Tuesday, August 31, 2010

SPC 201 committee is now underway

ASHRAE/NEMA SPC201 ("Facility Smart Grid Information Model") wrapped up business at 11:58 this morning -- two minutes before scheduled close of meeting. I didn't know that was permitted.

It was interesting to chat afterward with folks new to the ASHRAE standards process. Yes, in many ways this was a typical standards meeting, with the committee spending hours (if allowed) to wordsmith a single sentence, and frequently with discussions dominated by a few participants with the rest observing.

But we came away with working groups defined, conveners volunteered (usually voluntarily), and volunteers to work on the various groups, as follows:

1. Smart Grid use cases and requirements
2. Terminology definitions and model development
3. Conceptual diagrams and definitions of customer facilities
4. Refine white paper (communicate what we're doing to the rest of the world)
5. CIM vs. 61850: definitions and background info. (Advisory group)

(I'm on #1 and 4.)

We have an aggressive schedule ahead, with lots of working group teleconferences, but if this meeting is an indicator we have a good chance of delivering on time.

BACnet - Lon Interoperability

Photo courtesy of and quoting ASHRAE/NEMA SPC 201 co-chair Sharon Dinges:

Proving, once and for all, that BACnet and Lon can "play nicely" on the same network and effectively communicate!

(Dave Robin - Chair, ASHRAE BACnet & Jeremy Roberts - Technical Director, LonMark International)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Meeting underway

The inaugural meeting of ASHRAE/SPC201, "Facility Smart Grid Information Model," is now underway, with about 60 people present (members and guests) and more on the phone.

ASHRAE Manager of Standards Stephanie Reiniche presented committee chair Steve Bushby with a little gift for "focus" on the task ahead.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mother ship

Sitting in the airport here in Seattle waiting to board the flight to Atlanta for the kickoff meeting of SPC 201 tomorrow -- and my first visit ever (after 15+ years of BACnet) to ASHRAE headquarters.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Renewable problems

A small element of my job as "Buildings Standards Initiatives Leader" that sounds like fun but isn't involves reading all sorts of newsletters. It wasn't bad when the issue was pretty much just BACnet and building automation, but energy-efficient buildings and the Smart Grid effort have expanded the scope and volume considerably. Sometimes there are interesting, even useful, articles that I file away for reference later, but I have to skim fast: just today I received ASHRAE's "HVAC&R Industry," "Greener Buildings News," "CABA Newsbrief," "Public Utilities Fortnightly," "Building Operation Management Direct" and "Maintenance Solutions."

One of the utility-related newsletters I started receiving this summer, "Public Utilities Fortnightly", has been an eye-opener. From the "buildings" perspective it sounds so simple: just crank out electricity and put it on the wires that lead to the meter on your building. Of course it's not, but while developing the Smart Grid it helps to understand issues on the other side of the meter.

In my energy-related talks a few years ago I noted some of the problems with renewable energy sources: some technical, some political. An example of the former occurred a couple of years ago here, with a sudden conflict between hydroelectric and wind generation. (Interestingly, the overall problem was noted somewhat a month earlier, in "Northwest power managers struggle with electricity surplus".)

Nevertheless I figured that the increased integration of the grid via the Smart Grid would allow better control and balancing of energy sources. Three points this month set me back for a few days.

The first was a recent Smart Grid teleconference where somebody from the utilities noted a problem with buildings equipped with solar arrays: they decrease the utilities' ability to forecast demand so the utilities can determine how many and which generators to have online at any time.

The second was a WSJ Opinion page article Tuesday 8/24, p.A15, Wind Power Won't Cool Down the Planet.

The third came in today's newsletter from "Public Utilities Fortnightly" in an Op-Ed article titled "Green Blackouts?" in which a case I've not seen before is made for "increasing renewable generation threatens [grid] reliability."

If only we had good batteries. Hm, perhaps these items above say why the utilities are looking so hopefully at electric vehicles -- a lot of battery capacity that can be drawn upon short-term for makeup electricity for the grid. If so, the utilities should illustrate the solution as clearly and in detail as they have the problems, instead of leaving it to others to puzzle out -- IF the others even get the necessary information, and who has the time for that?

Monday, August 23, 2010

A good reason for not being sick

(if you can avoid it!) Having taken some medicine that left me a bit dizzy, I thought I'd at least sync with my work e-mail. Big mistake; one of my Smart Grid committees have been working hard to overflow my Inbox. The attached shows only a 4-hour span, with e-mails ranging up to 2MB in size, and almost all of it one single thread that will have to be read through at some point. If one signed up for a daily digest instead, the resulting document will be almost impossible to follow due to previous message inclusions.

The BACnet committee tried to conduct business this way back in the mid-90s but burned out so completely that now days often pass between e-mails to the BACNET-L mailing list.

There has to be a better way than e-mail to conduct these conversations. Perhaps a trimmed version of the SlashDot discussions online?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The pitfalls of green

"Dilbert" creator Scott Adams wrote a funny article for yesterday's Wall Street Journal on the various pitfalls of trying to build a "green" house: How I (Almost) Saved the Earth .

And be sure to read the sidebar article Greener Pastures: Trends in Home-Building. Years ago friends of ours in Oregon taught classes in building cob homes. Theirs certainly looked comfortable.

Friday, August 20, 2010

BACnet International Plugfest

The upcoming plugfest was announced to BIG-EU members just a few hours ago, so it is official:

The BACnet International BACnet Testing Laboratories Working Group invites manufactures of BACnet products to attend the 2010 Interoperability Workshop at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North Hotel in Atlanta, GA. This is the eleventh annual BACnet Interoperability Workshop and is hosted this year by BACnet International. This event permits vendors to test their BACnet products in a neutral and friendly environment with BACnet devices from other vendors. Last year more than 98 BACnet engineers representing 35 companies attended the workshop and improved their BACnet implementations and testing methods.

Hm. Not in a part of Atlanta I'm familiar with. Yet.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

15 Years of BACnet

15 years ago, starting right about 10:55 AM, Thursday August 17, 1995, BACnet changed my career forever. Though at the time I didn't know it; I was just one of the software developers, wondering what I'd done to deserve this.

At 10:30 Tony, one of Alerton's founders, had called a company meeting in the lunchroom. (We could all still fit in there then.) He talked about the DDC revolution that rolled through the industry in the early 80s and how that gave Alerton a leg up when the big guys were sticking with pneumatics.

He then talked about this thing called BACnet and how once again, the big guys were just paying lip service but we were going to make a one-stop top-to-bottom true BACnet system that he believed the market wanted. This move could put the company at risk, and it meant we were going to have to really keep the customer happy, but the potential for growth was huge.

So far, okay, I've heard this sort of thing before but then he held up a copy of the standard (probably the 2nd public review draft on my shelves) and said, "This is now our bible." Then puts it in my hands saying, "And you're now the expert. Learn it."

The rest, as they say, is history.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A week of Smart Grid

Finalizing my timesheet for the week, I saw just how much the Smart Grid is crowding out other activities. 11-1/2 hours were spent on Smart Grid teleconferences alone. BACnet got all of three hours: 2 hours for a BTL-WG teleconference and 1 hour for internal work. Got to get to the BACnet backlog somehow...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Smart Grid: informal public review

Yesterday the NAESB (North American Energy Standards Board) group of the "Standard Energy Usage Information" (PAP10) committee released two draft documents on "Business Practices and Information Model Recommendation" for an informal public review ending Monday, August 16th. The two are identical except that one addresses the wholesale electric market and the other the retail.

This is a good look at the direction the group is going in to define the information transferred from the utility side to the consumer side of the Smart Grid.

I have not found an announcement online, but the e-mail on this was addressed to "Interested Industry Participants." The document can be found here (if you're interested in commenting I can provide the contact info.)


The corresponding ASHRAE commitee, SPC 201, has been formed and holds its kickoff meeting in 2-1/2 weeks, picking up work in progress and running with it.

You know you've made it when...

...you're reading an in-house pan-corporate (Honeywell) news journal and your blog gets referenced as a news item:

Call for members (ASHRAE Smart Grid)
Blog posting by Bill Swan, Honeywell ACS
The BAC Cave, July 7, 2010

Guess there's at least one of us reading the journal, Jane!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Still out of office

Been ill since before my return home, though today shows positive recovery for the first time. My biggest concerns are:

(1) the work not done this week (mostly BACnet stuff, including BACnet Elevators), and

(2) the growing e-mail backlog despite my efforts to hack away at it -- if only to keep my e-mail account storage down below corporate limits.

There simply has to be a better means of offline communications than today's e-mail.

But it's better than nothing: I see today that BACnet IT-WG convener Jim Butler is proposing a two-day meeting either in Boston MA or San Jose CA (I assume CA: if it's Costa Rica I vote for *that*!), Sept. 9&10, or weekly 2-hour teleconferences in September and October. Conferring with my Alerton co-workers before responding...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

More units, please!

I've been back from my trip for a few days, but I've also been under the weather so I have not made it back into the office. Nevertheless I have been trying to keep up with my corporate e-mail so I don't have too huge a mess waiting when I do get back in.

The BACNET-L e-mail list has been busy this week, and unfortunately it's one of those periodic topics: we need more "Engineering Units" for some reason or another, and once that get started people start coming up with all sorts of additional units, whether there's a use case for them or not in the world of building automation.

So, if we're gong to add more willy-nilly, I propose a unit to measure the BACnet committee's consumption of beer in the evenings during meetings: firkins per folk per fortnight (in the FFF measurement system: http://en.wikipedi.org/wiki/FFF_System), or fff.

A firkin is 72 pints (http://en.wikipedi.org/wiki/Firkin) and a fortnight 14 days, so 1.00 fff = 5.14 pints per person per period(24h). Clearly a number that should remain in the fractional range.

Tempting to say that that would call for a FLOATING_LIMIT alarm algorithm but one could make a case for OUT_OF_RANGE or even CHANGE_OF_STATE(FLOOR), though the last is usually used for tequila.

Once we get the units, we'll work out the rest.