Deerfield neighborhood to be first in Lawrence to try electricity-tracking program

The Trinity Environmental Stewardship Team is preparing for a workshop to help Episcopal congregations get green teams in their parishes. They have crated a display of CFL bulbs to demonstrate how they compare in brightness to regular incandescent bulbs.

Pilot program

Westar Energy’s SmartStar pilot neighborhood will include customers north of Sixth Street and south of Peterson Road and west of the Lawrence Country Club and east of Kasold Drive. For those in the pilot neighborhood, Westar is hosting open houses from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 14 and Dec. 15 at Deerfield School, 101 Lawrence Ave. Those unable to attend are encouraged to learn more about the program by calling a SmartStar hot line at 855-782-7663 or by going online at

The Deerfield neighborhood will soon become the guinea pig of Lawrence.

This week, Westar Energy sent out letters to 1,500 customers informing them that they would be the first in the city to try out a technology that allows them to track how much electricity they’re using.

The announcement brings Westar closer to installing smart meters in all of Lawrence’s 45,000 homes. The $39 million SmartStar project, half of which is being funded by a federal grant, will give residents an hour-by-hour description of their energy usage.

Since receiving the federal grant in March, Westar has been setting up the infrastructure needed to connect the smart meters in Lawrence to a computer and software hub in Topeka.

“With each passing day, we get closer to really start implementing the program in Lawrence,” said Hal Jensen, director of Westar’s SmartStar programs. “We’ve spent so much time doing the back work.”

The pilot neighborhood that will receive the smart meter runs north of Sixth Street to Peterson Road and west of the Lawrence Country Club to Kasold Drive.

The neighborhood was picked for its mix of residential and multifamily homes and commercial buildings. Westar was also looking for a part of town that had hills and trees and was easy to access.

“We hope to find out everything we need to know on how things are working through the pilot neighborhood,” Jensen said.

By the second week of January, Westar plans to start installing the smart meters in the pilot neighborhood. The process will take about two weeks. Westar plans to install smart meters in the rest of Lawrence starting in May.

At first, customers in the pilot neighborhood won’t be able to track their energy usage online.

But they will be able to access the online component about a month before everyone else, Jensen said. And when pilot customers go online, they will find data that has been collected since the meters were installed months earlier.

Eventually, Lawrence Westar customers will have their energy usage broken down by hour and available as soon as the next day. The information will also relate energy usage to its environmental impacts and compare it with monthly averages.