GT Flex: A Coordinated Multi-Building Pilot Study

Ryan Meyer, Brett Bridgeland, Korbaga Woldekidan, Brett Webster, Tanushree Charan, Jung-Ho Lewe, Victor Olgyay, Sarah Zaleski

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Buildings are a significant and untapped resource for providing utility electric grid services. Recent studies have estimated that buildings could reduce the peak demand on the electric grid in the U.S. by almost 25% through effective combinations of energy efficiency (EE) measures and load flexibility strategies (Langevin et al. 2021). The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has established a goal to triple energy efficiency and demand flexibility in both residential and commercial sections by 2030 compared to 2020 levels (Satchwell et al. 2021). Such findings place buildings alongside electric vehicles, photovoltaics, electric batteries, and other distributed energy resources (DERs) as primary technologies needed for supporting high renewable energy generation grids. Coordinating and optimizing multiple buildings and other DERs is more beneficial and valuable when compared with individual buildings and DERs operating as siloed resources, uncoordinated with others (Olgyay et al. 2020). A pilot study at the Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT) was conducted to evaluate value propositions of a multi-building scale project seeking carbon reduction, energy efficiency and grid-interactive capabilities, by demonstrating the means by which stakeholders can determine the technical and financial merits of grid-interactivity and energy efficiency technologies coordinated across multiple assets. The study focused on analyzing technical feasibility of deploying thermal load flexibility strategies at the multi-building scale, coordinated to not exceed existing infrastructure constraints at the pilot site. Results show that campus can provide 3-3.5 MW of potential load shed over a 4-hour event window through coordinated dispatch of thermal cooling load flexibility without exceeding existing infrastructure capacities. Under future high renewable scenarios, this thermal flexibility resource is also valuable when coordinated to reduce curtailment of intermittent renewables. Economic analyses were performed to effectively communicate various value propositions of grid-interactive and efficient building (GEB) thermal flexibility strategies. Load flexibility presents a financial value proposition to the campus today. By conducting rationalized, coordinated dispatch in response to real time price (RTP) fluctuations, the campus can benefit materially from daily price arbitrage. The RTP signal acts as an aggregating mechanism between the utility and customer to call on demand flexibility resources, with a large portion of the benefit deriving from a relatively small number of days. Realizing and maximizing this benefit with thermal load flexibility requires careful attention to the timing of pricing signals and parameterization of dispatch to overcome efficiency penalties. Grid value and signals are expected to evolve over time, and thermal load flexibility shows potential to adapt dispatch logic to support intermittent renewable generation.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages40
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5500-80279


  • coordinated control
  • multi-building
  • thermal flexibility


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