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Why New Daedalus?

Daedalus was the mythical great architect and artificer of the classical world. Today, embedded intelligence is enabling the most profound changes in the way we create and use buildings since his day.

Building Intelligence meets the Intelligent Building. The Intelligent Building negotiates with the Intelligent Grid. How will this transform how we interact with the physical world?

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Wednesday
Oct172007

ZEB – Shifting Power Consumption in Zero Energy Buildings

Today’s building is unable to recognize congestion on the power grid, and so uses power without regard to its scarcity or abundance. Today’s power grid was designed in the 1930’s when there was no way to send signals across the grid. Tomorrow’s grid will know when power is scarcer than demand, and will be able to inform buildings. This information will come in the most traditional form: price.

In the post Zero Energy Buildings Explained, I described buildings able to buffer their demand for energy. We generally call electrical buffers “batteries”; many other technologies can be used. I know one installer of off-grid systems who stores energy in water in bath-tubs in the attic. Buffers require merely that we have some way to save energy for later, and some way to charge up that storage.

These innovative approaches are all driven by introducing actual instantaneous energy pricing. This is similar to the congestion pricing that is now used to reduce traffic in London, and is being discussed for use in New York. In simplest terms, when everyone wants power, it becomes expensive. When fewer people want power, it is cheaper. If you can shift when your building needs power from the grid to times when no fewer people are using it, you save money. If you can provide power to the grid when everyone wants it, you get more money.

There are three ways to you can shift energy consumption from the grid.

  1. You can turn off things when power is expensive.
  2. You can store energy for later use in buffers (batteries).
  3. You can, if your building understands its occupants, push system usage around based upon your needs and current pricing.

We need little technology for the first option. A red light and a siren could tell you to rush around and turn off lights. You could let the power company turn off anything they chose when they choose. A lot of people are stuck at this point. The effect on power with this approach, and with today’s market structures is limited

Two-way communication with the power grid would enable (2) and (3). Live pricing would let you decide how you operate your office or home. If you have some way to talk to all the systems in your home, you can coordinate their performance. (Remember, although I have been obsessing on the grid, this is a blog about oBIX and intelligent buildings…) . Hourly, or better minute-by-minute, energy pricing is a necessary precursor to developing the markets that make these strategies worth pursuing.

An intelligent agent, negotiating on your behalf with the power company and with the building systems will make this less onerous for the consumer, whether home or business, to participate. This agent could run on your home computer, it could run in your data center, negotiating with all the enterprise operations in the office, or it could be outsourced to anyone, not limited to the traditional power companies.

Because there is money to be found with these approaches, there will be money in developing products to better serve these approaches. You, as the owner / operator of the home or office will be able to choose how you participate. Money plus choice means markets, and markets drive innovation.

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