“There were no best practices, there were gaps in standards and many of the technology pieces were not
designed to work together. It created the potential for a
lot of confusion.” —Jeff Taft, Accenture, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
READY, SMART, GO
Powering up the US$100 million project—
now dubbed Smart Grid City—came down
to finding the right team.
“Xcel brought together a tremendous
amount of industry expertise through a
consortium of leading technologists, engineering firms, business leaders and IT
experts to make this project work,” says
Kelly Virtue, project manager and director
of smart-grid and client-side delivery services practice at Five Point Partners, an
energy industry consultant in Scottsdale,
Public and private partners were divided
into eight teams, led by a senior project
manager who reported to Xcel. As head of
the project management office, Ms. Virtue
worked directly with all the project managers to make sure everyone’s project
goals and schedules were aligned and integrated with the client’s business needs.
“It was definitely a challenge to keep
everyone moving in the same direction, but
it was also a great opportunity for our partners to implement their technology in the
real world,” Mr. Henley says.
Over two years, the project teams
deployed a fiber optic loop around the entire
city that provides communication between
50,000 households and the utility about the
amount and source of power in use.
Participating residences were equipped with
“smart meters” that allow homeowners to
make choices based on that information,
such as shutting off appliances during peak
hours. Those users with the capability to
produce their own power through such
means as solar panels can put unused
energy back into the system to offset their
own utility costs or store it in their home for
IN THE DARK
Phase one had an aggressive schedule, further complicated by a major storm that hit
Boulder the day smart-meter installation
was scheduled to begin. As a result, installation crews were forced to redeploy to
attend to outages.
On top of that, project teams often had to
create business architecture and design
solutions as they went along.
“With so many partners and pieces of
the project, it was a complex project man-
agement situation,” Mr. Taft says. “There
were no best practices, there were gaps
in standards and many of the technology
pieces were not designed to work together.
It created the potential for a lot of
One of the biggest challenges was
designing a system to ensure the grid’s
security as well as that of the community
and individuals. Team leaders looked to
projects in online bill-paying and privacy
networks to establish a framework for
devising their own solution.
“This was an innovative project, and
innovation always precedes formal
processes,” Ms. Virtue says. “We had to
rely on what was available and design to
those emerging specifications.”
Protection was considered a priority in
every project decision and built into every
layer of the system.
“Security can’t be something you add on
in the middle,” Mr. Taft says.