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September 25, 2012

FortZED in Colorado Uses Distributed Energy to Reduce Peak Load by 20 Percent



The first step toward ultimately creating an urban district that generates as much energy as it uses annually has proven to be a huge success, according to a report released this month by the chief technical partners on the project and its government sponsor, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

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Known as the FortZED (for Zero Energy District) Jumpstart Project, the $4.8 million, two-year initiative transformed the grid in the downtown area of Fort Collins, Colorado, as well as on the campus of Colorado State University. The initiative is just one of the nine Renewable and Distributed Systems Integration (RDSI) projects funded by DOE grants nationwide. It was launched in 2010 and completed in July 2012.

The results have been impressive. The Fort Collins RDSI successfully integrated and controlled a large number of distributed-generation and demand-side resources—reducing electrical-grid-system peak load demand by an unprecedented 20 percent within the FortZED district and showcasing the technical and collaborative skill of project participants.


Spirae—a Fort Collins-based firm that specializes in controlling distributed energy resources, such as wind and solar generation, at a grid operations scale—served as technical project manager. Along with Woodward and the Brendle Group, two other companies with local headquarters, Spirae focused on infrastructure and controlling peak load; while community partners generated and shared power, cut their power demand, or both.

Within the project grid, the RDSI technical partners orchestrated the dispatch of over 4,000 kilowatts (kW) of distributed generation as well as 760 kW of dispatchable load reduction. Fort Collins Utilities Manager Steve Catanach commented, “The RDSI project demonstrated the capability of a smart grid, using dispatchable renewable energy and demand response, to reduce peak demand. We demonstrated that distributed energy resources can be added to a grid while maintaining power quality and reliability.”

Specifically, the technical partners divided the work as follows:

·         Spirae deployed its BlueFin active distribution management software platform, which controls grid-tied distributed energy resources (DER), to support peak load management functionality.

·         Brendle Group led the effort to identify demand-side resources, resulting in an increase in partner site generation from 550 kW (10 percent) at the project’s inception to 749 kW (18 percent) by the demonstration period.

·         Woodward provided hardware, applications engineering and the needed services to equip a distributed power generation resource in the district to burn renewable bio-gas fuel; as well as to properly connect eight generation resources at site partners to the power grid, enabling them to communicate with the BlueFin DER management platform.

Site partners included the City of Fort Collins Operations, Colorado State University (CSU) Facilities Management, Larimer County Facilities, New Belgium Brewing Company and the InteGrid Lab at CSU’s Engines & Energy Conversion Lab. Site partner goals required that, while contributing to peak load reduction, neither their operations nor energy expenses were negatively affected.

Community participants sought sustainability through greater adoption of renewable energy and energy conservation. Community goals required that while promoting “green” energy practices, power remained reliable and affordable.

Fort Collins Sustainability Officer Bruce Hendee observed, “The RDSI project’s goals were quite diverse. The technical, community and site goals needed to be balanced so that all participants could meet their objectives. RDSI did just that. All parties successfully met their goals. What that means for us going forward is that we’re poised to implement FortZED as a net-zero energy district having tested, worked out and balanced the diverse requirements.”

Upon conclusion, according to the report, the project was “among the highest performing of all RDSI projects in complexity and outcomes.

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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli
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