Smart Building Controls
RICHLAND, Wash., -- Information technology and smart building controls may be able to reduce the need to build expensive new electricity transmission lines, according to researchers at the U.s. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PPNL).
In a demonstration with the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal agency, PNNL is exploring the impacts of reducing electrical demand and on-site energy production at several buildings in Richland, where PNNL performs research for the federal government.
At the Applied Process Engineering Laboratory, PNNL installed a 30-kilowatt microturbine system. The small, natural gas-powered turbine can be started remotely by the Bonneville Power Administration to produce electricity for the building during times of peak electrical demand.
This on-site production, called distributed generation, helps reduce stress on transmission lines by supplying some of the power for the building directly instead of pulling from the regional power grid.
A second project eases stress on the grid by allowing BPA to reduce the demand for power by remotely turning off heating, ventilating, and air conditioning equipment at two smaller buildings and the 200,000-square-foot Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL). At the big lab building, six air handlers are cycled on and off, 10 minutes at a time.
Unlike radio-controlled methods that utilities have used elsewhere, this system uses the Internet and computerized equipment to make changes without any physical action necessary at the buildings.
"Our engineers have preprogrammed a sequence of power-saving actions that take place once BPA remotely initiates load shedding," said Srinivas Katipamula, PNNL's project manager. "But ultimately, occupant safety and comfort take precedence."
Elsewhere, utilities have demonstrated that reduced demand and distributed generation can defer the building of new electrical generation facilities. In the Northwest, the Bonneville Power Administration through its Non-Wires Solutions program, is exploring ways to defer the construction of new transmission lines throughout the region. The PNNL demonstration project is part of this effort.
Mike Hoffman, a Bonneville Power Administration public utilities specialist, says, "It is not unusual for construction of a transmission line to cost upwards of $100 million or more."
Commercial buildings are considered an untapped resource for direct load control, and there are more than 4.7 million commercial buildings in United States. "While the PNNL demonstration project is relatively small, providing a total of just 175 to 275 kilowatts of load reduction at any given time, the potential for savings is great," said Katipamula.
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