4 FM quick reads on smart grid
1. The Role of Smart Meters in the Smart Grid
This is Chris Matt, Managing Editor - Print & E-Media with Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's tip is the role of meters in the Smart Grid.
Today's smart meters are critical components in an effective energy-management and power-monitoring program. Many meters incorporate technology specifically designed to interface with the Smart Grid via an energy management system. Many facilities have installed meters on major switchboards or critical equipment and can use information the meters gather to determine when periods of peak demand are imminent or to monitor power quality. But to be able to truly impact demand, a valuable use of capital might be a more significant investment in smart metering.
For example, a facility that meters nearly every major piece of mechanical equipment and electrical feeder will have a great deal of information available when managers need to make decisions on load shedding. If a facility has agreements in place with the utility to reduce loads during periods of peak energy use, being able to closely match the load it sheds to utility requirements might lessen the impact of this load adjustment.
Using a control scheme that can shed the load at each metered point, as well as historical and trending data gathered via the meters over time, a manager can make intelligent, real-time decisions as to load shedding. At the same time, the experience gained during these periods will help a manager facilitate improvements related to energy efficiency: The systems and equipment that have the smallest impact on a facility in relation to the amounts of energy they use are prime targets for improved efficiency.
Intelligent monitoring points in a building management system are not always meters. Many buildings feature smart thermostats or smart appliances, which provide data into, and can be controlled by an energy-monitoring system.
One challenge managers face when multiplying the amount of power metering and monitoring points is an overload of information. Fortunately, a number of companies are developing software solutions that automate building energy control to assist managers. These systems reduce large amounts of data into easily understood graphical interfaces.
2. Power Management: Demand Response & The Grid
This is Chris Matt, Managing Editor of Print & E-Media with Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's tip focuses on demand response and power management.
Most institutional and commercial facilities operate on flat rates from electric utilities. In most cases, utilities base these rates on calculations of the average cost of power delivered to customers. This method has worked for years, but a growing reliance on cooling systems has created a large demand on the electrical grid for reliable power at reasonable rates.
Now, utilities face the choice of buying power from other utilities at high, sometimes unstable rates or building expensive power-generation facilities to meet peak demands. Utilities can use several options to address this situation. They can conduct energy-conservation programs that encourage customers to use less power during peak times. They also can employ smart meters that allow users to track consumption and reduce the amount of energy used during peak-load times.
Another method is to develop demand-response, or peak-shaving, programs.
Some utilities' peak-shaving programs alert a facility when it should go off the grid and generate its own power. Facilities often use natural gas and diesel-powered generators in such situations. Some facilities can operate completely off the grid for a few hours or even several days. Such facilities benefit from lower rates because they meet monthly generating-testing requirements, and managers know the facilities can operate properly when grid power is not available.
In some cases, utilities have generation partner programs, in which the utility buys back the power that facilities generate via alternative sources. This usually is accomplished using two utility meters. One meter is the normal meter that reads the amount of power a facility buys from the utility. The second meter reads the amount of power the utility buys from the facility.
Control systems on the market can monitor the current price of power the utility charges and the price the utility pays for power. As a result, the facility control system either can use the available green power on site or sell it back to the utility.
3. How To Prepare For Smart Grid
Today's tip is about how you can best prepare your buildings for the new smart grid. But first, let's try to answer the question about what smart grid actually is: Basically, "smart grid" is a term being used to describe the massive upgrade to the nation's energy grid that will allow for two-way communications between facilities (and even devices) and the utility. The smart grid will also provide better power reliability and quality, and better efficiency in transmission. It's a long overdue project, say experts.
While many of the overarching benefits of smart grid accrue to the utilities, there are a few for facility managers as well - including the opportunity for easier, automated demand-response and demand side management programs, as well as real-time pricing.
But to best take advantage for the benefits of smart grid, facility managers should begin preparing now. The most important thing you can do, say experts, is to make sure you have in place a smart energy management system as part of a sophisticated building automation system. The first step is to plaster a building with meters, submeters and smart meters (meters with two-way communication capability) so facility managers know exactly where and what their loads are. This will best position facility managers to take advantage of shifts in electricity pricing throughout a day by shifting loads to different times - even at night in some cases.
Here's one simplified example: A smart meter can send a signal to the BAS so that a variable speed drive is slowed by 20 percent for 10 minutes. This reduces the motor's energy use by 40 percent. Once the 10 minutes are up, the VFD goes back to full speed and a different VFD is slowed. Occupants are unlikely to notice the change, and peak load is reduced. Small changes like this could add up to huge savings once facility managers become adept at looking for the many energy-saving opportunities smart grid will provide.
4. BAS Can Help Facility Managers Take Advantage of Smart Grid
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.
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