GE Energy provides city with $20 million smart grid system

On Monday, GE Energy formed an agreement with the city of Leesburg, Florida to undergo a $20 million smart grid project to modernize the city’s electric utility.  The project, paid for using $10 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, will provide 24,000 customers with smart meters starting in March of next year.

The new system is expected to save Leesburg $15 million in electric operations over the next 20 years, according to the Leesburg City Commission.

The smart meters will wirelessly transmit electric-use data to the utility every 15 minutes. Installation of the meters will take about eight weeks to complete.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, city officials said most of the project expenses will be in the first five years, and expect the project to break even in the sixth year.

Leesburg and G.E. Energy will provide a system for customers to check their electric consumption. The new information will allow customers to monitor and adjust their electric usage throughout the month, not just once a month, says the commission.

The goal of the project is to have customers avoid peak demand periods, when the city is expected to draw the most electricity, says the commission. That is when large, regional power plants work the hardest and charge the most to supply electricity.

Leesburg originally began testing Smart Grid technology in 2008, when it installed 140 smart meters among local homes. The city also has used emergency generators and other efforts in coordination with Leesburg Regional Medical Center and two local Publix Super Markets to curb peak-time electric demands since mid 2009 and to save a total of $3.3 million, says the city commission.    

In 2009, Leesburg was among 100 electric utilities from across the country to be selected for $3.4 billion in federal stimulus money targeting Smart Grid energy projects.

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