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The electric grid is in line for a nationwide makeover, and building automation systems could help facility managers take advantage of the development.
Today, the electric grid is essentially a one-way street, directing power from the utility to the facility. The so-called "smart grid" will allow both power and data to flow in both directions, with smart meters not only gathering data about the facility's electric use, but also relaying information from the utility to the facility.
The flow of data promises to be increasingly important to facility managers. A big goal of the smart-grid movement is to trim utility peak loads. That will both cut costs and improve the reliability of the grid by reducing the risk of blackouts and brownouts.
One way to achieve that goal is through time-of-use pricing, which brings higher rates at times of peak demand. Another strategy is to send out signals to facilities to cut back on loads as part of a demand response program. A building automation or energy management system can help facility executives take advantage of time-of-use pricing by automatically making adjustments to building systems to reduce peak energy use. For example, the building automation system could automatically direct variable frequency drives on fans to slow in sequence, thereby trimming demand without a noticeable effect on occupants.
The transition to the smart grid will take years. But for facility managers, now is the time to start thinking about how the building automation system will help take advantage of opportunities presented by the smart grid.