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The Future of Building Energy Savings
Uniting Building Automation & Utilities
Western Allied Mechanical
Many studies have been
conducted regarding energy costs and building
operation since the birth of automated building control systems. The
upgrade from pneumatics to Energy Management Systems (EMS) has allowed
operators the ability to closely monitor and control key energy
consumers within a buildings; thereby reducing energy consumption
through mechanical and controls retrofits. Taking the concept further,
some facility owners examine power consumption in comparison to
historical data in order to identify problems and optimize equipment
usage. So what is the next great milestone in energy management? What
if you could correlate your control system and your utility provider to
optimally reduce consumption at peak energy usage hours? Although Auto
Demand Response (ADR) and load reduction strategies have been around
since the early 2000s, they have become more pivotal with the increased
demand and cost of energy.
what is ADR and how is it implemented? Auto Demand Response was a
collective effort between technology companies and utility providers to
reduce grid consumption during peak energy usage hours. With the
increase in energy consumption and decommissioning of power plants
nationwide, the cost of energy will continue to rise more drastically.
Known as Peak Day Pricing (PDP), utility providers can forecast days
where energy consumption will exceed their generation capabilities. In
these scenarios the provider must “borrow” energy from other utility
companies and resell it to their consumers; often pricing it at triple
the normal cost. To curb the energy demand, utilities can now provide
numerous signals to building automation systems, reducing consumption
during these periods with what is known as a DRAS (Demand Response
Automation Server). Interfacing the DRAS to a building’s ADR client
found in the automation, the building can now shed equipment load based
on pretested sequencing. Sound too futuristic yet?
load cutting implementations are not as easy as plugging in a “black
flipping the switch. In most cases, automation control contractors
struggle with reduction strategies from sequence execution to predicted
savings. Typically, a controls contractor will partner with a
mechanical design or energy analysis firm to deliver correct equipment
sequencing and energy reduction verification. Here is a quick checklist
to see if your building is applicable to be integrated for load
Do you have zone level control or zone monitoring capability?
your site utilizes air handling units, do they currently have variable
control strategies setup?
kind of power monitoring do you have setup for your building?
your current control system be optimized with an ADR client?
you’ve decided to go with a peak pricing program for your building, now
what? The first step is to consult with an energy or mechanical design
firm to understand how your building operates. Correct power reduction
entails more than just turning equipment off or limiting staging. Here
are some considerations and pitfalls of peak pricing programs:
level of climate impact are your tenants worth sacrificing?
you verify actual energy savings during an event before disclosing the
information to your utility provider?
much sequencing is being re-engineered as part of the initial project?
you want your facility managers in charge of the program or will it be
mechanical upgrades necessary to reduce power incrementally throughout
1: An example of power reduction during peak hours on an event day.
So how can you offset the capital cost of integrating load reduction
strategies? Although most software related strategies have a high ROI
(Return of Investment), the addition of mechanical upgrades can
lengthen that return. Most utility providers are in support of load
reduction strategies during peak hours and help to fund the upfront
capital necessary for integration. Providers like PG&E pay up to
$250.00 per kW saved with payment plans spread over the life of the
project. Funding is in relation not only how much energy is saved, but
in the manner it’s reduced. By signing up on a fully (ADR) versus
partially (Operator enabled) automated reduction plan, a facility can
get up to 20% more funding per kW saved.
The future of power generation is dependent more upon how much can be saved rather than produced. Power plants are currently surpassing original life expectancies and are being decommissioned throughout the United States. With the dramatic increase in population, most homeowners are revoking utility providers the ability to build new plants. Yet, with more people and less power, how can blackouts and excessive energy costs be prevented? Power reduction integrations throughout commercial properties will continue to increase due to utility support and the decrease of power generation.
About the Author
maintain an engineering sales position at Western Allied
Mechanical. Our business is consulting customers on energy consumption
and reducing costs through a joint mechanical and automation venture.
I’m an avid follower of the industry and am always open to new
opportunities and approaches. You can reach me
or my cell at 650-798-4154.
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