Even if new buildings are connected to Internet, they usually don't communicate between themselves. And when it comes to electricity, these buildings are selfish and consume what they want without any coordination. Now, a system developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is using Web services to collectively adjust power usage to variations in price. In "Internet ups power grid IQ," Technology Research News reports that the system was successfully tested for two weeks on five commercial buildings. "Beyond price, systems could be programmed to respond to changes in air quality or to tap into sustainable energy sources."
In a two-week test that involved five commercial buildings, the researchers showed that it was possible to use Internet-based price broadcasting to vary power use according to predetermined price thresholds. During the test, five different commercial buildings management systems responded to price adjustments within two minutes, said Mary Ann Piette, principal investigator of Berkeley Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division.
Here are the five buildings which were tested (Credit: Mary Ann Piette). This image comes from a presentation she gave at the SVMG Energy Summit IV Competitive Energy Solutions for California which was held on May 27, 2004 (PDF format, 6 pages, 855 KB).
During the test, the researchers broadcast the pricing information, formatted in the Web-standard Extensible Markup Language (XML), to an Albertsons grocery store in Oakland, a Bank of America office building in Concord, the Roche Palo Alto biotechnology facility, a library at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland.
How does this system work?
Berkeley researchers wrote an XML schema based on work by Infotility Inc., an energy market information software and Web services company.
The Berkeley Lab twice signaled price increases that triggered reductions in the buildings' energy use -- at 30-cents and 75-cents per hour -- following criteria established by the buildings' facility managers. The building control systems triggered the required adjustments within two minutes, said Piette.
This diagram shows how the system physically works (Credit: Mary Ann Piette). This image is extracted from "Demand Responsive Technology Demonstrations for Large Commercial and Institutional Buildings" (PDF format, 1 page, 1.13 MB)
Can this system be extended and generalized? The answer is definitively yes.
The test was a good if narrow proof of building energy management systems' ability to respond to price changes, according to Stephen Connors, coordinator and multidisciplinary research director at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Laboratory for Energy and the Environment.
Beyond price, systems could be programmed to respond to changes in air quality, to participate in emissions trading schemes, to tap into sustainable energy sources, to coordinate the responses of groups of buildings, and possibly to minimize local brownout threats and price spikes, according to Connors. "There's still some wiggle room. But, all in all, it's a very cool beginning," he said.
Sources: Ted Smalley Bowen, Technology Research News, June 16/23, 2004; and various websites