Owasso, Oklahoma, known as the “city with no limits,” is living up to its name with sustainability and energy.
The evidence is everywhere. You can’t visit the city’s website -- or Facebook, Twitter and Flickr accounts, for that matter -- without noticing its robust recycling and composting program, water conversation focus or the “Going Green” Initiative that makes a case for everything from electric vehicles to solar energy.
And the small town’s latest green endeavor hits the mark -- as both digital and smart.
All Owasso households and businesses will get a smart meter, an advanced system that records energy consumption in intervals of an hour or less.
Customers can choose to have a digital display device installed in their homes and businesses, which will show their current energy use and its cost, along with their usage history.
About 15,000 units will be installed starting early 2011, making Owasso the third city in the Sooner state to convert its electric distribution system to the technology that helps lower energy bills and improve grid reliability.
Best in show
The city was chosen by the local utility company, American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma (AEP-PSO), to receive the smart meters in a pilot project that was partially funded with a low-interest loan worth $8.8 million awarded through the State Energy Program with Recovery Act funds.
Rodney Ray, the city manager, couldn’t have been happier to be picked.
“Management of outages is the single biggest benefit for municipal governments,” Ray says. “It will also make people more informed about their ability to manage their own use, and hopefully reduce that use through that management.”
The project, which cost a total of $17.9 million, could help the city save up to 10 percent of its annual energy consumption and respond to and assuage electrical emergencies -- like that ice storm three years ago that knocked out a waste water treatment facility for three days -- significantly faster.
“Based on a model I saw using a smart meter,” Ray says, “that particular scenario would have been adjusted much quicker: seven times quicker.”
Ray says having a smart grid in Owasso will also attract businesses to the town.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that companies want to bring their people to community that has a long standing commitment to conservation…and who wants to be located in a community where they can have more direct management over their energy consumption,” Ray says.
Out of sight, out of mind
Like most people in the United States, residents and business owners in Owasso can only determine energy usage by looking at the previous monthly bill. Installing the meters will allow people to see what they’re using in real time, a feature that could change behavior.
"If you are better able to manage your energy usage, you are going to be better able to manage your energy bill," AEP-PSO president Stuart Solomon said during a press conference in August to announce the pilot project. "And that ultimately will result in lower bills for customers."
Solomon also announced the two-way, secure wireless communications network on AEP-PSO's facilities that will be installed starting this fall, as well as automated power restoration equipment on its distribution lines.
“This is not just about Owasso,” Ray says. “It’s really about the broader picture through the country and throughout the world…this technology needs to be available throughout.”