GridWise: The Right Place At An Exceptional Time

August 10, 2007
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Peter Kelly-Detwiler, of Constellation New Energy, may have been the first to use “perfect storm” as a metaphor to articulate the breadth of factors that affect the world now and the disruptive influence they are likely to have on day-to-day activities in buildings.

As chairman of the DOE GridWise Architecture Council (GWAC) and a long-term proponent of intelligent buildings, it is clear to me that the industry is facing unparalleled challenge and opportunity (other council members may be found at www.gridwiseac.org). Perhaps the most significant catalyst for activity in buildings is green, and many people think first of the USGBC LEED® program.

GridWise And Beyond

Clearly, LEED has achieved a great deal, but this definition of green is slightly different. Smart, or intelligent, buildings use technology to consume energy in a clean and efficient way, therefore becoming green buildings. However, GridWise looks beyond the individual intelligent building to a larger network of intelligent buildings residing on an intelligent electric grid.

Recognizing that many have heard little about GridWise, it bears noting that this is a DOE-sponsored initiative. Furthermore, it may not be surprising that August 14, 2003 is a significant electricity industry date. That was when the East Coast blacked out, an event that motivated excitement in the media and on Capitol Hill about the need for electricity reliability. A similar event has not happened again, but several more localized large-scale interruptions have.

More alarming, the U.S. electric system is facing an unprecedented increase in the demand for electricity, 40% over the next 20 years, and is in dire need of a way to keep pace with demand, keep the lights on, and modernize an infrastructure that is older than most baby boomers. Combine issues of reliability with the clear need to improve efficiency and issues of climate change - 39% of greenhouse gas emissions come from power plants - and the stage is set for a major transformation of the supply and consumption of electricity, as well as energy on the larger scale.

When the opportunity arose to assemble a group of industry leaders for a GridWise-focused edition of Green Intelligent Buildings, there was no hesitation. In these pages, readers will gain a perspective from well known buildings and systems experts, along with electricity industry leaders. The breadth of topics is impressive and likely to expand the readers’ energy horizons.

The Next Killer App

IT professionals like to talk about the killer app (application), like the spreadsheet. The next generation of building-related killer app will be spawned by the GridWise movement.

In fact, the first building killer app in the energy space is without question demand response (DR). By now, everyone has heard about how the Demand Response Institute at UC Berkley used XML-based price signal and automation systems in five buildings to shed 250 kW of electrical load with no human interaction. If you do some simple math, this means that it would be possible to shed a megawatt of load with around 20 automated buildings!

Independent system operators (ISOs), who are the wholesalers for electricity, are driving DR programs from coast to coast, and this is a truly exciting engineered systems opportunity.

DR is a simple way to leverage the power of automation to create a cooperative sequence between the building and the utility that saves money and relieves load on the electric grid. With GridWise, IT interoperability will lead to apps that start with DR as a basic curtailment (turning electric loads off) program, but then to expand a truly intelligent building functionality that reshapes the load curve by leveraging automation.

And The Winners Are ...

These new automation functions might include strategies that: shift load, integrate combined heat and power, leverage merchant power, and even change the way that a company does business. Initially this sounds a little vague, so in May, the GWAC inaugurated the GridWise Applied Awards to highlight real-world application/implementation of GridWise interoperability principles in products, services, and projects.

GridWise Applied awards were given to two companies and two individuals who embody the spirit of these interoperability principles. These principles were published as part of the GridWise Constitution (www.GridWise.com) and are a foundation for evaluating the characteristics of the next generation electric grid.

The companies recognized this year with GridWise Applied Awards were Site Controls (www.site-controls.com) and Cimetrics (www.cimetrics.com). Individuals recognized were Toby Considine, of the University of North Carolina, and Joe Desmond, former chairman of the California Energy Commission.

Space does not permit detailing how these companies and individuals are using smart energy technology to bridge the meter and create true value for both owners and utilities. I encourage you to explore this issue of GIBT to learn more about GridWise and what the future holds for IT and electricity. GIB

Recent Articles by Jack Mc Gowan, CEM

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