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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

City-Sized University Powers Campus With Help From InduSoft Web Studio

The University of Texas produces utilities for a seventeen million square foot campus using advanced technology and InduSoft Web Studio

Figure 1: Artist rendering of the UT Campus



The United States Department of Energy has issued a challenge to energy production plants. The goal is to produce 20% of all energy in the United States through thermal energy that is currently unharnessed during the energy production process. Currently, countries such as Denmark produce 55% of their energy through ‘waste’ heat use.
This process, called Cogeneration or Combined Heat and Power (CHP), allows energy plants to produce power from fuel sources such as biogas, coal, petroleum, natural gas, or nuclear energy, as well make use of the heat generated during the process. By harnessing heat that would ordinarily be lost, power generation facilities can improve the efficiency of their operations.
The University of Texas is at the forefront of CHP in the United States. Using cogeneration in a variety of energy production facilities, the university is able to provide 100% of the energy required to  operate over seventeen million square feet of campus area, including stadiums, labs, offices, classrooms, and theaters.
The Utilities and Energy Management Department is a part of the department of Employee and Campus Services at the University of Texas at Austin. The department employs highly efficient power generation methods like CHP to provide reliable and cost-effective electricity, chilled water, steam, deionized water, compressed air, and emergency power to the university.
UT Austin has 6 miles of underground service tunnels and electrical duct banks servicing 170 buildings. With about 250,000 gross square feet added each year, and about 2 million new square feet currently in design and construction, the scale of the infrastructure is along the lines of a small city.
The physical plant itself has 135 MW of electrical generation capacity generated at 12,000 and 4,160 volts to each building. 44,000 tons of cooling capacity is produced along with a 36,000 Ton-hr thermal energy storage facility producing 39° F chilled water for the campus cooling needs. The steam plant generates 425 psi, 700° F steam for the turbines, and extracts 150 psi, 500° F steam from the turbines to serve the campus needs for heating and hot water. The capacity of the steam plant is 1.2 million lbs-hr.
Annually the physical plant provides 242 million KWh of electricity, 142 million ton-hrs of chilled water, 717 million lbs of steam, and 8 million gallons of demineralized water. To pay for these services  an infrastructure was created to meter,  bill for services, and create the ability to model/predict and build ad-hoc energy usage reports.
To meter energy usage for these billing services, the University required a solution that would allow efficient and reliable monitoring capabilities. They chose InduSoft Web Studio to answer a series of challenging requirements.



Figure 2:Typical building utilities PLC Cabinet

The Challenge

The department originally had a manual process for taking meter readings. The infrastructure was built using PLCs and smart electric meters and networking them around Campus. Data gathering from these devices began in 2006, originally using OPC DA technology and a process historian that the Department already owned. MS Excel was used to run energy reports off the historian. It was a very expensive time-consuming and labor intensive process, taking sometimes weeks to produce a bill for just one of the buildings.
Discussions for a metering system began in 2007, but the original implementation did not take place until early 2010, as the team investigated various programs for competitive purposes. In that time, they sought a solution for critical requirements, such as dealing with a large amount of metered energy data, how to display it in a meaningful way, how to use that data to receive useful information about building behavior, how to track and perform meter and instrumentation maintenance, and monitor the ongoing condition of automated meters, and how to produce reports and bills for the various departments and buildings..
The process began with just 20 meters that grew to around 200 in 2002 because it became necessary to determine research facility energy use. Up to that point in time all meters were manually read, which was not sustainable,  since the department was adding around 100 to 200 meters a year to the inventory.
They soon made the decision to connect each of the building meters for electricity, steam, chilled water, and domestic water to a PLC cabinet which digitizes the data which is sent to a historian using the campus fiber network. This was a challenging process which included important decisions on what to do with all of the meter data and how to ensure the meters continued to operate properly. In addition various security related issues had to be solved to keep the control system network separate from the public network, and keep the data contained within both networks safe and secure.
According to the executive director Juan Ontiveros, “This is when we learned about the flexibility of InduSoft Web Studio. The power and flexibility available in the application, plus the cost advantage looked very attractive to us. InduSoft Web Studio also looked like it would provide us the ability to build-on and expand as we progressed with automating meters.”
“We looked into various programs that were presented to us, but these were costly and could not be customized to our needs. Being a research institute, it made sense to take advantage of InduSoft’s educational licensing program, since it presented a unique opportunity to spend the majority of our funds in the development of the final application, utilizing the InduSoft Engineering staff to assist us in designing and building the application.”


Figure 3: InduSoft Runtime Server and Kepware OPC Server



The Solution

InduSoft Web Studio is used throughout Campus for metering purposes. Historical data is queried from their GE iHistorian to provide the trends that enable the department to predict energy usage and provide preventive maintenance and to provide reports and billing throughout the campus. The application uses thin clients through Internet Explorer. Users can see metered energy data of a building anywhere on Campus, and an authorized user can make a VPN connection and access this information anywhere in the world.  
The application utilizes Kepware OPC UA Servers that connect the PLCs around campus being monitored. OPC UA was utilized in order to capitalize on the inherent security features of the protocol. Security became extremely important when the InduSoft application was being developed to be web facing for the Thin Clients. Security of the various systems is being constantly monitored and continually upgraded.
A firewall is used to interface the web-facing side of the application’s Thin Clients and to separate the control system subnet from the rest of the physical plant’s network. Additional defenses are used to monitor the integrity of the firewalls used within the physical plant and control system network.



The Results

“When we started utilizing the InduSoft application for data collection and billing, we realized astronomical cost savings over our old manual system, not to mention the fact that the data is immediately available. Our future plans for InduSoft Web Studio include utilizing Studio Mobile Access and the use of Smart Mobile Devices,” says Ontiveros.

Before implementing the InduSoft solution, the department was always one month or more behind in providing the bills, due to the amount of effort involved in producing a single bill. Much of the cost savings were realized by reducing the labor required to physically read the meters, aggregate the data, query for it, validate the data and allocate the energy to the building. The validated meter information is then fed to a separate billing solution to calculate the rates, and generate a bill. Prior to the new system, it was impossible to provide a usage history for previous billing cycles, since generating them manually was becoming prohibitively and increasingly expensive.


Figure 4: A typical Thin Client                                                                  Figure 5:Trend Showing Water Usage

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