Iberdrola awards $400M in smart grid buys

March 21, 2012 at 6:30 AM
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MADRID, March 21 (UPI) -- Energy firm Iberdrola says is it contracting out nearly $400 million to expand its electric smart grid projects in Spain, Scotland and the United States.

Company officials said in Madrid last week that seven companies have split the awards to help it roll out its smart grid distribution technologies in all the countries its serves after successful testing in Castellon, Spain.

Among the recipients of the Iberdrola cash were ZIV Grid Automation of Spain, Swiss energy services provider Landis&GYR, the French high technology company Sagemcom, Spanish electronics maker Sogecam and metering equipment manufacturer Orbis Tecnologia Elactrica S.A.

Also landing smart grid contracts were German metering control maker Elster and U.S. technology giant General Electric.

Iberdrola said the contracts are an indication it is moving ahead with a $2.6 billion plan to broadly deploy its smart grid technology in Spain by 2018, under which it aims to replace 10.3 million traditional meters with the new smart devices.

When deployed, the grid enhancements can help overcome the intermittent nature of electricity generated from renewable sources such as wind, solar and wave power.

The new electronic metering equipment can keep track of all electricity flowing in the system so that it operates in the most efficient manner, such as balancing power produced by "micro-generation" sources with larger-scale producers such as wind power and traditional power stations, backers say.

The enhanced grid can also automatically reconfigure itself should there be a fault or the system is hit with excess demand, thus minimizing interruptions to supplies.

The rollout will also include the installation of 80,000 new automated transformers, which can be managed and supervised remotely by company workers.

Iberdrola is coming off a large-scale project in Castellon, known by its Spanish acronym STAR, in which 100,000 meters were changed. It is now moving to establish similar systems in the Basque region, the Henares Corridor in the Madrid region, the Valencia region and elsewhere in the country.

The Spanish company is also wrapping up its first such project in the United States, where it has installed more than 550,000 smart meter devices under the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Metering Infrastructure project.

Through a $96 million grant, it is integrating the 600,000 customers of its Central Maine Power subsidiary into an intelligent network infrastructure.

And in Scotland, some 30,000 Glasgow customers of Scottish Power will also be outfitted with the smart grid technology. The company said in 2010 in aimed to install 100,000 demonstration meters across Scotland before rolling out the technology nationwide.

A more localized smart grid project was performed in Glasgow's Clyde Gateway Business Park redevelopment.

In 2010 Scottish Power sought funds from Britain's Department of Energy and Climate Change as well as from energy regulator Ofgem for the Clyde project, which the Iberdrola subsidiary says it hopes to replicate across Scotland.

An August 2011 report by GTM Research, a U.S. green energy market analysis firm, predicted that by 2016 investors will be sinking $9 billion per year into European smart grid projects, with much of it going into advanced metering infrastructure.

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