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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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What buildings have to say to smart grids

The challenges of smart energy are well known. How can we as a society based on cheap plentiful always available energy, adapt to shortages, intermittent availability, and a continuing shortage of capacity to move energy from where we make it to where we want to use it. Local shortages and outages will become the norm, although local surpluses might create greater challenges. Most importantly, how can we adapt without abandoning the life-styles that we enjoy, and that we hope our grandchildren can as well.

The national Priority Action Plans (PAPs) for smart grids and smart energy aim to accelerate development of enabling specifications for smart energy. Most look solely to the internal operations of the electrical grid itself. These activities, while important, can only enable the innovations we need; electrical grids themselves will not be the basis the most important changes.

Others PAPs look to extend grid operations into our lives. PAP11, for example, looks to control and track personal vehicle use in service to the grid. We are not willing as a society to assume our position as cogs in the machine. Utilities and policy makers see this as the happy efficiency of well-ordered future; the public instead sees the dystopian factory of Chaplin’s Modern Times. Perhaps we should be glad that while other action plans focus more on openness and change, this activity is being developed under a veil of trade secrets and inside pool that will only speed the early failure of its model.

The newly formed PAP17 launched the ASHRAE SPC (Standard Project Committee) 201, Facility Smart Grid Information Model. SPC 201 offers a consumer-centric model that can support the rapid changes in the ways we use and manage energy. The focus is on how the systems in buildings can interact to create what grid operators call Distributed Energy Resources (DER). Building-based DER addresses the intermittent shortages and outages of the smart grid directly.

Traditional grid-building interactions use direct control. Turn this off, turn this on, to support the needs of the grid. PAP17 assumes the economic communications of price and availability developed by the market-oriented PAPs, and considers what a building needs to communicate internally so it can be mature market participant.

If each building has its own portfolio of DER, sun, wind, perhaps limited pump storage offered for voltage regulation, batteries, ice, load shedding….That building may use a different suite of internal responses each time it sells a response to the grid. Market participation becomes based on reliably producing a change in power use rather than turning on and off a device. If SPC201 fails, it will fail by failing to embrace this economic model, and letting its engineers revert to a model of direct dispatch by the grid.

A distributed energy resource (DER) may be:

  1. A private asset of the building, used only for the buildings purposes, perhaps when the grid is unavailable, and not revealed to the grid at all
  2. A component of a building’s demand response, so turning off the chiller or turning on the generator are indistinguishable to the grid
  3. An intermittent asset of building with availability characteristics which are *may* be revealed to the grid, i.e., the grid operator may contract to know whether it is sun or wind, so the operator may better estimate when it can be relied upon
  4. A building asset that happens to be operated by a third party. That party *may* happen to be a traditional player, perhaps one called a “utility”. It could just as easily be an ISO, depending on scale and location. Or it could be some new form of energy service provider
  5. Owned by the building but effectively leased to the grid operator, and treated as a forward deployed asset of the grid
  6. Owned and operated by a third party and used as a forward deployed asset of the energy services provider

(4, 5, 6) are the ones that look like direct dispatch as we understand it today—but they need not be. Whether the grid sends market signals that are flash traded to negotiate individual contracts for use of DER, or whether that contract is pre-executed, actual use of that DER is best thought of as a call for performance on the contract. Third party service providers will pay better for guaranteed response, and will demand greater penalties for non-performance when a high service level was promised.

During the National Roadmap efforts in 2009, we used the catch-phrase “Every end-node is a microgrid”. A microgrid is responsible for meeting its own needs and purposes by managing its own energy use, generation, storage, recycling, and market operations to deal with surplus or deficit. Note that the market operations are last. Microgrids are defined recursively (as per Galvin): A suite in a building or a production line could be a microgrid. The office park or campus could be a microgrid containing the building microgrids.

At ConnectivityWeek last May, heard a speaker from the DOW described his big goal that every building be able tolerate 8 days of grid down-time with no loss of amenities. Contemplating this requirement suggests what a poor partner the smart grids will be. SPC201 is reaching toward the information sharing that equipment and systems in buildings and homes will need to support us despite smart grids.

If there is a flowering of Green-Tech, it will come from consumer based markets that can tolerate rapid innovation and change. Those markets will require low integration costs based on loose coupling and energy information sharing.

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Reader Comments (1)


This is an excellent blog post. It complements very well the article written by Steve Bushby and David Holmberg in the Nov. 2009 issue of ASHRAE Journal, "BACnet and the Smart Grid," which is available on the website (free!). Bushby and Holmberg are NIST staff who lead some of the PAPs you describe -- Bushby leads 17, for example.

Good luck, and thanks for the informative post.


October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Ivanovich

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