Saving Energy and the Environment Thanks to Alcoa’s Smart Grid Innovations
Our smelting engineers and energy specialists have also found ways to reduce our energy costs while benefitting the community through a partnership with the regional electric grid operator. At our Warrick smelter near Evansville, Indiana, we continuously adjust power consumption by reducing production when power is needed to support reliability of the region’s grid, and increasing production when power is cheaper. Through this demand response process, the smelter essentially operates as a virtual battery, providing supplementary power for short-term fluctuations and market needs. Providing this power helps maintain grid stability and avoid brownouts, and can generate $15,000 to $120,000 in net revenues every day for Alcoa. While the traditional paradigm was to maintain a continuous, stable electric load for smelting operations, our engineers have developed processes to maintain efficiency and stability even during power modulations that occur on four-second intervals. Demand response also has a significant environmental benefit. As more wind energy sources come on line, our ability to adjust production and provide power back to the grid can fill gaps when wind power is not available, preventing the need for additional thermal generation to keep demand and supply in equilibrium.