The role of buildings in advancing clean and efficient energy technology has been well established.
Now buildings are getting smarter and are connecting to form their own communities that achieve even greater levels of energy innovation.
On Nov. 2, 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) kicked off what it is referring to as a “new era for grid-efficient buildings.” The event marked the launch of the DOE’s Connected Communities cohort. This is a collaboration of nine projects, each of which were awarded funding by the DOE for their own innovation in connected energy-efficient buildings. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is acting as the national coordinator for this cohort.
The DOE’s Connected Communities is intended to drive innovation in building energy consumption by emphasizing how groups of buildings can work together to maximize the use of distributed energy resources (DERs) such as solar power, energy efficiency, electric vehicles, battery storage and other state-of-the-art technology.
The DOE defines a connected community as a group of grid-interactive efficient buildings with diverse, flexible end-use equipment and other DERs that work collectively to maximize building, community and grid efficiency while still meeting occupants’ needs and comforts.
Last year, the department issued a large funding opportunity announcement and selected projects that demonstrate how connected communities can serve as assets to the electrical grid. The cohort that was kicked off earlier this month represents a collaboration of the nine projects that were awarded funding. They will share information, challenges and best practices to achieve greater building energy efficiency through connectivity.
One example of an awarded project is The Ohio State University’s cybersecure orchestrated control of DERs across an array of diverse campus buildings.
Another cohort is the utility Portland General Electric that is working to achieve 1.4 megawatts (MW) of flexible loads by retrofitting nearly 600 commercial and residential buildings.
Similarly, in Spokane, Wash., Edo Energy is striving to achieve between 1 and 2.3 MW of flexible loads by retrofitting heat pumps, water heaters, control systems and other resources in an all-electric virtual power plant that will help defer capital investment for a 55-MW peak substation.
In Raleigh, N.C., IBACOS Inc. will connect hundreds of new and existing homes to solar power, battery storage and smart thermostats.