Smart Grid's Information Capabilities Help Control Energy Use
Smart grid devices and systems that can transmit information about a facility's energy use enhance a facility manager's ability to measure and manage their building's power use. In other words, the smart grid extends the concept of a "smart building" beyond the HVAC and temperature control systems, to its operations and use of energy, says Jack McGowan, president of Energy Control Inc. "It's putting in place tools that help you measure and verify" energy use.
To accomplish this, the smart grid encompasses both technical capabilities and intelligent communication capabilities, says Mike Gravely, deputy divisional chief for energy research and development with the California Energy Commission. For instance, a smart grid system might combine energy storage and metering capabilities with applications that can convey the information to both the utility and facility managers, allowing them to intelligently adjust energy use.
Moreover, smart grid technology can meter energy use in real time at a number of locations. That includes points along the transmission grid, as well as by the final end user, Audin says. This information is necessary for loads to be transferred from, for instance, lines that are running out of capacity to others with spare capacity.
In larger buildings, smart grid devices may be specific to a single system, such as the lighting system, Henderson says. Conversely, some smart grid devices may provide information not only on one building's energy use, but on the energy consumed by similar facilities in the area. With this information, facility managers can compare their buildings' energy use against others, and identify areas that could be improved.
Along with metering and communication technologies, smart grid systems may incorporate more advanced tools for better controlling the transmission of power, Audin says. One example: relay switches that are able to efficiently handle shifts in the energy load and quickly absorb or release energy. "When you put all these technologies in one place, you can move power more quickly," Audin says. "Each of these capabilities multiplies the other."