A Smarter Grid
Pecan Street Project
Improving the efficiency and flexibility of the electrical grid is a key component to shifting to more renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. Utilities, cities, and municipalities in the US are all investigating ways to kick-start this mammoth effort. The city of Austin, Texas, has taken a bold lead in this with an initiative called The Pecan Street Project, named for a street in the city. Austin partnered with frog to communicate to residents about the project, and to encourage involvement from everyone.
“We can be a model for how you can have a highly energy-efficient and renewable-based electric utility.”
The Pecan Street Project has ambitious goals: design a system that can cost-effectively generate a power plant’s worth of clean energy within city limits, and to do it in a way that strengthens the city’s economic future. Clean energy is a major financial opportunity in the coming decades, and Austin aims to be at the forefront.
“The Pecan Street Project is our attempt to do with clean energy what Austin did with semiconductors in the 1980s,” says former Mayor Pro Tem Brewster McCracken. “Bring together community interests with the best talent from universities, the private sector and public interest groups [to] solve the toughest technology challenges.” The project aims to rethink one of the fundamental obstacles in the way of energy reform: the more electricity customers use, the more the utility earns.
The project started as a collaboration of volunteer experts, but the city realized that public involvement would be key to making it successful in the long term. Austin turned to frog to create a website and platform that could
communicate the project, and provide a way for citizens to become involved and stay up to date. “The success of the Pecan Street Project is dependent not only on having the right technology and infrastructure, but also on its ability to fit into consumers’ lives and become a model community for the nation,” says Roger Duncan, General Manager, Austin Energy.
A Site for Involvement
The initial site provides Austinites with information about the goals and status of the project, the benefits and opportunities that it provides, and a variety of ways to get involved or follow progress. The site architecture and design is intended to be simple and friendly to navigate for first-time visitors, and quickly address the key questions that the public will have. Interested visitors can dive in and get more information on specific topics.
Subsequent stages of work will introduce more sophisticated communication and education tools, discussion forums, and a map of the project that gives real-time energy usage/resources saved.