Legislators Get a Look at Smart Grid in Action

Kansas City has made a big investment in the smart grid and legislators got the chance Friday to see just what that investment has created during a tour of the Green Impact Zone Smart Grid Demonstration Project.

A U.S. Department of Energy grant primarily funded the five-year, $50 million project, said Gail Allen, Kansas City Power & Light’s smart grid project manager. A 150-square block area containing 14,000 customers has been fully upgraded using the latest in smart grid technology.

The power company rented rooftops and installed solar panels, residents were given smart meters that can give real-time data about energy use and an extensive education process was put into place to let customers know what the new technology could do for them.

“It has always been about talking to the people about how to consume energy,” Allen said. “It’s always been about customer relations and sustainable energy savings.”

Customers are able to use the smart meters in their homes to set goals for how much they want to spend in energy costs each month. A display in the house keeps track of power usage and warns customers if it appears they will go over their goal. Allen said customers have saved an average of $30 a month using the new system.

As part of the demonstration project, a 100-year-old home was retrofitted with the latest energy saving devices to show how it can be done in existing houses. Project Living Proof, managed by the nonprofit Metropolitan Energy Center, uses solar panels, sustainable flooring and motion sensor ceiling fans; it even has recharge stations for compressed natural gas and electric vehicles.

“Why we took a house in a historic district, the first historic district in Missouri, was to prove that you could do it anywhere,” said Jensen Adams, associate executive director of the energy center.