Campus Smart Grid

Managing second-by-second ebbs and flows in the campus energy system...

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Smart Grid Technology is an Innovation goal in the Cornell Climate Action Plan (CAP).

Implement a Smart Grid which combines supply and demand management technologies to optimize the campus electrical system.

Goal: Utilize supply and demand management technologies to optimize the campus electrical system. By closely monitoring energy use and continuing to refine the campus Smart Grid, Cornell can take advantage of opportunities to sell excess generation back to the utility, or decrease the energy supply in response to decreased demand.

Infographic-Smart Grid-Fully Integrated Energy Systems

Microgrids that provide localized self-generation of electricity have been around for decades. By matching generation to local demand and by utilizing energy storage, microgrids provide improved security and reliability in the event of an interruption in the external grid (the macrogrid) due to natural or manmade disruptions.

A “Smart Grid” is a microgrid that continuously manipulates its load in order to fiscally optimize generation. A Smart Grid that can supply extra power when demand spikes, as well as usefully take in extra power when supply is high, can increase energy efficiency, and thus support carbon and greenhouse gas reduction goals. Coordinating a constantly-changing supply with power consumers’ constantly-changing demand requires serious planning and intelligent software to manage the second-by-second ebbs and flows throughout the system.

Cornell’s Energy Management and Control System (EMCS) currently collects steam, electricity, and chilled water data from nearly 200 locations around the campus and, for many of these locations, has archival data for the past several years. This information is fed into our Utility Data System in order to bill the responsible campus departments and to perform various energy analyses. Monitoring is done both passively, by routinely observing system operation, and actively, by responding to any of the more than 9,500 computer-generated alarms that are currently defined. In addition, operators can interactively make adjustments to more than 8,500 motorized fans, pumps, dampers, and valves at buildings throughout the campus.

Cornell already has well-integrated building management systems to adjust temperature, lighting, and other indoor environment settings, according to time of day, occupancy, season, and room use. We are now investing in state-of-the art electrical transformers and switchgear across campus, allowing our energy managers to track energy usage in real time. Smart Grid implementation would add a new level of sensors and controls into the electrical distribution systems at the building or equipment level. Benefits of these new features include the following:
1) Better visibility of daily system trends that allow plant operators to adjust fuel usage.
2) Optimized distribution of electricity to campus through voltage regulation and power flow.
3) More efficient operation of the Central Energy Plant.
4) Integration of renewables (hydro/solar) into the campus micro-grid.

Next Steps

  • Continue sub metering of buildings for dashboard monitoring.
  • Improve load balancing on campus to fully utilize CEP generation.
  • Establish Import/Export control on Load Management Sytem.
  • Document existing Smart Grid components at Kite Hill, Gates Hall, etc.
  • Evaluate how the existing system can incorporate demand-side management through:
    • integration of building systems with distribution systems,
    • integration of the installed Smart Metering with controls to activate demand response,
    • integration of “Smart Controls” at substations and large buildings,
    • possible regulation of the Hydropower plant intake for “time of use” during peak hours, and
    • exploration of alternate storage mediums such as chilled water or batteries for peak shaving.
  • Demonstration of effective storage, power generation, and demand curtailment processes that result in lower capacity and demand charges from the utility will be an indication of success. Lowering the total energy imported annually from the utility will be a second indicator. Decreasing total energy exported from generation may be a third indicator if coupled with efficiency data.


  • ECI Group
  • Distribution Group
  • CEP Operations
  • For 2015, the Campus Road Substation renewal project will be a major contributor in smart micro grid development at the Ithaca campus.