“I definitely felt it when the economy slowed down – we had to scale way back, “ said Gary Miklethun, the owner of Narrows Electric, a small electrical contractor in Gig Harbor, Wash., that specializes in residential and small commercial projects. The housing market has been rough for many Americans linked to the construction industry.
“I’ve never seen it so bad as it is now,” said Miklethun, who sees other small businesses having similar problems.
But an opportunity to install smart grid technology for Peninsula Light Company (PenLight) in 500 homes has been a bright spot for Narrows Electric. This work is part of the Recovery Act-funded Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project, the largest, regional smart grid demonstration project in the nation. Installing these new technologies in 500 homes gave Narrows Electric new work – and new customers. Now, when these households have electrical problems, they know who to call.
“It was a good boost for us, especially being down to so little amount of work – it allows us to survive longer and go out and find new projects,” said Miklethun, adding that right now they're doing well.
Narrows Electric’s installation of this technology is helping modernize the electric grid for the 21st century and reduce energy consumption during peak periods of use. It also helps prevent outages and blackouts.
It’s the third project Miklethun has done with PenLight, previously helping to install transfer switches for generators and surge arresters for the electric co-op’s customers. He’s been in the electrical industry for 30 years, began his own business in 1986, and considers PenLight one of his best customers.
The member-owned electric cooperative is the second largest cooperative in the Northwest, serving more than 31,000 meters, 977 miles of line and 112 square miles of service territory. It gets the majority of its power from the Bonneville Power Administration and is one of the 11 utilities and five infrastructure partners involved in the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project. The project is creating new job opportunities as it enhances the region’s power system.
“New technology opens doors for all sorts of trades really,” said Miklethun. “Somebody’s got to install it and wire it up.”