Texas-based Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative and Pedernales Electric Cooperative have released early results from a smart grid pilot project.

In the program, Consert uses Verizon Wireless’ 3G and 4G LTE networks to provide real-time communication from a consumer’s electric meter to the Consert data center.

Designed to create a more reliable electric grid by offering real-time, integrated load management through the pairing of utility and consumer offerings, the Consert Virtual Peak Plant (VPP) Solution proved to be effective in tests conducted during the state’s severe winter weather events in February and high daily temperatures in May.

As part of the pilot programs, both Bluebonnet and Pedernales used the Consert VPP Solution to empower Central Texas residential and small commercial members to actively monitor and control their energy usage through a smart Home Area Network (HAN) installed at their properties.

How It Works

Consert establishes a smart HAN on a consumer’s property by attaching intelligent load measurement and control hardware to major energy consuming devices, such as heating and air conditioning systems, water heaters, and pool pumps, and using programmable thermostats that communicate with a gateway module residing inside the electric meter.

Through Consert’s proprietary software, pilot participants set daily energy use profiles, monitor their energy consumption, and authorize their electric cooperative to cycle their devices off for brief periods during peak energy consumption events.

Program Efficacy

Consert’s load management system proved effective in tests during the severe winter weather Texas faced in February, which resulted in record demands on the electric grid. Bluebonnet used the Consert VPP Solution to adjust pilot participants’ device settings within the limits set by their personal energy profiles to run control events to reduce load.

During these control event tests that spanned eight hours, Bluebonnet was able to reduce load demand by approximately 5 kW per pilot participant, with little or no noticeable impact to comfort levels. In addition, early results show that the Consert VPP Solution has measured and verified a reduction in energy consumption of up to 17 percent in some participating households.

“Our tests on Consert’s technology during the winter load events showed the enormous potential of a load management program that benefits both consumers and utilities,” said Mark Rose, Bluebonnet chief executive officer. “Consert’s system reduced critical load as requested and provided real-time, measurable and verifiable results. When used on a broader scale, this technology will be another way for Texas utilities to address, and hopefully avoid, future outage scenarios.”

Pedernales tested the Consert VPP Solution in May to determine the system’s capabilities during pre-summer temperature days. During its control events, Pedernales was able to adjust pilot participants’ device settings as permitted to reduce load and test member behavior to determine the optimum control event duration in kilowatt reduction to minimize participant opt-outs during control events.

Both pilot programs received great acclaim from residential and small business consumers who tested the Consert VPP Solution. Bluebonnet pilot participants surveyed expressed 100 percent satisfaction with the load management solution and 95 percent of those surveyed in Pedernales’ pilot program shared their approval as well.

The success of Consert’s pilot programs throughout the state also led to an announcement earlier in the week of the company’s agreement with San Antonio-based CPS Energy that will result in the reduction of 250 megawatts of peak demand over the next four years. Poised to relocate its corporate headquarters and senior leadership from Raleigh, N.C., to San Antonio in July, Consert will create over 150 jobs by 2014.

“These pilot programs were pivotal for Consert as we were able to demonstrate our proprietary technology to enable grid enhancements and member energy savings for Bluebonnet and Pedernales,” said Jack Roberts, president and chief executive officer, Consert. “We are well positioned with our relocation to Texas to become an integral part of the state’s future in the electric grid technology.”