Getting Control Over a Building’s Electric Appetite: The Latest in Energy Monitoring

March 10, 2015
Buildings gobble up nearly three quarters of the electricity in the U.S. To really save energy, we need to know the particulars of each building’s appetite — and control it. Here’s some new tech that helps building owners do so.

We all know the big numbers. Buildings gobble up nearly three quarters of electricity in the U.S. But to really save energy, we need to know the particulars of each building’s appetite — and control it.

Hence, technologies for energy monitoring, control and automation are becoming increasingly important. The global market for wireless sensor devices, alone, is expected to grow from $1.5 billion in 2014 to $4.3 billion in 2019, according to a BCC Research report.

Energy monitoring, control and automation systems have the potential to reduce building energy use by 20 – 30 percent, according to the US Department of Energy.  Yet over 90 percent of commercial buildings that are less than 50,000 square feet have minimal or no building automation systems.

Here are a few new technologies we’ve heard about lately that are designed to improve a building’s energy diet.

With energy storage coming to the fore, JLM Energy is now offering a Measurz Energy Storage Toolkit (EST). The cloud-based building monitoring and control system helps users make informed energy choices and save money.

Measurz EST records data in real-time and displays information on a single screen about different power sources, such as how much energy the building is consuming and how much of that power is coming from the grid, from renewables, or from energy storage.

In addition to energy monitoring, Measurz EST lets building operators remotely control all of the pieces of equipment that are connected. For example, during on-peak hours, building operators could run off of batteries and let their PV solar net meter onto the grid in order to gain credits with the utility, says Roman Courvrette, director of channel development at JLM Energy.

Building operators can also charge batteries at night when energy is cheap and use them during the day when it’s expensive.

“There are different ways to do this but it all boils down to having software that transforms a bunch of seemingly unrelated pieces of equipment into a well-choreographed solution,” says Courvrette.

JLM’s technology not only records data to find out where problems may be, but also allows building operators to do something to address those problems. For example, commercial building operators can use Measurz EST for complicated solutions like peak demand shaving, if the system includes advanced energy storage. The technology can react to price signals from the utility in real-time, using energy from battery storage when the price of electricity from the utility gets high during the day. This offers a way to save money and in some cases generate credits with the local utility — if it’s a utility that offers additional incentives like the major utilities in California do.

In addition, Measurz EST can be used to integrate into JLM’s microgrid solution — but homes do not require microgrids  to benefit from monitoring various power sources. Homeowners can evaluate the 15-minute interval data that the utility company uses for billing purposes  to design an integrated home energy system, including hybrid PV solar and advanced energy storage systems.

“You can custom build a system and see the cost to the customer, the estimated incentives, and a 20-year cash flow chart detailing the financials,” says Courvette.

In addition, California homeowners that install backup systems for their homes can qualify for the state’s Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) using Measurz EST. In order to qualify, homeowners must be able to program batteries to be used for two hours a day during the summer, which Measurz EST lets them do. The SGIP provides rebates for qualifying distributed energy systems installed on the customer’s side of the utility meter.

Measurz EST  can be used to integrate off-grid systems, as well.

A wide-range of other technologies also continue to roll out that sense, measure and help businesses time their energy use to save on costs.

For example, Direct Energy Business partnered with Panoramic Power to offer a device-level energy monitoring and analytics solution to reduce energy consumption and establish a better demand response commitment. The self-powered sensors wirelessly monitor energy use at the individual circuit breaker level and link the data to the cloud in real-time. This allows building owners to gain insight into how individual pieces of equipment use energy.

Another partnership, this one between Cummins and Tangent Energy Solutions, has launched the eDGegen Series Power Platform, which consists of a Cummins clean diesel or natural gas engine equipped with technology designed to reduce capacity charges and costs associated with peak energy demand. Combining Cummins technology with Tangent Energy Solutions’ distributed energy resources enables commercial and industrial customers to dispatch generators during times of peak demand.

Oakridge National Laboratory  is also developing an energy management solution that uses sensors to collect data, sends data to a receiver, and provides information to building operators but at $1 – $10 per sensor node instead of $150 – $300 per sensor node. The wireless sensor prototype uses advanced manufacturing techniques like additive roll-to-roll manufacturing enabling electronics components to be printed on flexible plastic substrates. This means each sensor can be installed without wires, using a peel-and-stick adhesive backing. ORNL is currently negotiating to establish agreements with international electronics manufacturers to make its wireless sensors commercially available.

Tell us about other new monitoring, control and automation systems for buildings by commenting here or on our LinkedIn Group, Energy Efficiency Markets.

About the Author

Reid Smith

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