A new smart phone application created by two Miami University students provides an opportunity for cost-savings in Miami's use of energy resources.
Seniors, Alex J. Hancock, a mass communication major, and Emily Schmidt, a computer software engineering major, developed a smart phone application that automatically monitors electricity prices for Miami’s department of physical facilities (PFD).
According to Cody Powell, assistant vice president of operations for PFD, Miami recently became a retail buyer of electricity. Because Miami has its own substation, it can sell back small amounts of power to offset the total daily amount of electricity that Miami uses. Miami follows the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO) to learn when prices are up or down and decide when it’s best to generate electricity.
Monitoring electric prices would take constant watching of the Midwest ISO’s website, among other tasks. The energy market changes in five-minute increments, but the actual real-time settlement price is for one hour.
Seeking to take advantage of sell-back opportunities, but not being able to commit full-time human monitoring, Powell discussed the situation with Hancock and Schmidt, student employees who typically work on PFD’s website, and their supervisor, Paul DiBenedetto, director of information system services for PFD. The students wrote a script for a smart phone application that checks the Midwest ISO website prices every five minutes beginning at the top of the hour. It then sends Powell or other energy purchasers an e-mail if the current price is equal to or above $90 per megawatt (MW), a price comfortably above the cost to produce the power using Miami’s generation assets.
“Our contract allows for us to ‘sell back’ the power I bought in the day ahead market for the real-time market price. Obviously, I need to subtract our cost of generation to arrive at how much we are able to save,” Powell said.
It took about three days for Hancock and Schmidt to write the application and another half day to debug it and verify with Powell that the information he is getting is what he expects.
Hancock said this is a unique assignment for his job.
“Normally our work involves more typical web programming and IT work. This was something Cody came to us with, and we just developed a solution,” Hancock said.
Schmidt added, “Our area (web and technical work) requires us to be proficient problem solvers.”
“It offers us the opportunity to make significant savings in our energy spending. Organizations with similar purchasing strategies employ teams of people to accomplish the same results we’ve achieved with our existing staff,” Powell said.