Making Demand Response Work

  March 15, 2012

I’m Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, making demand response work.

The crux of demand response in institutional and commercial facilities is reducing kilowatt hours for a designated period. For engineers programming and adjusting building systems and components in preparation for a demand-response event, their focus will be on the facilities' largest energy-using equipment, such as HVAC systems.

For example, to support participation by Allegheny County, Pa., in a demand-response program, steamfitters and boiler operators in the county's facilities act as rovers to ensure independent cooling units in specific facilities are turned off. Engineers and technicians pay close attention to the buildings' air-handling units, due to their energy intensity.

The county's building-automation system (BAS) also is an important piece of the puzzle. The BAS allows engineers to shut down equipment more easily and make sure it operates properly after the demand-response event ends. That way, the energy savings an event has generated do not go to waste due to inefficient operation when systems come back online.

Says Philip La May, the county's deputy director of public works, "Ahead of time, our stationary engineers assigned who would be turning off what equipment and when at each facility. They even set the building-automation system to pre-cool ahead of the event so that some areas that got hot quickly wouldn't be as hot during afternoon hours. They really had to plan for two hours of shutdown because it would take that long for us to get (back to normal operations)."

The test event not only was a success in terms of energy reduction and monetary savings. It also brought to light the important role public works employees play in helping county facilities implement energy-efficiency initiatives.


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