Case study: How one university is helping stabilize its regional grid


By: SGN Staff


Quick Take: Our job at Smart Grid News is to monitor national and international trends. But that means we often talk in generalities. That's why I thought you might want to glance at the details of collaboration now underway between Washington State University (WSU) and Avista Utilities. It points out some specific techniques employed to shed load at the university when needed to buffer sudden drops in renewable generation. Scan the summary below, or find the full story at the WSU News Archive.  - By Jesse Berst


Avista is one of 11 utilities taking part in the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project (the nation's largest). Part of that project is to make Pullman, the home of WSU, the region's first smart grid community.


As part of that effort, WSU Facilities Services has partnered with Avista to become a smart grid campus. The intent is to show how to react to sudden changes in power supply and demand. WSU will adjust how much energy it needs to modifying the energy levels in its facilities. The project team hopes that its regional-scale findings can be applied on a national level.


WSU will assist Avista to stabilize its grid in three ways:

1.     Bring up generators at its nearby steam plant to provide local power and reduce the need for power from the grid.

2.     Shed a significant portion of its HVAC load by reducing air flow in 28 "low-impact" buildings for short time periods. (Occupants will have an override button on their thermostats.)

3.     Automate two substations.


The $4.2 million WSU Facilities Services project was funded from a variety of sources, including $1.8 million in U.S. Department of Energy Smart Grid Demonstration Project grant funding, $1 million from energy savings using the energy savings performance contracting process, $600,000 in rebates and direct funding from Avista, $552,000 from a state commerce department energy grant and $256,000 in capital from WSU.


The university is also underway on two other energy enhancements. The first is a multi-building energy management system. The second is a conservation voltage reduction system in collaboration with Avista, which will reduce overall demand.


WSU expects to save $150,000 every year as a result of these various enhancements.


Additional information about WSU’s load shedding capabilities and participation in the Smart Grid Development Project is available online at

Filed Under