The first-ever GridWeek was a great success. And, although I thought I had been keeping on top of the GridWise movement by reading all the articles and interviews on my website (AutomatedBuildings.com), GridWeek provided many opportunities to learn more.

Gridwise Demand Response

A $900 billion market opportunity was identified for the industry to make the national grid smart and wise with interactive connectivity. I was pleased to learn that GridWise demand response (DR) and GridWise devices are able to provide quicker response time than existing generation control. This provides yet another reason for the generation folks to invest in our industry. Conservation and DR coupled with smart grid approaches are being billed as the new fuel for the electrical grid.

What is DR? DR is the technique to reduce demand for energy (mainly electricity in this context), especially at times when the electric system is working near to or at the peak demand loads.

If demand for energy at these times can be managed, energy suppliers (utilities and independent system operators) will be able to reduce the amount of generation required to supply the demand, and thus curtail expensive generation to be started. In the longer term, the ability for energy suppliers to contract the avoidance of energy at peak times will remove the need for building new power plants and transmission systems. In this scenario, the utilities will effectively be looking at energy consumers as an alternative “power source.” This is a tricky concept to grasp, but it is the reality of today’s and tomorrow’s energy landscape.

Hybrid and electrical vehicles, which are appearing as strong solutions in the transportation industry, present an opportunity to help with peaking and DR. This involves the ability to do what has never been done before on a large scale - provide the storage of electricity off peak in an incredible distributed network that is part of where the energy is used. Opportunities abound, and the hallways were buzzing with excitement about the next steps in modernizing the U.S. electrical grid.

At GridWeek in Washington, we witnessed the winds of change blowing in several directions and at several levels. The event allowed the politicians, electrical regulators, generation and distribution folks, and the technology providers a common venue to talk about the smart grid of the future and changes that would be required.

I was also pleased to hear how connectivity and innovation will help change grid users’ behavior by communicating price breaks for time-of-day billing using new connectivity paths. The evolution of building integrators to grid integrators was a great revelation that greatly increases the scope and reach of our industry.

We Even Do Windows!

I am continuously amazed at the new reach of the building automation industry -- a point which is driven home by an article on our website this month by Thanos Tzempelikos, M.A.Sc., Ph.D., Solar Buildings Research Network, Department of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Concordia University titled “Integration of Dynamic Facades With Other Building Systems,” 

“Recent studies have shown that appropriate fenestration/shading design and control, linked with simultaneous control of electric lighting and HVAC components, could significantly reduce peak cooling load and energy consumption for lighting and cooling, while maintaining good thermal and lighting indoor conditions.”

The article continues.

“Driven by technological advances in transparent building facades and the general motivation for high quality green buildings, facade design alternatives have shifted to utilizing dynamic fenestration and shading systems for optimal control of daylight and solar gains. The concept of dynamic facades (installing controllable elements on the building envelope) is not new; however, it is only during the last few years that architects and engineers have started to trust these systems and use them in buildings.

“Working in projects with dynamic facade technologies has shown that, for an average size building (10 to 15 stories, 50,000 sq ft) with glazed facades, the energy savings for cooling due to automated shading and lighting control could reach 40%, while the lighting energy consumption can be reduced by more than 60%, compared to a passive envelope design. Peak cooling load can also be reduced by 20% to 40%. These make dynamic envelope technologies very attractive, since they contribute to reduction in energy demand, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and healthier building environments.”

So there you have it. Yes, we now do windows as well as the national electrical grid. Convergence and deep connectivity, plus several other new concepts occurring daily, are taking the building automation industry in several new directions simultaneously. Are you able to keep on top of these radical changes? I know it is a challenge for me to keep up, but the army of innovators providing us articles and interviews for AutomatedBuildings.com are my greatest personal resource. ES