Utility savings: Verizon ensures power supply with sophisticated energy management system


Verizon Communications has created its "central office of the future" in Garden City, Long Island using a combination of fuel cells, engine-generator sets, waste heat capture, and utility supplied power. This combination of supply technologies is managed using a sophisticated system designed by Marine Interface and using equipment and software from Opto 22 . Since Verizon uses 5.1 billion kWh annually to run its central offices, they are understandably concerned about finding sources of energy that are reliable, cost effective, and minimize environmental impact.

Central offices house critical electronic switching and backup power equipment for Verizon's wireline communications. This equipment uses a great deal of power and creates much heat that has to be dissipated. Cooling and air handling systems consume even more energy. The Garden City office is a prototype to evaluate new technologies in search of greater efficiency and cost savings. The 292,000 sq ft building typically uses 2.7 mW provided by a combination of:

  • One dual-fuel engine;

  • Two diesel engines;

  • Seven fuel cells;

  • One steam turbine, supplied from a heat recovery steam generator (HRSG); and,

  • Electricity from Long Island Power Authority.

The fuel cells are each 200 kW and operate on natural gas. "At 1.4 mW, Garden City is the world's largest fuel cell plant," says Eric Breen, president of Marine Interface. "The project really resulted from the big 2003 blackout. After that, Verizon was looking to have the utmost reliability of all telecom carriers."

Don Niche, engineering manager for Verizon, has been very pleased with the Garden City facility, but keeps his eyes on the larger picture. "In the overall project, it's just one building of 500," he says. "The whole point of the project is that we want to know when we're in trouble before trouble hits. We're working with Marine Interface and Opto 22 to develop proactive monitoring. We want to identify a problem before it exists."

Managing Garden City requires a sophisticated system that monitors all the equipment, balancing internal supply and demand as operations change. Marine Interface, a supplier of hardware, software, and integration services for power-related applications, designed the installation using hardware from Opto 22, all networked on an Ethernet-based system. The network employs 12 Opto 22 SNAP Ultimate and Simple I/O modules that gather information from all of the site's electrical metering systems, circuit breakers, engine electronics, fuel tanks, etc. All data are converted into simple network management protocol (SNMP) form for remote network access and monitoring.

The system went online in June 2005. Since then, the facility has been operating at a rate where it produces nearly 16,000 MMBTU (million Btu) of useful thermal energy and 38,000 MMBtu of useful electrical energy yearly. This requires 105,000 MMBtu of fuel, resulting in fuel utilization efficiency over 50%. Moreover, waste heat from the fuel cells operates chillers to reduce power consumption for equipment cooling.

— Daily News Desk, Peter Welander ,
process industries editor , Control Engineering

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