Power Meters Designed to Interface with 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 peak-demand periods are imminent or to monitor power quality. But to be able to truly impact demand, a significant investment in smart metering might be a more valuable use of capital.
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 its 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 related to load shedding. At the same time, the experience gained during these periods will help managers facilitate improvements related to energy efficiency: The systems and equipment with 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 information overload. Fortunately, a number of companies are developing software solutions that automate building energy control.
These systems reduce large amounts of data into graphical interfaces technicians can easily understand. They give managers multiple options when requiring action, and they provide predicted demand simulators that can serve as training devices for analyzing hypothetical situations. As managers begin to understand the power of the data they collect and the amount of human error software systems can eliminate, the market for these smart-automation systems will grow.