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.