximately 450,000 end-use customers. The eLRS solution is one of the largest and most sophisticated production deployments of a demand response management system in the world, according to PJM and their vendor partner on the project UISOL, and it’s already bringing benefits to the table.

Inside the PJM control room.

“PJM is now realizing shorter times-to-market and reduced costs when delivering these new business functions,” Langbein said. “PJM market participants should also discover benefits which filter down to the bottom line, stemming from both the ability to transact more easily and the opportunity gain better intelligence using better data publishing capabilities.”


Best Renewable Energy Grid Integration Project


The winner of the Best Renewable Energy Grid Integration Project of the Year is Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) for the GRU Feed-in Tariff project.

In the fall of 2008, The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) awarded Ed Regan, GRU’s assistant general manager for strategic planning, and several utility executives throughout the country, a grant to visit Germany and witness first-hand Germany’s booming solar industry. The stimulus behind that solar boom is Germany’s feed-in tariff, a pay-for-performance policy mechanism designed to encourage the adoption of renewable energy.

A photovoltaic array tied into GRU’s FIT program.

On January 15, 2009, the Gainesville City Commission unanimously approved a solar feed-in tariff (FIT) ordinance, thereby making Gainesville Regional Utilities the first entity in the nation to offer such an incentive.

“The biggest overall hurdle for this project was the fact that no one had ever attempted this before in the U.S.,” said John Crider, strategic planning engineer for GRU. “We had to completely invent many aspects of the program to fit—no pun intended—the German idea into the U.S. utility reality.”

The first check paid through the FIT program.

The ordinance allows GRU to accept a maximum of four cumulative megawatts of photovoltaic installations into the FIT program each year. GRU treats projects on a first-come-first-serve basis, with a queue available for when the yearly megawatt allotment fills. GRU began accepting applications on March 1, 2009. Within one month of the program’s initiation, the queue filled through 2012. In November of 2009, the queue filled through 2016 and GRU placed a hold on accepting applications. According to Crider, managing that queue was one of the biggest issues within the project.

GRU’s FIT model has been replicated throughout the country, with feed-in tariffs now available in California, Vermont, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington

A line of inverters for the project.

“This is a pioneering effort that demonstrates ingenuity and courage in moving the utility industry into a new age of renewables,” Crider said. “The far-reaching impact of this program is undeniable and continues to grow. This gives GRU a strong hedge against future carbon-related legislation, a further hedge against future RPS requirements, operational experience in handling issues related to high penetration of distributive PV generation, potential movement of expensive capital upgrades into the future, cleaner air for our community due to displacement of coal generation and economic growth for the community.”


Best Smart Grid Project


The winner of the Smart Grid Project of the Year is the City of Ruston, La., for its Smart Grid Innovation project.

Ruston, located in Lincoln Parish between Shreveport and Monroe in north Louisiana, is home to 20,546 residents. The coverage area is approximately 16 square miles, containing about 10,600 electric meters and 8,872 water meters.

Intelligent meters are an integral part of Ruston’s smart grid project.

While the centerpiece of Ruston’s program is advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), the planning also includes an integrated meter data management (MDM) system. The MDM system will be closely integrated with the AMI system to provide enhanced smart grid/AMI functionality, including: data integration/normalization, aggregation/settlement, load profiling, centralized meter data storage and a loss analysis reporting system (LARS).

“Each and every piece of equipment that was to be deployed had to be engineered for the data it would create, the frequency at which the data would need to be transmitted and the appropriate systems to manage and utilize the data,” said Darrell Caraway, the City of Ruston’s public utility manager. “It was also required to account for any security issues that could occur as new components were deployed and joined in the smart grid network. Designing the smart grid architecture to account for all the benefits and technology deployment issues was our biggest challenge with this project.”

Every smart grid project needs substations.

LARS will provide a comprehensive view of line loss by systematically reconciling wholesale power purchase records with power purchase sales down to the substation and individual feeder circuit. This allows pinpointing where losses occur and operational corrections can be made to recover revenue and increase the efficiency of the distribution network. Additionally, the system will provide a real-time, multi-layering graphical interface, enabling a view of overall system state-of-the-utility network.

Ruston’s leadership in pursuing a holistic smart grid vision is forward-thinking, especially compared to peer-sized utilities across the nation. The City of Ruston has already seen a series of targeted results, including a reduction of energy lost through the distribution grid down 4 percent, an energy use reduction of 5 percent for the customer base, a 50 percent reduction in distribution interruptions and an estimated community cost savings of $5,266,674.


Best Smart Metering Project


The winner of the Smart Metering Project of the Year is Pulaski Electric for the Lightspeed AMI project.

Pulaski Electric System (PES) provides power to 15,000 homes and businesses in Giles County, Tenn. As Tennessee’s oldest municipal utility and the first in the state to receive power from the Tennessee Valley Authority, PES has a long history of providing top tier service through the use of technologies. Getting full smart grid functionality—namely advanced metering, demand response and distribution automation—from a fiber optic network was a logical step for a city-owned utility that prides itself on being one of the most progressive in the state.

Inside dispatch at Pulaski Electric.

PES reasoned that fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) is really an extension of municipal infrastructure and is as important as good roads, schools and other essential services. Attracting a big name provider for a project that involved laying 130 miles of optical fiber to connect a mere 5,000 premises in Pulaski city proper became a problem. Therefore, the utility decided to build its own FTTH network—a decision that gained overwhelming endorsement from residents and unanimous approval from the town council. It also put PES on a short list of municipal utilities to own and operate its own FTTH network.

“While we spent time early in the project selecting the right vendors, once we began deploying meters, we were surprised at how it affected our internal operations and processes,” said Kirby Parr, Pulaski Electric System’s energy services manager. “We had to rethink everything. Having the courage to consider the improvement opportunities AMI brought our utility, however, will enable us to maximize the benefits and bring new efficiencies.”

Crews get to work preparing for meter installation.

PES leverages the high-speed FTTH network for smart grid functionality, implementing a multi-application hybrid AMI network that offers flexible expansion options using either fiber or RF communications and putting PES ahead of many larger investor-owned utilities in the smart metering arena. With the FTTH system in place, PES can move quickly into customer service and monitoring options without delay.

“We are finally able to help our customers understand their usage patterns and troubleshoot usage concerns,” Parr said. “We now track usage hourly. This insight allows us to understand how our customer’s use our service, and we can develop new programs and services to meet their needs.” Also, for the first time, PES is able to track voltage and outage data on a per-customer basis, which will allow it to become more proactive in dealing with power quality issues and will also provide a tremendous benefit as PES looks at its system’s design and determines needed improvements, said Parr.

A technician installs a new Pulaski meter.

POWERGRID International magazine distributes annual awards each year at DistribuTECH. To be considered for a Project of the Year category, watch the Web site ( for the entry form.



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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

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