The potential energy savings are probably the most important benefit of any building integration, but all too often people fail to appreciate how these very same savings can contribute even more through the use of a demand response program. Intelligent Utility highlights some of the biggest opportunities for buildings to take part in these programs, even if they cannot necessarily just shut the lights off.
Demand response programs are an increasingly common tool used by utilities to help balance the electrical load on the grid.
Both individuals and businesses are able to sign up for the program, pledging to cut consumption by a certain amount when called upon generally in exchange for a flat rebate and a price per kilowatt of reduced consumption – though for residential clients and smaller businesses this process might be handled remotely by the utility.
Intelligent Utility looks at five of the biggest energy consumers – factories, hospitals, schools and universities, data centers and commercial buildings – and ways that they can often take part in these programs.
Factories have likely the greatest potential, because they can scale back their production processes if the savings from the demand response program are worth the cost. Most other buildings are not so fortunate, since data centers must handle whatever data is thrown their way, while schools, hospitals and commercial buildings often must have access to all their equipment at any given point and need to maintain a consistent comfortable temperature.
Plenty of options, and growing interest
However, all of these buildings have at least one important opportunity to cut down their energy consumption when the time comes – pre-chilling. This technique ramps up the air conditioning system for some time before the demand event, letting this cold air keep the temperature relatively comfortable throughout. With an efficient HVAC system and effective building controls, this approach can allow almost any building to take part in demand response systems.
With sufficiently advanced automatic lighting controls and newer, more efficient lighting installations, essentially all of these buildings should also be able to curtail some of their energy usage by dimming lights or turning them off completely in areas where they are not necessarily needed.
In addition to these options, many factories and data centers, as well as some commercial buildings, can actually use demand events as an opportunity to make use of on-site backup generators. By drawing from a building’s own generators rather than the grid, these buildings can simultaneously avoid the high energy costs at peak hours and get an added payment for curtailing their energy usage.
While building integration is not always mentioned as a critical aspect of demand response, Today’s Facility Manager reports that the U.S. Green Building Council and the Environmental Defense Fund have started a drive to incorporate these programs into all Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified buildings. The new Automated Demand Response program hopes to tap into the huge momentum that LEED has generated in recent years.