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What's next for smart energy? Urbanova may provide answers

Submitted by scc partner on May 5, 2017

The world of energy has changed dramatically over the past decade. What will it look like in another 10 years? It may look like Urbanova, a living lab in Washington state.

Itron, a Global Lead Partner of the Council, is one of the founders of this community of the future. Renewable energy sources are one of the big factors behind the overall transformation and Urbanova has them covered from solar panels to microgrids to battery storage.

But the community isn’t just about technology. It’s also about improving the lives of people who live and work there. Deployment is under way now and it’s a project that’s worth following to uncover insights that you may want to use in your own community. — Kevin Ebi

By Itron

This year is shaping up to be a busy one in Spokane, Washington. Urbanova, a consortium of partners, including the local utility, area technology companies, higher education and the city, has begun to lay plans for and test a broad portfolio of smart city technologies that range from microgrids and solar energy to smart streetlights and medical device monitoring.

This activity is focused on a 770-acre area near downtown Spokane known as “The University District,” where these technologies will be deployed initially. Partners, including Avista, the City of Spokane, Itron, McKinstry, Washington State University, and the University District Development Association have joined forces to form Urbanova, with the mission to create a smart city living laboratory and proving ground in the heart of Spokane.  Urbanova is focused on applying technology and data to improve urban life in five areas:

  • Healthier citizens: Data, research and tools that will positively impact public health
  • Safer neighborhoods: Tools and data that will support public safety and livability
  • Smarter infrastructure: Systems that work better and more efficiently
  • More sustainable environment: Projects that help to increase conservation and support a healthy environment
  • Stronger economy: Increased investment in the region and opportunities for developers, entrepreneurs, researchers and community partners

The smart city initiative entered field trials earlier this year when Avista began installing smart and connected streetlights in The University District. The pilot underway includes the addition of sensor packages to LED streetlights. These sensors will play a critical role in the human-scale urban air quality research, measuring the quality of air and other environmental factors at different sensor points throughout the district to assess air quality’s role in a healthy city. A second pilot launching in fall 2017 will include installing LED fixtures with dimming capabilities to increase energy efficiency and other goals.

Later this year, Avista will begin work on a project it refers to as the “Shared Energy Economy.” This model pilot will combine a variety of assets, including a microgrid, solar and other forms of distributed generation, battery storage, smart meters, energy management systems in buildings and more. The purpose of the project is to demonstrate how the Shared Energy Economy can benefit consumers, businesses, the utility and the environment by optimizing the use of these assets based on customer needs and grid conditions.     

“It’s a fascinating time to be involved in the energy industry. We know new technologies will continue to change the energy landscape. If you ask why Avista is one of Urbanova’s founding partners, the answer is simple: Avista is embracing change, and we want to be a leader during times of change,” said Heather Rosentrater, Avista vice president of energy delivery.  “With our Urbanova partners, we are working together to create a living laboratory to design cities for the future.”