Smart grid technology has made it possible for facility managers to see real-time pricing, and therefore to cut loads when prices are highest. But what if they could also cut loads when energy is dirtiest? A new tool from Rocky Mountain Institute called Watt Time does just that. The software automatically tracks the actual emissions impacts associated with electricity use — both in real-time and with ahead-of-time predictions — allowing users to use and charge electricity loads at times when electricity is cleanest.
“The idea is with smart devices, you can get ‘carbon signals’ telling you your grid is very dirty,” says Jacob Corvidae, principal with the Rocky Mountain Institute. “That way you can shift processes to different times when then grid is cleaner.”
Another emerging approach focuses on integrating renewable energy produced by buildings with the electric grid.
Because solar and wind production can vary from hour to hour, the carbon intensity of electricity can vary as well, says Alexi Miller, senior project manager and engineer with New Buildings Institute. “As more renewables are installed in buildings and at grid scale — like wind farms and large solar farms — the utility grid in certain places, like California and Hawaii, is increasingly challenged to integrate the energy those renewable resources produce.”
California and Hawaii have both set a goal of producing 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2045. So now is the time to work on standards for how buildings integrate with the grid to ensure buildings are best-positioned to take advantage of clean energy. New Buildings Institute and the U.S Green Building Council are developing a rating system called GridOptimal, an open, collaborative, multi-year initiative to develop metrics that define buildings as “grid citizens” and better optimize the interaction between buildings and the grid.
The idea, says Miller, is “to support least-cost decarbonization of the grid through better integration of building-scale renewables and load flexibility.” Eventually these grid optimization metrics can be included into rating systems like LEED as well as building codes, says Miller.
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