January 09 2014

KCP&L Using Complexity to Simplify Problems with the SmartGrid

The energy industry is a gigantic web of information and non-linear processes that have different networks, feed-ins, and balances between supply and demand on a second-by-second basis. Even at the city level, providing power adequately to all citizens and incurring minimal losses is a challenge all in itself. In the context of global emissions, energy accounts for being the culprit with the highest amount given off globally and energy decisions at the local level also affect the health and performances of urban cores.

Kansas City Power & Light (KCP&L) is conducting a demonstration project for a SmartGrid initiative, introducing advanced energy technologies to improve the city’s electricity usage. The plan depends on instantaneously monitoring supply and demand, and allowing users to make decisions on consumption. As a result, the city does not waste energy during non-peak times, and consumers do not pay for energy that they are not using. Smart grids also improve efficiency and system reliability for the Kansas City power giant. The data resources that the system is based on consist of complex structures and two way communications.

Media Day at KCP&L SmartGrid Innovation Park

Media Day at KCP&L SmartGrid Innovation Park

The initiative is also prevalent in the local community especially with Kansas City, Missouri’s urban neighborhoods in and around the Green Impact Zone, a cooperative urban development effort funded primarily by the Stimulus package. On 47th and Tracy Avenue, KCP&L has set up an innovation park,where local residents can explore options under the initiative and learn more about community transformation. The park consists of a trail and a lithium ion battery connected to a solar panel array which supplements the grid to meet the energy needs of residents living in the demonstration park’s peripheries. The park is free, and is open seven days a week.

Additionally, the SmartGrid Innovation Park, University of Missouri – Kansas City, City of Kansas City, Missouri, Blue Hills Community Center, KCATA Park & Ride (31st Street and Troost Ave.), the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, MRI Global and Project Living Proof are some of the organizations that are installing vehicle charging stations throughout the developmental project area. Currently, the program is also planning to install up to a 180 kW solar energy platforms integrated primarily on top of rooftops of schools, commercial buildings and neighborhood locations. The solar site location currently includes University of Missouri – Kansas City and next door neighbor MRI Global in midtown, Blue Hills Community Center in the east, and the City of Kansas City, Missouri, headquartered in downtown Kansas City, Mo.

Demonstration Block

Demonstration Block

As we step a year further into the 21st century, is this the future of energy? Filled with on-site generation, efficient distribution with renewable feedstock and real time visibility? What kinds of threats do these novel systems face and is there risk involved for private third parties to remotely access the grid? Lastly, how can this project be more inclusive for the local residents or how can community involvement and development be a more prominent objective? How can these projects receive more stakeholder involvement while providing benefits for residents and community members. In short, how can the community be in control of their energy usage?

Credits: Data and photos linked to sources.

Sunny Sanwar

Sunny Sanwar originates from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and currently resides in Kansas City, Missouri. He holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Kansas and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Sunny is also a Columnist for the Daily Star, the largest English newspaper in Bangladesh, and is currently working in local government at Jackson County, Missouri. This multicultural and interdisciplinary background gives him a holistic understanding of socially sensitive issues in energy and environment around the world. His graduate dissertation thesis in Public Policy dealt with local level emissions reduction strategies. His 2008 "efficiency over performance" project called the KU Ecohawks, aimed for urban transportation to not rely on conventional fossil fuel sources that pollute the local and global environment, but instead run on local wastes. Completely off grid, the mono-crystalline solar cell powered workspace charged the cars, with no energy taken from the main power lines. He also founded the Sustainable Built Environment Initiative in his native Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, which was renamed Bangladesh Green Building Council (BGBC) in 2011, when it became the national representative of Bangladesh, as part of the World Green Building Council in Toronto, Canada. Supported by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fellows, the council provides a centralized national board for green building certifications, courses and outreach, as well as consultancy services to private construction firms, think tanks and government initiatives.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, January 9th, 2014 at 9:11 am and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Energy, Engineering, Environment, Environmental Design, Housing, Infrastructure, Land Use, Landscape Architecture, Technology, Transportation, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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