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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
Jun272007

The Big Picture on Energy and Carbon

Demand Limiting. Load Control. These approaches to saving energy have been around in some form for a while. The problem is, the applications to-date have been centrally controlled. Sign up for this program months in advance, and then the Power Company controls your [water heater]. But what if I live in Marin County and feel that my hot tub / water heater is mission critical from Friday noon through Sunday? Too bad. Consumers do not want loss of control. This limits participation.

Recently, a professionally Green university administrator confessed to me that he “used to do that, but didn’t anymore.” What was the problem? For the few weeks a year that his kids came home from college, he could never get adequate hot water. There was no easy way for him to bow out of the program on short notice. It took phone calls, forms, lead times…so now he does not do it at all.

New initiatives are getting closer to changing this. There are now a couple web services protocols for building controls: oBIX and BACnet-WS. The newest Windows now is able to discover such services automatically using WS-Device. Soon there will be software to let your PC discover and operate building systems much as they discover printers today. It is not hard to imagine an agent talking to the power spot market, talking down to the systems, reading the electric meter live…

Some of the so-called “Zero Energy” initiatives envision each building supported by multiple on-site energy collection and generation systems. Based upon the building’s operating posture, and the mix of energy sources available, such a building would pull 35% or less of its total energy budget from the grid. If the facility includes local buffering and storage of electrical energy, whether this buffering is souped-up traditional batteries or new-fangled hydrogen storage, this becomes viable. On-site DC power generation can be stored in those batteries without the losses you would expect converting AC to DC first. If the building negotiates with the grid for spot pricing to influence the internal decisions, then it is also part of GridWise.

If future houses support DC distribution and internal use, then the batteries can become the primary source for the house. This increases the life of the batteries with no new storage technology, as it does away with the losses from converting back to AC. Most devices in modern houses are DC anyway, with very inefficient brick transformers that may convert a third of the power coming into your house to heat. The Galvin Electricity Initiative (www.galvinpower.org) is a good source for the engineering behind this. With appropriate local buffering, an awful lot of power consumption can be shifted to off hours without loss of occupant autonomy.

GridWise envisions a future power grid broken down into separate clearing markets for Generation, Transmission, Distribution, and Customer Face. Customers would be able to negotiate directly for green power at a premium price if they so desired. Others would be able to negotiate for the cheapest solution. Neighborhoods could opt for their own intelligent distributions systems, with higher reliability profiles than the grid provides. Customer Faces would aggregate customers with similar profiles, based on price sensitivity or reliability or social consciousness, for billing and for operation of home control systems.

The market oriented approach of GridWise is rare among energy initiatives because it anticipates driving efficiencies through heterogeneity consumer choice and thereby driving market innovations.

As the grid becomes “the thing that charges your batteries”, it becomes cheaper to put alternative energies on the grid. The grid does not need to be so concerned with frequency regulation and other arcana. This means “unreliable” sources such as solar and wind can increase their proportion of the energy load without taking down the grid.

All these innovative strategies are driven by more efficient clearing of actual instantaneous energy pricing, and making it less onerous for the consumer, whether home or business, to participate. The effect on power with today’s technologies and market structures, as some have said above, is limited. Hourly, or better minute-by-minute, energy pricing is a necessary precursor to developing the markets that make these strategies worth pursuing.

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