Letters to the Editor

Consider other solutions to building a substation | Letters | Jan. 29

There has been some debate over whether or not we need a new substation on Bainbridge Island. That problem is presently being solved by a much lower cost solution, as I will explain here.

There has been a lot of talk about reliability. Substations are not presently part of our reliability problems, but would become so if we repeatedly exceeded their design rating.

In 2007, and again in the winter of 2008, PSE customers used so much electricity on a very few times (mostly mid-morning on very cold days), that more electricity was drawn from the grid than the system was nominally designed for.

There is a safety margin on top of that, but PSE then started a design process for a new substation, which would handle any extra loads.

A group of us did our research and found that there are other solutions to the problem, and so the Community Energy Task force was formed, and worked with PSE for lower costs solutions.

PSE was already planning to introduce “Demand Side Load Management” in another part of the area to which they supply electricity.

We talked them into doing it here on Bainbridge Island. This program, which PSE calls Demand Response, has now been introduced into more than 480 homes on Bainbridge.

More homes are having installations daily. Some island residents have expressed concern about using a program like this. I have seen these systems in use in both the U.S. and Germany as far back as 20 years ago. This is a successful, mature technology.

The substation is about drawing too much electricity at one time (like everybody on the island trying to take the ferry at once). Building an additional substation will cost you, the customer, $6 million through additional rate charges.

Demand Response will negate the need for an additional substation, cleverly reducing electricity use during high draw times, in a way which is transparent and usually not noticeable to the customer.

In December 2008 we exceeded substation capacity on days in which minimum temperatures went below 26 degrees Fahrenheit.

In December 2009, we did not exceed substation capacity until minimum temperatures went below 21 degrees due to the fact that the Demand Response system was used in the 300 homes in which it was then installed.

Since then more systems have been installed and we now have Demand Response in 480 homes, with 48 more presently scheduled for installation.

We need your help. The final goal is 700 homes. PSE would like to finish enrollments by the end of January. Installations will stop at the end of February.

We need to encourage another 172 homes to sign up as quickly as possible.

We are looking for single-family dwellings with high-speed Internet, whole house electric heat and electric hot water. Please spread the word. You can enroll by calling (877)-287-3461.

Stephen A. Douglass

Bainbridge Island

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