Eastern Wake News

Siemens begins project that will impact over 200,000

Using the local office as headquarters for one of the biggest ventures of its kind, Siemens in Wendell is beginning work on an energy demand response system for energy companies to use as a conservation tool.

Siemens, which has operated in Wendell since 1980, focuses on smart-grid technology, transmission, distribution and low and medium voltage businesses in the local headquarters.

In 2010, the company expanded in Wendell, adding about 139 jobs.

The new demand response project will not immediately add any more jobs, but Craig Cavanaugh, Siemens’ director of metering services, said as the program gains popularity, there is a strong possibility of new positions being created.

“It’s a very new market,” he said.

Demand response software allows energy retailers to conserve resources in high demand times, like a heat wave or cold snap. Customers of energy companies can enter agreements to allow the company to change their thermostats, for example, when many people need to use heat or air conditioning.

“(Utility companies) don’t have enough load to serve all the customers (in high demand times),” Cavanaugh said. “Generally, the utility has to go out and buy generation capacity from the market, or brownouts and blackouts happen.”

Companies using energy demand response systems make deals with customers that for a certain amount of time, they can slightly decrease or increase the amount of energy the individual customer uses.

Siemens’ current project allows large energy companies to do that remotely. Siemens is partnering with Direct Energy, one of the largest energy retailers in North America to complete the project.

Direct Energy serves 6 million customers across the United States and Canada, which is why the new software needs to be automated, Cavanaugh said.

“This technology enables (Direct Energy and other companies) to get into each market, which all work differently across different parts of the country,” he said. “This software will automate a lot of those different market rules and how their customers can participate in a demand response event.”

The software also allows companies to take a more proactive step in conservation efforts. Cavanaugh said that it is likely that the government will pressure energy companies to become more aware of how much carbon their operations produce and with direct response, companies can better control their carbon output.

Although Cavanaugh and his team are based in Wendell and the majority of the work for the project will happen in town (some of the project will also be completed in Canada), there is no indication that Wendell residents will be able to use the ‘green’ software, as Siemens calls it.

Demand response software has to be implemented by the entity that provides utility services. For electric, Duke Progress Energy would have to begin using the Siemens technology.

Duke has programs and efforts in place to promote conservation, but none that are automated on a scale like the software Siemens is working on. Cavanaugh said Duke’s practices are an “elementary” version of what he and his team is working on.

“Direct response is more comprehensive,” he said. “What we're providing is more real-time ... than programs Duke offers it clients.”