"Integration" and "interoperability" are popular terms to sling around in smart grid circles. But the reality is not always as advertised.
Dominion’s Edge platform, which is used primarily for conservation voltage reduction, can work with various smart metering platforms, but Silver Spring Networks has gone the next step to fully integrate the Edge software into its offering, which is called UtilityIQ Voltage Optimizer.
Unlike many other voltage optimization products on the market, Dominion’s Edge does not require modeling of circuits, or anything much more than smart meters and some control equipment on the grid itself, to adjust the voltage.
Controlling voltage to tens of thousands of endpoints would overwhelm the AMI communications system, so instead, Edge monitors a subset of meters but constantly looks for abnormalities to add into the subset. That allows Edge to leverage the smart meter’s communications platform without requiring additional bandwidth that some distribution automation applications would require.
The UtilityIQ Voltage Optimizer comes with all the components pre-integrated, including the advanced metering manager software, power monitor and Dominion’s Edge.
“We have a really strong partnership, and we’ve worked through a lot of the issues so when they deploy, it is turnkey,” said Mark Donsky, senior manager of product management at Silver Spring Networks.
For utilities that already have smart meters and are incentivized to save energy, conservation voltage reduction is a value-add service for an investment already made. Dominion Virginia Power used CVR as part of its business case for smart meters.
“For any of our customers looking at CVR, they’re realizing AMI plays an important role in optimal CVR,” said Donsky. He said that after looking at various products on the market, Edge was the most sophisticated that they encountered, from the scalability to the measurement and verification features. The two companies have been working together for more than two years.
Utilities that have already deployed smart meters are now starting to look for added value from the investment, even if it wasn’t initially included in the business case. For many, that means looking toward network and meter vendors for additional offerings, such as conservation voltage reduction.
“The interest is really high, and we’re confident we’ll have really high energy savings,” said Donsky.
Silver Spring has raised just under $300 million to date, and intends to raise as much as $150 million on the Nasdaq, for a valuation that could be as much as $3 billion. That is, if the IPO ever comes to fruition.
One of the keys to market share growth in coming years will be effective integration, which Silver Spring has been making an effort to clarify with its partner network, which it rates as platinum, premiere or associate. Silver Spring has more than 60 partners, for everything from distribution automation applications or home area applications.
The UtilityIQ product was just released, so Silver Spring has no reports of customers using the platform, and would not elaborate on whether the application is currently being used in customer pilots. For Dominion, which said it could barely keep up with the interest in Edge, a partnership with Silver Spring should help to bring the product to utilities.
Now that the meters are deployed for many utilities, the question is, what now? “The next level is, how do they optimize?” said Donsky. “CVR is an obvious way.”