Can information technology and smart building controls reduce the need to build expensive new electricity transmission lines? Researchers at the DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory think they might. In a demonstration with the Bonneville Power Administration, PNNL is exploring the impacts of reducing electrical demand and on-site energy production at several buildings in Richland, WA 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 BPA 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.