Topeka, Kan., August 5, 2009 — Westar Energy applied with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for up to $20 million in funding under the Smart Grid Investment Grant program.
The company’s application calls for development of a smart grid concept town in Lawrence, Kansas. Called SmartStar Lawrence, the project will include installation of smart meters, interactive Web access, technology enhancements and improved service in Lawrence. The project is estimated to cost a total of $40 million and is contingent on DOE approval of funding for half of it, about $20 million. Approval could take as long as six months.
Westar Energy has researched smart grid technology for more than two years. The company chose Lawrence as the concept town for this technology due to its size and its wide range of customers, including a mobile student population, commercial and industrial customers and educational institutions.
While Lawrence customers will be the first to receive smart meters, the systems and equipment the company plans to install will enable the same technology throughout Westar’s service territory.
Smart grid technology is a state-of-the-art approach to managing electricity systems. In the event of a power outage, for example, Westar will more easily determine the cause and restore power more quickly. Customers with smart meters and internet access will be able to daily monitor how much electricity they use and how much it costs.
Once underway, Westar expects SmartStar Lawrence will take two to three years to fully implement.
The application filing meets the DOE’s deadline of August 6 for consideration in the first round of Smart Grid Investment Grant funding. The DOE plans subsequent rounds late this year and in early 2010.
Westar Energy, Inc. is the largest electric utility in Kansas, providing electric service to about 681,000 customers in the state. Westar Energy has about 6,800 MW of electric generation capacity and operates and coordinates more than 35,000 miles of electric distribution and transmission lines.