Demand for electricity continues to grow in the U.S.; by some estimates, the demand is expected to increase as much as 40% by the year 2030. Traditional approaches to meet the demand would require significant resources. However, part of the growth can be offset by making the grid "smart" through increased availability of energy-information technologies.
Making the grid smart is only half the solution. The other half of the solution is to make the buildings more energy efficient and "smart" as well. Because buildings consume over 70% of the total electricity in the U.S, they need to be part of the transformation to make the grid smarter. Furthermore, renewable portfolio standards in many part of the U.S. are increasing the renewable generation significantly. Much of the renewable generation is distributed and variable, which could cause reliability problems for the electric grid unless there is significant standby backup generation. However, by integrating the building loads with the grid operations the buildings loads can be used to mitigate variations in distributed renewable generation and to provide ancillary services. For the building loads to be able to participate in the energy markets, suitable infrastructure and a transactional platform is needed. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has developed one such platform that will enable building-grid integration.
Transactional Network (TN) Platform
PNNL, with funding from the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Building Technologies Office (BTO), designed, prototyped and tested a transactional network platform. The platform consists of VOLTTRON Lite™ agent execution software, a number of agents that perform specific function (fault detection, demand response, weather service, logging service, etc.). The platform is intended to support energy, operational and financial transactions between networked entities (equipment, organizations, buildings, grid, etc.). PNNL demonstrated transactions between packaged rooftop air conditioners and heat pumps units (RTUs) and the electric grid using applications or "agents" that reside on the platform, on the equipment, on local building controller or in the Cloud.
The transactional network project is a multi-laboratory effort with Oakridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) also contributing to the effort. PNNL is coordinating the project and also is responsible for the development of the TN platform and a number of applications.
PNNL developed three agents or applications to demonstrate the TN concept with RTUs. The first two agents run on the platform, while the third runs in the Cloud but analyzes the data from the RTUs provided by the TN platform: