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Smart meters empower electricity consumers, utility executives say at Oklahoma conference

Technology is transforming the electric utility industry and letting customers gain more control of their bills and energy usage, panelists said at the Governor's Energy Conference in Oklahoma City.
by Paul Monies Modified: October 4, 2012 at 10:01 pm •  Published: October 4, 2012
/articleid/3715863/1/pictures/1849938">Photo - An Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. smart meter is shown on a home in Piedmont in January. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman archives
An Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. smart meter is shown on a home in Piedmont in January. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman archives

Efficiency is goal

Neha Palmer, with Google's global infrastructure team, said technology and cloud-based computing require a lot of electricity to keep data centers running 24 hours a day. The Internet search giant invested $700 million for a data center in Pryor in northeastern Oklahoma. Driven by its co-founders, Google has pledged to increase its energy efficiency and work toward a carbon-neutral goal companywide, Palmer said.

Palmer said Google's data centers are 50 percent more efficient than the typical data center. The company works on continually measuring its energy usage, adjusting the thermostat and managing air flow around computer servers.

“This is really through the hard work of our engineers,” Palmer said. “For the last 10 years, they've been really focused on squeezing out every last piece of efficiency they can.”

Google employs more than 100 people at its Pryor data center and has an agreement with NextEra Energy Resources to buy electricity from NextEra's Minco II wind farm in Caddo and Grady counties. Last week, Google signed an agreement with the Grand River Dam Authority to buy 48 megawatts of wind power from GRDA's share of the Canadian Hills wind farm under construction in central Oklahoma.

“It's the first time we've been able to partner with a utility,” Palmer said of the GRDA agreement. “We think this is very important because utilities have expertise with things like power scheduling, transmission and (generation) resource mix that we don't have. We find that's a way to optimize our energy use and leverage their expertise.”

Palmer said Google's goal is to get to 100 percent renewable generation for its electricity.

“We understand that is a goal,” she said. “The sun doesn't shine 24 hours a day and the wind doesn't always blow. We need to have a diversified energy mix in the interim to get us there. But we're hoping that, with time, technology advancements such as storage and smart grid, rapid-response generation will help us eventually increase the amount of renewables on the grid.”

by Paul Monies
Energy Reporter
Paul Monies is an energy reporter for The Oklahoman. He has worked at newspapers in Texas and Missouri and most recently was a data journalist for USA Today in the Washington D.C. area. Monies also spent nine years as a business reporter and...
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