District Energy | Spring/Summer 2019 29 © 2019 International District Energy Association. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
install solutions that enable them to
ensure the technology endures and
provides the value they expect.
These elements corroborated by
Lewin and Kotter are applicable to any
business or technical situation. This
includes when plant owners, engineers
and technicians determine whether a
control system change should and can
take place and take hold or whether a
like-for-like facelift strategy is sufficient.
In the process, forward thinking must be
applied to lay out an architecture that
evaluates initial investments, future capital investments, annual operating costs
and long-term value.
VISION OF A MODERN INTEGRATED
Integrating all the components of a
modernization at a new or existing facility
is a process that takes foresight and could
be years in the making; but looking at a
cohesive controls solution will bring value
that is wide-ranging and profitable for a
The best of today’s modern plant
control systems are designed with interconnectivity, reliability and profitability in
mind. They integrate families of products
to achieve a common goal. Systems with
a digital backbone can tap into information technology to take advantage of the
Industrial Internet of Things (IIo T). District
energy systems can install asset management software, for example, that talks to
all the devices in the boiler plant (e.g.,
that measure temperature and pressure)
and ties them together over the Internet, enabling plants to more efficiently
monitor and manage their operations.
The modern integrated plant will be able
to use the backbone architecture to take
advantage of edge control all the way to
value-add software packages on a single
network with seamless communication
and transfer of data.
Example: Logan International Airport,
At Logan International Airport in Boston, Mass., the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) is in charge of managing
and operating the airport’s central plant.
Not only were plant controllers approach-
ing end of life, but the facility also had a
disparate set of controllers and local and
central human-machine interfaces (HMIs)
that had accumulated over the past 20
years from different administrations.
Massport knew it needed a strategy for
The team from Massport had two
choices. The first was to do a simple like-
for-like upgrade of the HMI and control-
lers to newer versions. It became clear,
however, that management wanted an
approach that matched Massport’s vision
of how the central plant would provide
steam heating and chilled-water cooling
across the airport in the future. While
budget can be a deciding factor in an
upgrade, Massport wanted to investigate
all possible solutions.
A second option reflecting longer-
term thinking was also considered. Sev-
eral key individuals close to the project
had an understanding of the criticality
of the age of the existing control system
and how any upgrade would fit into Mass-
port’s district energy modernization plan.
This plan called for integrating the central
plant’s heating and cooling system con-
trols with the existing building manage-
ment systems and a potential future com-
bined heat and power installation. This
meant a cohesive long-term vision for
system controls was needed.
Massport chose to work toward an
entirely integrated district energy net-
work, which would require installation
of a controls platform that would allow
all the devices at the plant as well as
connected buildings to communicate
natively. This option would clearly be
more expensive, but the larger team at
Massport was able to generate the case
for the more comprehensive upgrade pro-
viding a future-proof control system.
In this instance, while a short-term
decision based on price would have been
reasonable, taking the system off the
obsolescence path with a like-for-like
upgrade was not in the best interest of
According to John Schanda, manager
of CHP at Massport, “We could have done
a simple upgrade of our controllers using
upgrade kits, and we could have also
migrated our HMI to work with the new
controllers. We investigated that solution,
but we also looked at our long-term goals
for the airport, and we determined that a
simple upgrade of controllers and HMIs
wasn’t going to gain us much in productivity, nor would it set us up for a more
integrated system across all of the airport,
including building controls, energy, electrical systems and other systems in the
central plant. Ultimately we determined
that the modest increase in cost for a fully
integrated system outweighed the cost
for a short-term fix.”
OUT-TECHNOLOGIZING THE WORKFORCE
Modernizing an energy plant can
also be a significant driver for upgrad-
At Boston’s Logan International Airport, Massport opted for a comprehensive upgrade of its
central plant control system.
Photo Keith J. Finks/ Shutterstock.com.