Phil Wardwell: A chance to innovate

Letter to the Editor
Many Xcel business customers must pay high “demand charges” – charges to compensate the utility for providing extra generation capacity for occasional periods of high demand.
For example, a newspaper may pay high demand charges because there is a heavy draw of power when it starts its presses to print the paper, although once the presses are operating, they require much less power. Many Boulder businesses pay such demand charges.
Until recently, such customers had no alternative; but now they do. A newspaper could install a rooftop solar plus battery system, with “smart” software which would draw power from the batteries when the presses start, then recharge the batteries during normal operations; when the batteries are fully charged, the solar power could offset draws from normal office loads – lights, computers, etc.
If properly designed, such a system could eliminate demand charges and greatly reduce the electric bill.
A municipal utility could assist Boulder businesses to develop such systems by making or guaranteeing low-cost and short-term loans, and/or making a small payment for each kWh of solar power generated for a limited period of time. In return, the utility could negotiate the right to draw from the batteries for brief periods to offset peak demands for power in the City.
This in turn would reduce the amount of wholesale power the municipal utility would have to buy from Xcel or other sources, and reduce Boulder’s carbon footprint from Xcel’s coal-fired power plants.
Phil Wardwell