July 2006

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EMAIL INTERVIEW  Don Hammerstrom & Ken Sinclair

Don Hammerstrom, Ph.D., Project Manager - Dr. Hammerstrom is a Senior Engineer for Battelle Memorial Institute in an Energy Technology Development group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. He presently leads the Grid Friendly™ Appliance technology research and development efforts at the laboratory and co-manages the Pacific Northwest GridWise™ Testbed Demonstration in Washington and Oregon states on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy GridWise program. Prior to working for Battelle, he owned and worked for several small, technology-based businesses in Washington and earlier taught high school and worked as an analytical chemist. Dr. Hammerstrom has earned advanced degrees in electrical engineering and earned undergraduate degrees in chemistry and education. He is an innovator and has authored patents in the diverse areas of energy management systems, power electronics, microtechnology, microbe decontamination, and aerosol science.

Pacific Northwest GridWise™ Testbed Demonstration

I believe the word “testbed” reflects our hope for an enduring field demonstration site where progressive utilities and the lab can test various emerging innovations, equipment, and tools. Our present “testbed” extends over four cities and multiple regulatory entities in Washington and Oregon and involves several utilities.




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Sinclair: So just what are you trying to demonstrate in the Pacific Northwest GridWise™ Testbed Demonstration?

Hammerstrom: Our overall objective is to help our U.S. DOE GridWise Program client and participating utility partners project out as far out as possible, both in time and in scope, just how an intelligent electric power grid might look and operate. The demonstration has two major components – an energy pricing experiment and a smart appliance demonstration.

The pricing experiment uses electric energy price as a signal to coordinate the responses from numerous loads and distributed generation resources while accounting for power distribution constraints. If successful, we will demonstrate that price signals can be used to manage existing distribution constraints and can help utilities defer distribution or transmission system upgrades by managing loads and distributed generators to reduce power flow and relieve those system constraints.   

In the smart appliance demonstration, we apply our Grid Friendly™ appliance controller to 200 clothes dryers and water heaters. The smart appliances can sense incipient under-frequency grid events and can quickly curtail load to give grid operators time to apply generation reserves. The underfrequency events are short lived and, we hypothesize, will not be noticed by the appliance owners.

Both the pricing experiment and smart appliance demonstration respond to our desires for an even more reliable grid. I believe we can continue to supply a steadily growing electrical energy demand without a proportional growth in utility infrastructure investments.

Sinclair: Why do you call it a “Testbed”?

Hammerstrom: Prior to this project, PNNL initiated an informal association between several northwest regional utilities and the Bonneville Power Administration and called this association the Pacific Northwest GridWise Testbed. The pioneering utilities included Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp. I believe the word “testbed” reflects our hope for an enduring field demonstration site where progressive utilities and the lab can test various emerging innovations, equipment, and tools. Our present “testbed” extends over four cities and multiple regulatory entities in Washington and Oregon and involves several utilities.

Sinclair: Tell me, who is involved in the Testbed Demonstration project and what roles does each play?

Hammerstrom: The majority of the funding comes from the U.S. Department of Energy. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory manages the demonstrations and developed the Grid Friendly™ appliance controller technology.

Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp have made financial and in-kind labor contributions and have hosted demonstration sites in Gresham, Oregon and Yakima, Washington. And the Bonneville Power Administration contributed funds and offered the project some of its Non-wires program resources on the Olympic Peninsula. Clallam County PUD and the city of Port Angeles have also made in-kind labor contributions and host the experiment in Sequim and Port Angeles, both in Washington.

IBM helped design and install a Web-based monitoring and control infrastructure that uses its WebSphere™ software. Invensys Controls won a competitive bid to apply its GoodWatts™ residential demand response equipment.

Whirlpool Corporation spent several years of research pioneering the appliance energy interface specification now implemented in a Sears Kenmore dryer, which can respond to our Grid Friendly appliance controller and can also indicate price alert signals on its panel.

Sinclair: That’s a lot of participants. How do you keep so many entities informed and focused?

Hammerstrom: Almost every week, these entities join me on a telephone meeting to discuss issues. I have been very pleased with the active participation of the project team members.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Sinclair: What’s so “grid friendly” about your Grid Friendly™ appliance controllers?

Hammerstrom: The version of our Grid Friendly appliance controller installed at project sites is a small circuit board that communicates with the appliance to turn off parts of the appliance load when the grid frequency falls below a frequency threshold. If many such appliances were installed on the power grid, the power grid could avoid tripping underfrequency protection at the substation level. In simple terms, the ability of loads to drop off temporarily in a controlled fashion in response to a drop in frequency (caused, for example, by an unexpected loss of generation) will soften the impact of an underfrequency event and creates time for the grid operator to fix problems.

Because we choose to work closely with the appliance manufacturers, we and the appliance manufacturers can design responses that will be both accepted by the consumer and helpful to the utilities and power grid. For example, the project’s smart dryers only turn off their heating elements and leave the drum tumbling. After a few minutes, the heating elements turn back on to finish drying clothes.  That’s a “grid friendly” response that probably will not noticeably inconvenience the appliance owner.

Sinclair: That makes sense.

Hammerstrom: I think so.

Sinclair: Can you tell me more about how the real-time price signal works?

Hammerstrom: Sure. Every 5 minutes, each distributed generator resource and each system load bids for the energy that it can supply or that it needs. If a constraint prohibits the circuit from supplying the needed power, distributed generators are added at their bid prices until adequate power exists on the distribution circuit to meet the power demand.

Sinclair: And the residential and large loads?

Hammerstrom: On the flip side, thermostatic loads continue to increase their bids if their temperature set points are not met. Satisfied thermostats bid low. In this way, the loads share the available electric power resource and also share the benefits and costs of managing a constrained distribution feeder. Price is what communicates the control signal throughout the system.

Residents are compensated through our shadow market (a valuation process that we operate in parallel with the utilities’ electric energy sales) for the degree to which they respond to our price signals. Their responses are mostly automated, and each resident has the flexibility to select his relative desire for comfort or economy.

Sinclair: How long will the project last?

Hammerstrom: We’ll be collecting data through March 2007.

Sinclair: When will you know the results?

Hammerstrom: We’re collecting continuous data now and could have things to report by, say, October. But the really interesting performance of the energy pricing experiment will happen during the winter 2007 heating season. Our demonstration sites are winter-peaking. We will report those findings by spring 2007.


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