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RTU Network Project Overview

Today's buildings do not participate significantly in the energy market or provide services to power system operators. However, new smart grid technologies are creating a significant potential for buildings to participate in energy markets by providing ancillary services to power system operators. Communication networks and advanced control systems are a necessary enabler of this new potential, and the proposed research provides building owners with information needed to invest in the improvement of their communication and control capabilities. First-year proof-of-concept with existing tools and building systems is needed to establish a baseline of potential savings in out-year deployment. Deployment of advanced control systems for grid integration is expected in the next 5-8 years.

The initial target market is all existing packaged air conditioners and heat pumps that are installed on commercial buildings. These units contribute to 60% of air-conditioning consumption, which is roughly 571 trillion Btus of site electricity and 1.8 quads of source energy annually.

Use of advanced controls and self-correcting controls on existing RTUs will result in significant energy and cost savings and also enhanced maintenance by introducing condition-based maintenance practices and targeting maintenance when needed. The potential savings based on average savings per RTU of 30% are roughly 171 trillion Btus of site electricity and 531 trillion Btus of source energy annually. In addition to improving efficiency and maintenance of the RTUs, the project will also make the RTUs more grid responsive, so they can interact with the grid and provide demand response and ancillary services benefiting both the owner/customer and the utility.

In addition, this project will demonstrate the utilization of RTUs for providing energy services to utilities using autonomous controllers. The goal is to develop next-generation control strategies and validating the strategies by:

  • quantitative analysis of the RTU energy management opportunities within buildings
  • design, prototype, and analysis of the advanced controller strategies for RTUs
  • design and analysis of communication network within building and external interfaces to utility communication networks
  • economic analysis of control strategies.

The rate and granularity of the control for the RTUs determines the types of utility services that can be provided.

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