Seattle City (spot)Light: Bianca Smith

In this week’s Seattle City (spot)Light, we talk with Bianca Smith about her team’s role in pushing City Light towards innovative technology.

Bianca is a project lead in City Light’s Technology Innovation group, where she works on emerging technologies to be integrated into the utility of the future. Her team of four functions like a startup within City Light, and they were recently selected for a clean energy grant by Washington Governor Jay Inslee. She has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Albany, and she is working on her master’s degree in Computer Science at the University of Washington. In her spare time, Bianca enjoys hiking and mountaineering.

Bianca Smith at Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier

One project my team is working on is the Clean Energy Fund Microgrid. We are negotiating a grant with the Department of Commerce to implement a solar microgrid at a community center. The site is to be determined, but the focus is resiliency; in case of emergency, this community center will have energy storage, solar generation and a diesel generator. Let’s say an earthquake happens tomorrow, and everyone is out of power… The microgrid at the community center will operate independently of the main power grid. It will provide a place for people to charge phones, to connect with family members, get a hot meal and provide other needed services during a time of helplessness.

We know microgrids are part of our future. They are becoming more economical because batteries and solar are getting cheaper. The industry is still trying to figure out how to build microgrids and make them useful. We’re studying how City Light and our customers can benefit from microgrids. We hope to find more efficient technologies and ways to implement them.

It’s important to be innovative. My team’s role is to be on top of cutting-edge technology. We’re not waiting for everyone else to get onboard with new tech; we are testing it first to make sure it will work for us. There’s a lot happening in clean energy and emerging technology, and we are making sure we have a seat at that table.

VP Biden Highlights Importance of Climate Change Work Group, Including Seattle City Light

Vice President Joe Biden highlighted the importance of a new partnership among Seattle City Light and 16 other utilities that will work to improve the resilience of the country’s energy infrastructure in the face of extreme weather and climate change.

Biden announced the U.S. Department of Energy’s Partnership for Energy Sector Climate Resilience as part of the department’s first Quadrennial Energy Review, which provides a comprehensive look at the current state of the U.S. energy industry and highlights the Obama administration’s priorities, including climate change and grid security.

City Light Compliance Officer Jim Baggs will represent City Light at an official launch of the partnership April 30 in Washington, D.C., with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

“We’re eager to be a part of this team and help develop strategies for adapting to the challenges presented by climate change, including extreme weather and reduced mountain snowpack for hydroelectric operations,” Baggs said.

The purpose of the partnership is to:

  • Enhance Research, Development, Demonstration and Deployment of Climate-Resilient Energy Technologies
  • Foster enabling policies to remove market barriers and encourage building climate resilience into energy systems
  • Provide technical information, assistance and decision-support tools
  • Convene and Partner with Federal Agencies, Private Sector and other stakeholders