Overview

“Get Smart,” the opening session in the Shifting Energy Cultures Series, serves as a general introduction to smart grids, smart meters, demand and response, and of course the Drexel Campus Smart Grid – what it is, who runs it, how it works, and what it can tell us about campus energy usage. Each of the events speakers is listed below, with the start time of each talk noted in parentheses with a link to the event video.

Several buildings on campus are part of the smart grid system on campus,  though they serve different functions.
Several buildings on campus are part of the smart grid system on campus, though they serve different functions. (From Paul Reed’s slides.)
This screenshot of the building management system (BMS) interface for the Drexel Smart Grid shows an example of the variety of data available to building managers.
This screenshot of one of the building management system (BMS) interfaces for the Drexel Smart Grid shows an example of the variety of data available to building managers. (From Chika Nwankpa’s slides.)

Related Resources (video, suggested reading, and other links)

Full Get Smart: The Drexel Smart Campus Session – Shifting Energy Culture Series – Get Smart: The Drexel Smart Grid from DrexelView on Vimeo.

Glossary of technical terms, abbreviations, and acronyms –

AMI: Advanced Metering Infrastructure – system of technologies (including smart meters, networking technologies, and data management tools) that facilitates multi-directional communication between utilities and users.

BMS: Building Management System – automated control system that communicates with both the grid and the building HVAC systems.  It takes external demand control input (from Viridity) and adjusts building load accordingly.

Centralized Control: traditional grid control structure with predetermined generation and load resources, unidirectional communication, and with limited room to improve efficiency with extant tech.

CSP: Curtailment Service Provider – companies like Viridity that aid companies and institutions reduce their electricity use, and facilitate communication between the grid operators (like PJM) and the users.

DDC: Direct Digital Control – automated control of a system by computer.

Demand Response: changes in electricity use on the user end, usually in response to market forces.  These can include temporarily turning off an air conditioning unit on a hot day to reduce use and remove stress on the grid, while minimizing effect on the user experience.

FERC: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – regulates interstate transmission of energy resources.

Microgrid: a localized energy grid that can completely disconnect from the full grid and operate independently.

NOC: Network Operations Center – the location from which the smart grid infrastructure is monitored and controlled.

PJM: Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland Interconnection – regional transmission organization that operates the electricity transmission grid; one of the largest electricity markets in the world.

Smart Grid: many varied definitions exist, but most are characterized by multidirectional communication between generation and load resources as well as improved efficiency and reliability.

Q&A Highlights –

  •  Nationally or even just within the PJM market, how much is this happening? How many campuses are campuses are doing this sort of thing? Was Drexel a leader in this effort? Drexel was one of the first to have relatively robust automation and to do price-responsive demand response.  As the technology gets better, campus demand response is becoming more common. Up until about 2004, PJM would only call for load reduction in peak emergency situations.  Almost every large institution (over about a megawatt) has some CSP.
  • Are small scale changes (like installing LEDs) the next big wave in DR technologies? What is the next big wave in this field? There are a lot of options, and companies tend to try to be diverse. Lighting adjustments could potentially work very well as part of the BMS, but batteries may be the next big thing in load management.
  • There seems to be an effort to minimize the impacts to the end-user experience, so what exactly is the relationship between the average member of the Drexel Community and the smart grid systems?  It has changed greatly over the history of the system.  Many of the automated aspects of the system (such as turning off lights) were set on timers, and this required significant trial and error to attempt to minimize those impacts.  Different members of the community reacted differently to these changes, and the variability in use patterns further complicates this.
  • Is Drexel’s smart grid a microgrid? No, it has no generation or storage capacity, and thus cannot operate independently of the grid.
  • Do smart grid and smart metering technologies pose a serious privacy issue?  Potentially, but there is significant data security infrastructure to prevent privacy breaches.  The system goes through several audits and external reviews to ensure information security.  This is a new issue for distribution (because under the older system, information only flows one direction).
  • Smart grid technologies are closely tied to ideas of multidirectional information flow and seem to be compatible with efforts aimed at education or public engagement.  Is the smart grid simulator at Drexel used primarily for research, or is it also used for education and outreach? No, at the moment it is used almost entirely for research purposes, but there are plans to integrate it into courses and make use of it as an educational tool.
With a smart grid infrastructure, the system is more robust to load spikes, and has a number of possible solutions.  These include distributed generation resources, energy storage systems, and controllable building load consumption. (From Paul Reed's slides.)
With a smart grid infrastructure, the system is more robust to load spikes, and has a number of possible solutions. These include distributed generation resources, energy storage systems, and controllable building load consumption. (From Chika Nwankpa’s slides.)

Relevant Links –

What is a Smart Grid? – a brief overview of smart grids from the US DoE.

The Smart Grid – a more in depth look at smart grids, their history, and the actors and activities involved in the OE’s smart grid strategy; provides links to other resources.

Drexel’s Smart Grid – Drexel Green website with descriptions of the various projects to make campus more sustainable, including the smart grid.

Demand Response – an introduction to demand response from the US DoE.

Energy.gov Publications – a list of publications that introduce smart grid technologies and the issues surrounding them, organzied for different specialized audiences (including the general public, consumer advocates, environmental groups, utilities, policy makers, and others).

Further Reading –

Hao, H., Y. Lin, A.S. Kowli, P. Barooah, and S. Meyn. “Ancillary Service to the Grid Through Control of Fans in Commercial Building HVAC Systems.” IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid 5, no. 4 (July 2014): 2066–74. doi:10.1109/TSG.2014.2322604.

Liu, Bing, Rufei Liu, Xiushan Lu, Yongqiang Xie, and Xiaomei Wang. “Study of the Virtual Reality Smart Simulation Campus Based on Vega.” In 2011 Second International Conference on Mechanic Automation and Control Engineering (MACE), 6864–67, 2011. doi:10.1109/MACE.2011.5988625.

Hess, David J. “Smart Meters and Public Acceptance: Comparative Analysis and Governance Implications.” Health Risk & Society 16, no. 3 (April 3, 2014): 243–58. doi:10.1080/13698575.2014.911821.

Makkonen, H., V. Tikka, T. Kaipia, J. Lassila, J. Partanen, and P. Silventoinen. “Implementation of Smart Grid Environment in Green Campus Project.” In Integration of Renewables into the Distribution Grid, CIRED 2012 Workshop, 1–4, 2012. doi:10.1049/cp.2012.0825.

Makkonen, H., V. Tikka, J. Lassila, J. Partanen, and P. Silventoinen. “Green Campus – Energy Management System.” In 22nd International Conference and Exhibition on Electricity Distribution (CIRED 2013), 1–4, 2013. doi:10.1049/cp.2013.1088.

Park, Chan-Kook, Hyun-Jae Kim, and Yang-Soo Kim. “A Study of Factors Enhancing Smart Grid Consumer Engagement.” Energy Policy 72 (September 2014): 211–18. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2014.03.017.

Soder, Lennart. “Explaining Power System Operation to Nonengineers.” IEEE Power Engineering Review 22, no. 4 (April 2002): 25–27. doi:10.1109/MPER.2002.994846.

Discussion Questions

  1. As mentioned in the Q&A, multidirectional information flow and communication are key to smart grid technologies.  What sorts of educational opportunities does this present, and, more generally, what sorts of social or political relationships might these technologies be most compatible with?
  2. During the Q&A, Paul Reed mentioned that one advantage of using smart grid technologies in a campus setting is the ability to aggregate demand response efforts across multiple buildings, minimizing the effects to each individual space.  What are some other advantages of considering campus environments as unitary energy systems?
  3. Current smart grid technologies at Drexel are largely invisible to end-users, partly due to the high degree of automation.  Is this the best arrangement, or would it be better to integrate user experience and knowledge?  What should be the balance between invisibility (minimizing changes to user experience) and integration (responding to the users’ feedback)?
  4. Smart grid technologies seem to have numerous advantages (increased efficiency, monetary savings, diversification of generation sources, among others), but there has been some resistance to attempts to implement smart grids.  What are some of the disadvantages or perceived disadvantages (for example, the privacy question that came up in the Q&A)?
  5. As Chika Nwankpa said during the Q&A, Drexel’s smart grid currently does not function as a microgrid because it lacks storage or generation capacity, and cannot function independently.  What are the advantages and disadvantages of each, as well as a system that is both?
  6. There seems to be significant interest in batteries as an increasingly important aspect of these systems (possibly in a shift towards smart microgrids).  Why might batteries be the “next big wave” and what factors complicate their large-scale integration into the energy system?

Speaker Biographies

Derrick Dickens, “Challenges to the Electric Industry as Opportunities for Positive Change” (2:15).  Derrick is a Director at PECO Energy, which is a subsidiary of Exelon Corp. He has an engineering degree as well as a MBA from LaSalle University. Derrick has held various leadership positions in the Defense, Telecommunications, non-Profit and Utility industries over the past 20 years.  In the most recent nine years Derrick has managed various organizations in Engineering, Technical Services, Support Services, Field Operations and merger integration at PECO.  In his current role as Director of Advance Meter Infrastructure, Derrick has responsibility for the delivery of the Smart Grid/Smart Meter program that will introduce a Wireless Communication Network, AMI Smart Meters(Electric & Gas), Distribution Automation as well as Intelligent Substations across the 2,100 square mile PECO territory.

Paul Reed, “Viridity Energy and Drexel University” (12:02).  Paul joined Viridity in 2010, and has played an integral role in the evolution of the company as Director of Solutions Engineering.  Paul’s versatile role involves interaction with all aspects of a young, start-up technology company, including partnership management, storage project development, sales engineering, industrial business development, and financial analysis. Paul’s current focus is on the expansion of Viridity’s battery storage fleet, along with the development of strategic commercial partnerships. Prior to joining Viridity, Paul worked for a sales engineering consulting firm, where he focused on a project study of the Canadian power sector for rail regenerative braking technologies.  Paul’s background also includes process engineering in a body armor manufacturing plant.  Paul has a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering with minors in Physics/Economics from the University of Delaware, along with a MBA with a focus on Finance & Entrepreneurship, also from UDel.  While at UDel, Paul worked for the Office of Economic Innovation & Partnerships to develop & license Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) electric vehicle technologies. Paul Reed’s Slides

Bill Taylor, “Drexel University Smart Campus” (28:15). Bill has a BA from the University of Scranton and an Engineering BS from Drexel.  Prior to his work at Drexel, he was a Construction Foreman for a telecommunications company. Bill has held several titles in the 30 years that he has been with the Drexel community, working in University Facilities, including Assistant Manager of Utilities, Manager of Special Projects, Building Systems Manager, Senior Plant Engineer, Director of Plant Maintenance, and Director of Mechanical Services.  In his current position as Executive Director of Mechanical Services and Maintenance, he works with ten other managers and supervisors, as well as nearly 100 skilled mechanics and specialized contractors, to care for the maintenance and mechanical systems of approximately 60 University buildings.  This division of University Facilities is responsible for all painting, plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, roof repairs, locks, furniture repair, elevators, heating, cooling, ventilation, refrigeration, steam distribution, electrical distribution, building controls, and fire safety.

New, digital meters have been installed that use higher sampling rates and give real time data on voltage.  These metering interfaces connect to the BMS to allow the data to be compiled and accessed.
New, digital meters have been installed that use higher sampling rates and give real time data on voltage. These metering interfaces connect to the BMS to allow the data to be compiled and accessed.
Smart grid technologies can  help automate energy saving practices, such as manually turning lights off when they are not in use.
Smart grid technologies can help automate energy saving practices, such as manually turning lights off when they are not in use.
One of the "chillers" that helps regulate the temperature of the library and law building.  At night, these chillers use the off-peak electricity to make ice, and during the day, the only energy this cooling system requires is used to run fans that circulate air through the ice to cool it then through the building.
One of the “chillers” that helps regulate the temperature of the library and law building. At night, these chillers use the off-peak electricity to make ice, and during the day, the only energy this cooling system requires is used to run fans that circulate air through the ice to cool it then through the building.

 

Chika O. Nwankpa, “Drexel Smart Campus Project” (44:19). Dr. Nwankpa received his Magistr Diploma in Electric Power Systems from St. Petersburg State Polytechnical University, He received his Ph.D. degree in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1990.  He is currently a Full Professor and Interim Head of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Drexel University as well as Director for the Center for Electric Power Engineering (CEPE), which supports the research and instructional program of Drexel University in academic areas associated with electric energy and power. In pursuing these goals, the CEPE works with electric utilities, state and federal agencies, private industries, nonprofit organizations and other universities on a wide spectrum of projects. Among awards and recognition received are a Presidential Faculty Fellow Award, a NSF Research Initiation Award, and a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). His research interests are in the areas of power systems and power electronics.  His recent work has been in power electronic converters, analog VLSI circuits, power system computational methods and information embedded power systems.  Chika Nwankpa’s slides