After two years of research, construction, and testing, the Renewable and Distributed Systems Integration (RDSI) project – also known as the FortZED "jumpstart" – is up and running with demonstration projects throughout the FortZED district, from Downtown Fort Collins to the Colorado State University (CSU) campus.
FortZED is a community initiative that will transform Downtown Fort Collins and the main CSU campus into a net zero energy district. We are transforming two square miles of our community into a place where we use less energy and produce and manage our energy more efficiently.
Technology Behind FortZED
With the RDSI project, we are using plug-in cars, solar panels and traditional generators to test how our existing electric grid accepts and distributes energy. Some of these initial resources, such as the diesel generators, are temporary substitutes for renewable resources not yet in place.
RDSI also experiments with conservation techniques to observe and document how effective various strategies are at reducing peak load on two main power lines. Our goal is to reduce peak load – or the moment of greatest electricity use – by 20-30 percent.
Due to the lessons learned during these two years of research and recent public feedback, the RDSI project has evolved from the original proposal. We are moving away from using fossil fuel-based energy as substitutes for renewable resources and we're moving toward a mix that includes energy conservation and reduction (i.e., turning things off) and renewable energy. Software developed by local company Spirae will be used to control and prioritize our efforts.
What Will We Learn?
Findings from this FortZED jumpstart project will help the City create the Utilities of the 21st Century and will significantly impact the future of renewable energy in Fort Collins, the state, and even the nation. In fact, this project is one of only nine smart grid demonstrations in the country to receive funding from the US Department of Energy.
Just at importantly, findings from the RDSI project will help answer key questions: Can such smart grid strategies save money? Can peak electric demand be reduced without affecting local air quality?
Working together, the project team (Fort Collins Utilities, Colorado State University, the InteGrid Lab, Larimer County and New Belgium Brewing) hopes to have answers to such questions at the end of the 2011 demonstration year. To find out more about RDSI and FortZED, visit fortzed.com.