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Smart Grid and Demand Response Component of PSU’s Clean Energy Upgrade Project.

PSU has made a clear commitment to establishing a sustainable physical campus that can serve as a model to universities across the county.  In 2010, the university adopted a Climate Action Plan (CAP) and set a target to reduce energy use 25 percent below 2000 levels through energy efficiency and demand management.  It also completed a 10-year University District Framework Plan positioned the campus as the institutional anchor of the South of Market (SoMa) EcoDistrict. This EcoDistrict includes 90 city blocks and approximately 9 million square feet of office, residential and university space.  An estimated 50% of buildings in the district are owned by PSU. 

Current planning documents for PSU and the SoMa EcoDistrict call for an explicit focus on building retrofits to reduce carbon emissions generated by natural gas and electricity.  Buildings currently account for 36 percent of PSU carbon emissions and are therefore a central target of climate mitigation strategies. PSU is now pursuing funding for a number of intriguing energy projects that could help the university reach its clean energy commitments. An important objective of these project is to engage students and faculty in hands-on, live projects utilizing the campus as a living laboratory. 

One of the largest proposals that could provide interesting opportunities for guidance from a student team is the Campus-Wide Energy Efficiency Retrofit Project. This project been submitted to the US Economic Development Administration in the Department of Commerce and PSU expects a response by early April. This proposal focuses on upgrading the campus district energy loop, establishing comprehensive metering across campus, and constructing a “visualization theater” to model and display energy efficiency benefits on campus. 

The proposal’s District Energy Upgrade Component includes the replacement a 50-year boiler with a significantly more efficient boiler and other upgrades to the district energy loop to lower PSU’s carbon footprint and reduce operating costs.  One possible option would be to convert the district energy system from a low-pressure steam based to a water-based system that is more efficient, cheaper to install and maintain, safer, and are more compatible with combined heat and power systems allowing for cheaper and more efficient production of heat and electricity. Such a system could also support the integration of wind and solar and other intermittent renewable energy options by providing most of the water heating when the wind is blowing and the sun shining and storing that energy as hot water when wind and solar energy are not available.

The proposal’s Campus-Wide Metering Component would significantly improve the metering of campus buildings and install a new metering software system to more efficiently and effectively track energy and utility use. The proposal involves the installation of domestic water, chilled water and heating hot water, natural gas and electrical meters on 23 campus buildings. The system is expected to be a web-based energy monitoring service that will track buildings energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and help with identifying areas where efficiency can be increased. A detailed study of the potential for each building on campus has already been completed.

PSU is also submitting a proposal to BPA through its FY 2014 Technology Innovation Funding Opportunity.  BPA offers $3.5 million in funding through this program and supports projects between $50,000-$500,000 each year, for up to three years; ir requires a 50 percent cost share.

PSU’s proposal addresses one of the focus areas BPA has indicated interest in exploring – lighting controls that could provide both energy efficiency (EE) and demand response (DR) benefits. Demand response is defined by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council as “a voluntary and temporary change in consumers’ use of electricity when the power system is stressed.“ BPA is particularly interested in establishing the technical feasibility and programmatic requirements of using various end use loads to decrease loads (and/or in some cases increase loads) in response to utility peaks, integration of renewable energy generation, or other grid conditions. In its guidance document for this funding opportunity, BPA notes that while lighting is most popular EE measure in the Northwest, “other regions of the USA routinely use lighting controls for both DR and EE purposes, with DR and EE measures often installed at the same time, with incentives paid for both attributes. The PNW lags all regions in the consideration of lighting for DR uses. It would be helpful to examine what can be done to get some DR value from lighting system retrofits and improved design of new lighting systems.” BPA suggests that some proposals might “assess and demonstrate the use of lighting controls to provide DR.”

PSU’s proposal does this by providing the capability to dim selected lights in response to a DR event. A lighting control system that is capable of responding to a DR signal would require:

  • A lighting system that is integrated into a building management system (BMS) and is thus capable of remote management;
  • A system that can interact with multiple independent an potentially different BMS’; and
  • The integration of this system in ways that ensure that it can accept and respond to an OpenADR signal.

Among other things, a student team could help determine what lighting control system would opportunity for success in meeting PSU needs and support the relevant objectives of both the Economic Development Commission grant and BPA’s Technology Innovation Funding Opportunity.

In addition to the course faculty, it is expected that the advisors on this project would include: Jason Franklin, PSU’s Director of Campus Planning and Design; Dan Zalkow, PSU’s Executive Director, Planning, Construction & Real Estate, Finance & Administration; Kathleen Belkhayat, Business Sector Project Manager for the Energy Trust of Oregon and a course alumnus.  We may also work with Erin Flynn, PSU’s Associate Vice President in the Office of Research and Strategic Partnerships.