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Connected Campuses to Test Transactive Energy

PNNL partners with Washington State's two biggest universities to advance smart grid efforts

November 2015
Building Operations Control Center
On PNNL's campus, the Building Operations Control Center (BOCC) serves as a portal for people to connect to intelligent infrastructure from the smart grid, down to buildings, systems, and components.

By now, the term "smart grid" has become standard nomenclature when referring to grid modernization technologies. But smarter technologies are only half of the solution—buildings have to be smart too. A first-of-its-kind regional partnership in Washington State seeks to develop and demonstrate the technologies to cost effectively balance energy use among buildings, campuses, and cities.

Matching a $2.25 million Clean Energy Fund grant from the Washington Department of Commerce, DOE's Offices of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability are supporting a multi-campus demonstration of transaction-based energy management. PNNL, Washington State University, and the University of Washington are teaming on the effort, which builds on their involvement in the recently completed Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project.

Transactive Times

This is the first time researchers will test the use of transactive control of building loads at this scale, involving multiple buildings and devices. The transactive concept combines financial signals and dynamic control techniques to shift the timing and quantity of energy usage in devices, buildings and campuses resulting in greater efficiency and reduced energy costs, while also providing significant flexibility for the power grid.

"Washington is at the cutting edge of clean energy technologies," said Washington Governor Jay Inslee. "We are proud to see PNNL leading DOE's efforts around energy storage and transactive energy control, and our state's two largest research universities working with public and private electric utilities to demonstrate how these technologies will enable grid modernization on a large scale."

PNNL’s Tech at the Heart

The project will first establish an enduring test bed that will enable research projects. Equipped with PNNL's VOLTTRON™ software platform, buildings systems and equipment will exchange information and automatically adjust energy loads based on pre-determined criteria related to energy prices, essential services, comfort levels, time of day, etc. VOLTTRON™ acts much like a cell phone operating system; it allows "apps" to perform both information sensing and control actions. In the case of energy use, this enables agreed upon actions for each responsive building or energy resource within each campus, without human interaction.

With this method, both WSU and UW will manage their onsite power generation. The project will first establish an enduring test bed that will enable research projects. The test bed will allow researchers to understand how adjusting loads could help local and regional grids and, one day, benefit the campuses financially. Initially, there will be no literal financial exchanges and the pricing signals will be historic and not live data, although researchers hope to get to that point.

The research is scheduled to continue through 2017. For more information, read the PNNL news release.

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