Itron, Inc., one of the world’s leading providers of smart meters for the electrical grid, is taking advantage of a $5.2 million Advanced Manufacturing Tax Credit through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to re-equip a plant to produce smart meters in West Union, South Carolina. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Energy, the plant is now the largest industrial employer in Oconee County and has hired an additional 420 employees.
The tax credit was used to install advanced robotic equipment in the smart meter assembly line at the Oconee plant. Dan Pfeiffer, vice president of regulatory affairs for Itron, is quoted as indicating that although the automation reduced the number of workers on the assembly line, overall headcount was increased to handle the additional production.
The plant in West Union will produce Itron’s OpenWay CENTRON smart meter. These smart meters enable high-speed, two-way communication between consumers and the electrical grid. They provide consumers with near real-time information on the energy they are using and the price they are paying for electricity. As explained by Katie Fehrenbacher in an article on Giga.com, smart meters will allow for real-time pricing, with different rates at different times of day, depending on demand. This allows consumers to make informed decisions on how and when to use electricity and to cut back at times of peak demand when electricity is more expensive. And utility companies will have the information to better manage the loads on the grid.
Smart meters also let utility companies know where there are inefficiencies in the electrical grid. This allows engineers to reduce the amount of electricity lost in transmission. And a smart grid will be able to bring in power from renewable energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines to feed it into the grid and compensate power generators according to demand.
Itron, a company based in Liberty Lake, Washington, is a global supplier of technology for the energy and water industries, with almost 8,000 utility companies using its technology. In addition to smart meters, the company provides data collection and communication systems, advanced metering infrastructure, software to manage data from the meters, and consulting services.
According to research by greentechmedia, the smart grid market is expected to grow from a $5.6 billion market in 2010 to $9.6 billion by 2015. This market includes advanced metering infrastructure, distribution automation, home area networks, and smart utility enterprise. Advanced metering infrastructure is currently the largest segment of the market, with about a 45% share of the total market. It is expected that by 2015 there will be a 48% national deployment of smart meters.
David J. Leeds, “Who Are the Players in the Smart Grid and How Much is the Market Worth?” – greentechmedia
Katie Fehrenbacher, “FAQ: Smart Grid” – Giga.com
VP100: Smart meter company boosting production, workforce – U.S. Department of Energy