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Naperville launches study of reduced voltage use

Transformers and circuit breakers make up the majority of the switch yard at the City of Naperville's Jefferson Substation in Naperville.  |  Jonathan Miano/Staff Photographer 
Transformers and circuit breakers make up the majority of the switch yard at the City of Naperville's Jefferson Substation | Jonathan Miano/Staff Photographer 
Susan Frick Carlman
scarlman@stmedianetwork.com | @scarlman
May 30 9:30 a.m.

Naperville is aiming to work out any bugs in the electric utility’s smart grid distribution network well in advance of its full launch. A pilot program begun earlier this month is part of that preemptive approach.

The Conservation Voltage Reduction undertaking is designed to spotlight potential savings to be realized through paring back, when feasible, the energy circulated through the city-owned system. The goal is to bring down the city’s bulk power purchase expense while delivering the ideal electricity levels to the utility’s customers, to keep them from overpaying for the energy.

The process taps data generated by the smart grid to reduce voltage when it makes sense, boosting efficiency.

“CVR optimizes the utility’s understanding of how power travels from start to finish from its substations through its wires to homes and businesses and allows the utility to reduce line loss, also known as wasted power or energy,” electric utility Director Mark Curran wrote in a recent memo to the City Council.

The program is expected to save the city $2 million annually, which represents 42 percent of the projected savings to be yielded by the smart grid. The CVR software, purchased last year, cost $771,575.

The pilot program began earlier this month at the Meadows Substation on 75th Street. Analysis of the data generated from the readings will begin June 30.

“Staff will be examining how the electric load out of the Meadows Substation reacts to a conservative reduction in voltage, which will help answer the question of how many dollars can be saved through CVR,” Curran said.

Also during June, staff will study other substations to gauge any work they need before the pilot is expanded to the 15 remaining locations.

Part of the aim of the pilot is to enable utility staff to study the reductions under controlled conditions and address issues that arise before they crop up on the citywide level.

“Realizing that this program will provide potential savings to utility customers, staff has implemented a more aggressive timeline for full CVR rollout and anticipates completion in mid 2015,” Curran said.

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