Smart grid, smart water and smart buildings

Nov. 30, 2012
In this installment of What Works, 60,000 sensors and meters help to achieve energy efficiency and water savings.

The IBM manufacturing facility in Essex Junction, Vermont, is a part of the IBM's microelectronics division. This plant designs and produces logic, microprocessor, memory, and custom microchips used by electronics and computer companies worldwide. The semiconductor computer chips manufactured at this facility are used in many commercial products. Approximately 5,000 employees, including a maintenance staff of 60, work at this plant.

The facility had high electrical costs due to the amount of energy required by the manufacturing tools and the need to maintain tight temperature and humidity controls in the manufacturing clean rooms. This required the plant to operate four 2,000-ton chillers in the middle of the winter, even when the outside temperature was below 40 °F.

The decision was made to modify the existing chilled water system to incorporate a free cooling configuration of the equipment utilizing a spare heat exchanger and a separate bank of cooling towers. Free cooling was evaluated for savings and payback opportunity by recommissioning existing under-utilized equipment to reduce project cost.

The dry frigid air in northern Vermont is used in an evaporative cooling tower to create 42-46 °F water that is then used to cool the site’s air conditioning loads in the winter. The cooling is accomplished without the use of the electric motor on chillers with 42 °F water being circulated through the cooling tower and heat exchanger. The specific arrangement that was installed incorporated a blended arrangement where the free-cooled water mixes with water-cooled by other electrically driven chillers. This makes additional operational hours available to extend savings into the warmer months.

“While there are many free-cooling installations, this installation is different in that multiple follow on projects were completed to increase the savings,” explains Ruma Kohli, product stewardship program manager at the facility. “Vermont has a lot of days when the outside wet bulb temperature is below 40 °F. The solution is very dependent on the skill of the central utility plant operators. The existing condenser water piping and the cooling towers allowed for easy modifications of the system. Reutilization of existing equipment is in line with the site’s mission statement to reduce, reuse, and recycle.”

An outside source of capital funds, the local electric utility efficiency fund, was used, but manufacturing operations could not be interrupted. “The project included increasing the free-cooling load and decreasing the electric motor-driven cooling by upgrading the flow controls on all chillers, installing a much smaller, 500-ton chiller to match the minimum flow requirements of the tower to prevent freezing and enabling more free cooling, converting the 500-ton chiller from a three-pass to a two-pass evaporator, installing heated louvers in lieu of the drip edge at the top of the tower air inlet face to reduce the ice formation, and increasing the heat exchanger capacity by adding more plates,” explains Michael Pelletier, CUP engineer.

The CUP staff developed a concept where 25% of the piping in the cooling plant was reworked from a heating mode to a cooling mode. The staff also was able to implement free cooling on one multi-cell cooling tower while an adjacent cooling tower was still cooling condenser water from electric motor-driven chillers.

Completing the project in a timely manner would maximize the savings from the winter of 2008-2009 after the cooling season. Many construction tasks between trades were accomplished in parallel, instead of sequentially. The system was started one month early. IBMers from many departments volunteered to assist with the construction and startup.

“The dashboard displays in the CUP control room provide a continuous and current display of both cooling load in tons and cost saving in dollars to the lead operator,” explains Pelletier. “Real-time weather data and detail forecasting is also incorporated, so that the maximum possible energy savings are captured.”

This project annually reduces electrical power consumption by 8.5 million kWh, water usage by 3.3 million gal, and chemical usage by 5,000 lb. And because the concept is transferable, it has been implemented at many locations in cold climates.

“The free-cooling project has been a huge success for IBM with savings of approximately $750,000K annually,” says Kohli. “This savings would not have been possible without the joint efforts of engineering, maintenance, and operations.”

IBM’s Center of Excellence for Enterprise Operations develops and delivers best practices for effectively running an installation of more than 30 buildings and 3.5 million sq ft of space. The secure facility includes an electrical grid that peaks at 65 MW, manages 3.2 MGD of water (water supply, industrial water production and wastewater treatment and compliance), building operations and central utility operations.

An expansive integrated network of 60,000 sensors and meters monitors multiple systems, which play a critical role in achieving the quality and reliability requirements that the 24/7 manufacturing operation requires. Data is fully integrated into one repository for basic intelligence such as monitoring specifications, integrated systems data providing relationship intelligence between utilities and building performance, predictive intelligence in advance of maintenance issues, and advanced analytics predicting peak power with automated power load shed.

“Interconnected systems bring all the data together, which allows the team to drive continuous performance improvement with advanced data analysis and analytics,” explains Janette Bombardier, P.E., IBM Vermont senior location executive and director of site operations. “Smart grid, smart water, and smart buildings are integrated to provide continuous operations to a site that hasn’t had a shutdown since 1997. In addition, the team has also driven extensive cost and environmental performance improvement. The site has an outstanding environmental and energy management record receiving at least one Vermont Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence every year since the award’s inception 17 years ago. It has been named the Facility of the Year by Environmental Protection Magazine, is an OSHA VPP site for safety, has received multiple awards from the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable, and has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Keep America Beautiful.”

The IBM Vermont smart grid includes 5,000 of the site’s 60,000 meters and sensors, which monitor parameters such as Watts, Volts, Amps, kWh, and sags and swells. The 65 MW system, which correlates to a small city, takes power from two 115 kV transmission lines and drives all distribution and steps down the voltage to accommodate everything ranging from the 2,000-ton chillers to manufacturing equipment and office outlets. The interconnected system allows not only instant access to data, but also links to an automated paging system to provide real-time alerts. Historical and real-time data are available to not only guide system operation and maintenance actions, but are invaluable in driving the energy management program. Through data analysis and analytics the location has been able to drive a 20% reduction in energy usage and a 5 MW average peak power reduction over the past 10 years, while still growing manufacturing capability. In addition, the location has successfully participated in the ISO New England demand-response program over the past five years with an estimated $750,000 in savings over this period by voluntarily shedding electrical loads during times of peak demand on the New England grid. Through the analysis of electrical usage, the team determined which operations could be moved off peak, and which loads could be temporarily shut down under controlled conditions during peak hours.

The results are impressive, but the process starts with having a clear strategy and definition of mission critical parameters for energy management. For the IBM location, the critical objectives of the electrical grid are reliability, quality and cost. Reliability means zero downtime for a continuously operating facility, base load and peak power available all the time, and no interruptions. Only life safety systems have backup generation. Quality means semiconductor process equipment is expensive and sensitive (pure sine wave power, with voltage variation within the defined SEMI standard only). Cost encompasses a minimum 4% reduction in energy use every year. Clarity is critical.

“Short-term and strategic objectives need to be established for each critical parameter. Successful strategy deployment must include an organizational design, which includes clear roles and responsibility, ownership of the measurable objectives with the data to support results and a culture of innovation that looks for new ways to do business every day,” says Bombardier. “IBM Vermont’s energy management is unique in driving ownership, particularly in energy efficiency and conservation programs to drive the goals outside of the facility’s organization and include mission-critical operational groups, as well as all employees. Involvement of all employees is fundamental to success as an estimated 1.5% to 2% of the energy reductions come from behavioral changes. Leadership from the top of the corporation to the top of the enterprise ensures the electrical system requirements are integrated into business operations and viewed as a key imperative, versus an extracurricular activity.”

This system was started well over a decade ago and has grown and developed every year. “What started as a typical SCADA system now integrates all of the various sensor and controls providers across a common communications network, integrating all data into a single repository,” explains Bombardier. “Efficient data storage algorithms ensure relevant data is saved, but not excessively so. Statistical applications have been established to allow that the right data to be highlighted as a serious condition, such as a pager alarm, or simply part of a daily or weekly report that requires further investigation.”

Add to this advanced predictive models and data analytics, and a culture of using data to measure performance and drive improvements all with a focus on adding intelligence to the system.

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