Monday, November 2, 2009

Monitoring Energy Production and Consumption

As holistic building design advances and greater emphasis is placed on energy efficiency, new technologies are being developed to assist in whole-building energy monitoring.These programs enable a facilitie's owner to effectively sub-meter each energy-consuming device in a building and even control these devices from the network. One such software application is Tridum by Niagra Framework. According to the manufacturer, it is a "is a software platform that integrates diverse systems and devices regardless of manufacturer, or communication protocol into a unified platform that can be easily managed and controlled in real time over the Internet using a standard web browser. By integrating today's diverse building systems such as environmental controls, security, lighting, energy, video, fire and life safety, Niagara is creating better buildings---ones that are smarter, use less energy, are more efficient, have lower operating costs, are safer and contribute to a sustainable environment." That's a lot of applications!

The Tridium system, recently installed in Breakell's Patterson Avenue office, provides comprehensive energy management solutions that can be remote controlled from anywhere with an internet connection. In Breakell's application of the software, independent radio-frequency devices have been installed on each thermostat to allow zone control over heating and cooling, one of the largest electric loads for office buildings. The system is also set up to monitor total energy consumption through a connection to the main electric meter for the office. In this way, Breakell has been able to precisely control energy demand, and troubleshoot previously invisible building energy consumption issues.
Some specific examples of Breakell's exploration of possible applications for this type of system follow:

The interface shown above allows real-time monitoring of whole-building energy consumption. This consumption is measured in Kilowatts of demand at a given point and graphed over time. Different time periods can be chosen for more specific or more general monitoring purposes. The system also breaks down the percentage of solar energy production to total energy demand at any given point, and allows a real-time calculation of energy savings from on-site renewable energy production. This particular piece of information appeals to the American attitude of instant gratification, and allows a building owner/operator to see real-time energy production data as opposed to waiting for a monthly meter reading to assess building energy performance. Other specific applications are also being explored at Breakell.

The above chart tracks building energy consumption over the course of two nights and one day. After the Tridium energy monitoring system was installed, it was observed that night-time energy consumption was quite high although the office is unoccupied and most lighting and equipment is turned off. The hypothesis arose that the night time energy hog was the data server, and particularly the dedicated single-zone HVAC system that serves the server room. That night, the door to the server room was left open to allow excess heat to disseminate throughout the unoccupied building while holding all other variables constant. Upon review the next day, it was proven that this minor change resulted in a 50% reduction in night-time energy consumption! This type of facility management troubleshooting would not be possible without precise energy monitoring from a system like Tridium.
The moral of the story is that energy management software combined with net-metering type applications can have drastic impacts on total facility energy consumption. As buildings are reported to consume 76% of all power-plant generated electricity and 48% of all energy in the US, large reductions in energy consumption will be necessary to combat the release of greenhouse gas emissions. Reduction in these numbers will not be possible without more accurate accounting of facilities energy usage and better trouble shooting of energy wasting operations. Tridium energy management technology is one solution to this problem, and Breakell, Inc. is pioneering the use of this technology in hopes of setting an example to others of its amazing capabilities.

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