Energy Management Systems

Using EMS to support distributed energy resources

To exemplify the evolving nature of energy management systems, Greg Turner, vice president for Honeywell Business Solutions, recalls a recent conversation in which a hospital facilities manager spoke of how he’d have to come up with budget figures once a year that would either be accepted or rejected.

“Now I get calls almost weekly from finance asking what our energy spend is going to be the following month,” the manager told Turner. “I’ve become the good guy intending to underspend and I’m actually helping the bottom line. I fear the day in the near future when energy prices become more volatile again and I become the bad guy. The moment I become the bad guy, the energy management system is the only way I can tell my boss where the dollars are going.”

Credit: iStock/mathisworks; composite: Deja Hsu

Credit: iStock/mathisworks; composite: Deja Hsu

Those same concerns about energy reliability and variability of energy costs are echoed by facility owners and operators nationwide, notes Turner.

Today’s energy management systems are not only about day-to-day control and management, “but the big opportunity for customers is to use them to manage variability and to understand where the energy dollars are going within the enterprise so that when they do get squeezed, they know where to look,” says Turner.

Honeywell Business Solutions offers turnkey energy performance contracting installation and service conditioning hardware, software, and services designed to help end-users manage the energy risk and variability, “the trade-offs between energy and comfort within their buildings and ultimately, deliver the business outcome in terms of savings, reliability, and up time, but also ensure they deliver the operating environment—whether it’s a process environment for a pharmaceutical company or a comfort environment for a commercial office building,” says Turner.

These days, facility owners and operators have the ability to encompass multiple energy sources such as co-gen or tri-gen, photovoltaic (PV), wind, and storage options such as ice or large chilled storage systems, Turner points out.

Managing those sources has become more sophisticated, he says, adding that the dividing point between building management systems and energy management systems “is rapidly disappearing.”

Turner points out that energy management systems—particularly those used by large end-users—were “almost a separate animal. They might interact with the building management system, but they also did a lot on their own in terms of energy forecasting, and in some cases, demand management.”

“Energy management and energy control is now a fundamental application of the building management system and the two are starting to grow together because the building management system really can’t achieve the customer’s goals without having the energy as part of it.”

Facility owners and operators have become cognizant that they can engage in energy management without impacting the operation of the building, Turner says.

“People have this vision from back in the 1980s of demand management, with load shed being the act of turning off every other light in the hallway,” he says. “Today’s systems have evolved so far beyond that to the point where we know the amount of stored chilled water or stored ice that’s available and we can control our burn rate of that expendable resource to coast us through a peak energy period from a demand charge perspective in ways we couldn’t have possibly done 10 or 15 years ago.”

Today’s analytics offer the ability to “understand exactly how the building envelope is going to behave for a given set of weather conditions, how many BTUs are cooling, or how much heating we’re going to have to deliver in order to get through a given period of time,” says Turner.

While previous versions of energy management and demand response were “very much about ‘on and off’,” says Turner, “today, it’s about 1,000 little tweaks that we can make. We’re using the discharge temperature of a chiller by one degree or changing which set of pumps or cooling tower fans we’re running in a given situation, and distributed energy particularly as we bring photovoltaic and wind into the equation.”

Facility operators have to be ready for relatively rapid swings, such as cloudy days, says Turner.

“The building management or energy management systems today can prioritize loads and change set points just as fast, letting the building adapt quickly to the change, as opposed to creating an outage situation or a process interruption,” he says.

Now, a near-real-time control system where the availability of energy and the different sources that may be available are inputs to the equation, “but we get to control the demand on the other side with real-time systems in a way that makes it possible to mix all of these different sources together, without putting the business at risk,” says Turner.

Kevin Callahan, product owner for Alerton, a Honeywell channel business specializing in building automation systems, notes “the evolution of EMS is really about the ability to monitor and measure energy at the point of use.”

Callahan points out that there have always been meters for electricity, gas, water, or anything considered energy-related. Two to three decades ago, “we would just measure the main feed into a building.

Photos: Shedd Aquarium/Sally Ryan

Photos: Shedd Aquarium/Sally Ryan

“As the cost of installing meters has dropped considerably over the last 20 years, this has led to the proliferation of different metering products and the availability of those meters to provide that data in an open protocol like BACnet.”

Meters can now be placed on specific electric panels to measure lighting, plug, or HVAC load from that panel, says Callahan.

“At the equipment level, variable frequency drive technology has embraced open protocols and enabled the ability to measure the energy consumption of a specific fan or pump,” he says. “Now, products like the IBIS Networks plug load monitoring product can measure plug load at the outlet level, which feeds into cloud analytics. That’s the key piece of the evolution—the drive to measure details at this outlet level.”

The Shedd Aquarium uses tools from Schneider Electric to manage the facility’s energy portfolio.

The Shedd Aquarium uses tools from Schneider Electric to manage the facility’s energy portfolio.

One piece of that evolution is being able to measure more, Callahan says.

“It’s being able to take that data and push it to the cloud to perform analytics or on-premise analytical solutions, but most are cloud-based,” he says. “The analytical aspect now allows a facility director or energy conservation manager to see patterns in energy usage and recognize trends in their facilities, as well as to validate that their conservation initiatives are actually having an effect.”

Alerton has an established partnership with IBIS Networks to pull its plug load products and cloud analytics to monitor and control end-user’s systems through its BACnet system protocol.

“Through our browser-based Compass software, users can click a hyperlink to go directly to see the plug load consumption at the point of use,” says Callahan. “In addition, Allerton’s Ascent Compass has an advanced reporting service that makes it easy for facility directors and energy conservation managers to generate reports detailing system performance and energy consumption in the facility, so that they can inform and educate not only themselves, but also the C-suite executives.”

As the number of facilities that embrace solar and wind power generation increases, and as the technologies for battery storage of that power improve, energy management systems will be able to connect up to monitor and measure how efficiently that energy is being collected, stored, and used in the facility to offset the facility’s dependence on its utility district, says Callahan.

In Chicago, Bob Wengel, vice president of facilities for the John G. Shedd Aquarium, keeps his eyes on a computer screen as he views the facilities’ energy use in real time. He uses tools from Schneider Electric to manage several aspects of the facility, including lighting, animal life support systems, and HVAC. Shedd utilizes Schneider Electric’s Power Manager module for SmartStruxure for its newly installed meters.

“We read our meter data in real time and that’s how we run the building. In real time, power monitoring enables us to see where we’re at,” says Wendel. “As I speak, we’re pulling in 2,300 kW right now and it’s way warmer today than it should be—it’s November 1 and it’s 72 degrees in Chicago.”

The Shedd Aquarium’s energy needs are vast and critical. The 475,000-square-foot facility sits on the Chicago lakefront and acts as a microcosm of various global environmental regions with its 32,000 animals representing 1,500 species. “Even though we’re a conservation organization, we can be a bit energy intensive,” notes Wengel, adding that over the past five years the facility has managed to offset its peak from 3.5 MW down to 2.79. The facilities department has championed the typical sustainability initiatives that include energy, wastewater, and water, and the use of energy-saving measures such as the use of LED lighting and variable frequency drives to create controllable load.

But when it came to energy, employees believed it needed broader treatment, going beyond typical reduction efforts to encompass the smart grid and how it might work to create different market opportunities, says Wengel. After researching the options in the PJM Interconnection regional transmission organization, the team created an energy strategy to take the facility from an energy saver to an energy innovator, Wendel says, adding that the goal was to carve out a reputation as “the first smart energy aquarium.”

The strategy encompassed going from using month-old data to using real-time data, relying on software programs to set a budget for kilowatt hours each day and helping manage usage and demand.

“We implemented a building analytics program to tune our building up,” says Wengel. “We also have 265 kW of onsite solar. While you look at a 2.8-MW load, you’d think that solar is only a quarter of a megawatt, but it’s where the panels are situated that’s important because we can use it to offset our peak hours.” Peak generation typically occurs between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. The panels are situated southwest on a curve on the back roof of the Oceanarium.

The facility also has a 30-ton, 1-MW battery for storage, which it intends to deploy in the frequency regulation market as a demonstration of battery storage as a viable energy option. Wengel envisions a time when a facility might aggregate a group of batteries together in one place behind the meter.

The battery and the affiliated electronics and computer system is owned and operated by EaglePicher of Joplin, MO. It was funded in part by a $500,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The Shedd Aquarium shares revenues with the company. Viridity Energy is the curtailment supplier that aggregates it and puts it into the market.

Schneider Electric provided project management of the installation of the battery as well as the inverters. “The thing that is unique is that a solar inverter only has to see power in one direction,” notes Wengel. “These inverters have to be able to push power bi-directionally because the battery is charging and discharging.”

Wengel’s advice to other facility managers looking to manage their energy is to examine how reliable the facility’s power source is and from where it comes. “Understand there are markets available for you to make financially smart business decisions based on things like demand response, frequency regulation, and peak load contributions shaving. Understand your strategies,” he says. Wengel also recommends bringing as much of a facility’s load as is possible in controllable use.

“How are you going to use your loads for different advantages to help you manage that energy? We do things like slow pumps down and speed them up during different times of the day to offset peak,” says Wengel, looking at his screen. “Right now, I’m 180 kW under where the target says we should be. That’s all savings. That’s money back in your pocket. You’ve got to understand where you can push those limits.”

Ultimately, a facility can adopt all of the energy management technology on the market, “but it means nothing without your people,” says Wengel. “You have to put your people in a position to be successful. They have to first trust that you know what you’re doing. The only way it’s going to work is if you can give your team that operates the building the ownership and the tools to be successful.”

Schneider Electric has identified three significant trends affecting the energy landscape—decarbonizaton, digitization, and decentralization—that are driving numerous changes, including what energy management systems are able to do.

One of the chief factors supporting decarbonization is rooted in a number of factors, but the primary one is the rapid cost reduction of renewable distributed generation, coupled with potential rises in power prices off of the grid, notes Mark Feasel, vice president, smart grid, Schneider Electric North America. An increasing number of states are paving the way for grid parity—the potential for a site to create its own energy for the same or better price than can be purchased from the grid, he adds.

“At the same time, there are cost reductions driven by technology,” says Feasel. Policy and regulation is encouraging energy consumers to decarbonize through such efforts as COP21 or the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

Energy management systems play a significant role in the federal, state, and local incentives to decarbonize, notes Feasel. The amount of data that can be currently collected from an abundance of devices is a “massive difference from even five years ago,” notes Feasel of digitization.

“I’ve spent a lot of time retrofitting electrical distribution systems and heating and cooling systems with somewhat expensive telemetry and communications in order to help folks make the most of their energy,” he says. “Twenty years ago, only those who had really understood energy and could correlate it to the bottom line would make that kind of investment.”

Those entities doing so were typically heavy industrial facilities with “very energy-intense” applications, notes Feasel. Now, “When you buy an electrical switchboard, a variable frequency drive with your process, or an inverter to go with your photovoltaics, that device has telemetry built into it,” he says. “It’s allowing much less energy-intensive consumers to manage their energy simply by taking cost hurdles away. It’s connecting those things together, versus in the past having to create the data from the ground up, which was a much more expensive proposition.”

Credit: Lucid Lucid’s business intelligence platform for building operations

Credit: Lucid
Lucid’s business intelligence platform for building operations

The third trend—distributed generation or decentralization—takes the energy consumer “out of this one-way world of utilities creating energy and dropping it off to passive consumers, to a world where energy is being created on consumer campuses and distributed on the grid itself,” says Feasel. “Data and energy are flowing off the grid through many different stakeholders, so the edge of the grid is becoming more intelligent, improving the ability to optimize for energy,” he says.

Credit: Lucid Lucid’s platform includes heat map analysis.

Credit: Lucid
Lucid’s platform includes heat map analysis.

Previously, energy consumers “had to deal with what the utility dropped off at the door—the cost of it and how sustainable and reliable it was,” says Feasel. “Years ago, when we were putting energy management power monitoring systems in, we were accounting for what the utility dropped off to you and allowing you to benchmark it, put up dashboards, and report on it.”

Today’s energy management systems, distributed energy resources (DERs), and microgrids are enabling energy consumers to solve the equation in a way that meets their business objectives, says Feasel. And those objectives might be quite different than someone on the same circuit, but in a different industry, such as a hospital next door to an elementary school, each of which may be served by the same utility, but have different energy objectives, he says.

That includes how it makes DERs a more cohesive and integrated part of the electrical distribution system, Feasel adds. “DERs have been somewhat passive for the last five to 10 years,” says Feasel. “Most distributed solar, upon loss of grid, is tripped offline. Even if they’re connected behind the meter in a facility, they’re not able to provide load on their own.

“That’s clearly something that’s changing today as you implement storage along with that and grid-forming technologies that allow you to isolate the site and leverage that distributed energy using the energy management system that can account for the amount of load that’s on the system and balance that load with the site’s generation capabilities.”

All of this leads to the end-user becoming “situationally aware” in understanding the aspects of energy most valued, says Feasel. “Is it sustainability? Resiliency? Cost? It’s probably all three, but to different varying effects based on who you are, what your process is, and what you’re trying to accomplish,” he adds. “One aspect of that is the ability within the solutions to break apart that kilowatt hour, understand each of those vectors, and what it is that you have to work with.”

That is accomplished through situational awareness, but also encompasses the variables correlated to varying energy consumption, says Feasel. “Perhaps, it’s temperature in a commercial building, but it might be an industrial process within a water/wastewater plant,” points out Feasel. “Understand those variables, what you’re trying to get out of energy, and how your tariff is constructed. Creating situational awareness is providing the tools necessary to do that.”

Empowerment is the next step. “It’s one thing to know what’s going on—what’s resulting in your expenses, your carbon footprint, or the extended or degragated life of your assets—but it’s another thing to implement some sort of improvements to solve it from your end,” says Feasel.

Digitization through the Internet of Things is one of the factors driving that, he adds. One such software package is Schneider Electric’s StruxureWare Demand Side Operation (DSO), delivered as software as a service. It features a significant amount of analytics and optimization, Feasel points out.

While major companies with monthly energy bills running into several millions of dollars may benefit from software permanently installed onsite, that option is expensive. And, while such operations can afford it, that doesn’t reflect the needs of most energy consumers, he says. “They are aware that they spend money on energy. They might not know exactly why or how, but they need tools to do that in a way that is much better aligned to their utilization. Software as a service is one way to take complex energy management and bring it to the masses,” says Feasel.

StruxureWare DSO works as such: devices within the facility gather data through the Internet of Things—that can include meters, protective relays, and variable frequency drives, for example. “They’re designed to operate at very fast speeds. Their purpose is to keep equipment and people safe. They are generating data,” says Feasel, adding that even so, there’s not a wide array of insight that’s going on.

“A relay or a meter knows what’s going on exactly at the spot,” he adds. “It doesn’t know what’s going on two meters over. You begin with the data collection. Generally, that data is collected by either a gateway device or software that might be installed onsite if it’s a slightly more energy-intense process.”

Once data is gathered from the devices onsite, it offers a greater understanding of how the site is operating. The information is sent to the cloud through a gateway called the DER box, followed by an analytics process. Schneider Electric owns a weather forecasting service, enabling the company to analyze the correlation between temperature and load, or irradiance and PV output.

“With that information and bringing the weather and bringing the load in, we can forecast, given what the weather is going to be today, what the output of a PV array is going to be, and when and what loads are going to be in at what time,” says Feasel. “That not only offers visibility to where the site has been and where it’s at in the present moment, but also what’s going to happen later in the day.”

Through the software modeling tariffs, that information can be correlated back to dollars. “It brings in real-time prices if you happen to be on an energy rate that allows for that,” says Feasel. “If you put those things together, you can begin to figure out exactly how operating your system in different ways might result in economically quantifiable benefits.”

One of the ways in which the system can help generate economic optimization is through tariff optimization such as load shifting. “If you are on a time-of-use rate—which means that your price varies during different times of the day—the software offers the ability to predict when and what your load is going to be, and when and what your PV output is going to be. If you have a battery, it can accommodate that as well,” says Feasel.

A common scenario might involve activities such as pre-cooling or pre-heating the building during times of low costs or charging the battery during times of low cost and discharging the battery during times of high cost, which shifts the load from a period of high costs to a period of low costs, he adds. While that doesn’t necessarily result in energy efficiency, it does create dollar savings that can be reinvested into energy conservation measures to allow a facility to drive efficiency up, Feasel points out.

Credit: Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development

Credit: Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development

Demand management is another mode of the software. “Many energy consumers face a demand charge based upon the most energy used throughout the day over some defined interval. It reflects the fact that if your facility or operation requires a great deal of load, the utility may have to oversize the wires going into your facility or the transformer,” says Feasel. “Even if you don’t use that high amount of energy at all times, it still results in system costs, so they want to charge you back for those costs.”

Feasel says in some cases, he’s seen demand charges totaling more than 50% of the bill. “We can predict based upon those correlated variables and then implement measures to shave that peak,” says Feasel. “That can be through curtailment of load, dispatch of battery, building automation, shifting the loads, pre-cooling, and pre-heating.”

Another mode: ancillary services. Feasel points out that in some markets, end-user flexibility can be monetized, enabling energy users to sell some of their system’s flexibility back to the grid. “If you’ve got a system that allows flexibility because you’ve invested in storage or you’ve got variable frequency drives, you’ve got things that can change quite quickly,” says Feasel. “We can subscribe your system into these programs and generate not just savings, but actually a payment from the market.”

Credit: Philadelphia Authority for Industrial DevelopmentThe Navy Yard in Philadelphia is one of the largest Base Realignment and Closure Program projects.

Credit: Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development
The Navy Yard in Philadelphia is one of the largest Base
Realignment and Closure Program projects.

In addition to optimizing for economic benefit, the software can do so for resilience, notes Feasel. “If you have a weather service, you can predict when storms will occur,” he says. “Beyond the fact that you can predict that it’s going to be raining at 3 p.m., you can predict and measure events likely to be disruptive to electric distribution systems such as lightning. Also, you can predict storm corridors, which means how, and where, and when is the storm going to flow and when is the lightning going to strike.”

That data is used to determine whether a weather event is likely to cause a power disruption. “We set a geofence around your system and if the storm corridor is likely to intercept it, we can begin to take action that will allow the facility to be more resilient during the storm,” notes Feasel.

One measure might be immediately charging an onsite battery to ensure available battery storage, sheding non-essential loads, or “warming up” backup generation ahead of time for quicker dispatch, says Feasel. Other options include switching a critical load to buses with backup generation, “and if you’ve got the controls and distributed generation to do it, you can proactively island the site,” he adds.

Feasel points out that a battery for energy storage is an expensive device with a chemistry component. “You can utilize a battery that optimizes for some market condition, but degrades the life of the battery, and conversely, you can configure a system that is designed to maximize the life of the battery, but doesn’t get the most economic benefit,” he adds.

Through an energy management system, facility operators gain a deep insight into how a battery is operating, and as such, have the tool to deploy it for economic or resiliency benefits, monitor storage over time, and determine how an operation is affecting its life, says Feasel.

Another influencing factor in adopting energy management systems is the regulatory environment, from the federal to local level. There is some form in energy management in all states, and in more than a dozen, there is energy management combined with DER and storage, says Feasel. “In some states, they can do it quicker because there are incentives and markets where they can monetize this flexibility and better management of energy,” he says. “There is no going back. End-users aren’t sitting around waiting for someone to tell them it’s OK to do it. This is a period in which education is extremely important.

“We see a continued acceleration over the next five years. If you think about a 2020 landscape, you’re in a situation where the vast majority of US states will be in a condition such as it makes sense to invest in sophisticated energy management. It makes sense from the bottom-line and the benefits are quantifiable.”

Michael Bakas, senior vice president for Ameresco, notes that the energy market is heading more towards a distributed model. Today’s control systems have become more intelligent, enabling end-users to connect different distributed energy assets and select loads to shed in order to balance the availability of the supply—especially during utility supply outages—to which they have access, he says, adding that that yields a number of “microgrid-type” benefits.

The current trend emanates from the aftermath of environmental challenges such as Superstorm Sandy, says Bakas, adding that “In the Northeast, we’re seeing many clients looking to develop these types of projects for resiliency purposes.”

Microgrids increase local reliability through the integration of redundant distribution systems, storage systems, power generation, and smart technologies, Bakas points out, adding that with power outages costing the US economy billions of dollars annually, distributed energy allows systems to increase reliability while potentially saving money by procuring power in real time at lower costs, while using local generation to hedge peak power costs.

“Local systems can be more efficient,” he says. “In addition, it reduces the distance energy has to travel. Thus, there are fewer line losses and lower costs from congestion pricing—especially during peak periods—and in some cases, it generates revenue.”

Using local power generation also can reduce a user’s carbon footprint and potentially displace fossil fuel through the incorporation of storage and solar and other renewable technologies as part of the microgrid, says Bakas, adding that with CHP there are even greater efficiencies.

“In terms of being somewhat grid-proof, microgrids allow some of the commercial campuses the ability to dispatch electricity supply faster and more efficiently from smaller local generators, fuel cells, or turbines, versus a centralized plant,” he adds. “All of this is possible through intelligent control systems, bringing together these different distributed energy systems in an efficient and well-thought-out manner.”

Regulations can either hinder or enhance these advances. “As we are seeing with some of the recent proceedings, the state of New York is proactive in formulating regulations that foster these types of projects,” says Bakas.

Some of that state’s efforts were driven by CNG and the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, such as a long-term power loss resulting in evacuating hospitals and New Jersey wastewater treatment plants having to dump raw sewage in rivers because of an inability to function, he adds.

“In New York, the legislative landscape is slowly changing to promulgate approaches to handle it,” says Bakas. “They are on the forefront of the development of microgrids. I’m cautiously optimistic that, over time, we’re going to see markets trend in this direction.

“It’s going to be a bit of a process to get there, but I think we will and it’s to the benefit of everybody. With everyone’s interests—including the local utilities—aligned, the markets can truly open, and competition will follow to the benefit of the consumer.”

Companies such as GE and others are recognizing where the future is heading and are trying to get ahead of the market by coming up with intelligent controls allowing systems to be integrated and efficient in how they schedule load reductions and distributed generation online to compensate during different times, notes Bakas.

The energy market is changing “fast and furiously,” notes Bakas. “I’ve been in this industry for more than 25 years and in the last few years, we are seeing much change,” he says. “We had deregulation in the late 1990s, and this seems to be the next wave of a dynamic transformation to the industry. These are exciting times.”

One such project in which Ameresco has played a key role is that of the development of the Navy Yard in Philadelphia. Will Agate is president and founder of Net Zero Microgrid Solutions, which has been involved for more than six years on a microgrid project for the Navy Yard.

Agate says he believes there is a “wide spectrum of definitions” that can be applied to microgrids. “It’s important to understand that a microgrid is really one of the most sophisticated forms of energy management that exists in the marketplace today,” he says. “There are some great examples of what we are doing with that energy management system.” Agate likes to say that the discussion around smart energy is not so much about electrons as it is about economic development.

The Navy Yard in Philadelphia is one of the five largest Base Realignment and Closure Program projects from the 1990s, says Agate. “The federal government went through this huge assessment and decided to close more than 200 facilities around the country for all of the right reasons,” he says. “We were at the end of the Cold War and it was time to make the military facilities a lot more efficient, so a lot of places like the Navy Yard in Philadelphia were closed.”

That created a “devastating economic development challenge” with associated job losses, notes Agate.

“The key was how to take this 1,200-acre property and turn it back into some form of an economic driver,” he says. “I’m a developer by nature and I understand the nuances of trying to put the finance together with the practicality and what the owner wants and make sure there’s some R&D sprinkled in.” Agate turned to the internationally regarded New York planning firm of Robert A.M. Stern Architects.

“This was the early 2000s and they realized there was this tremendous opportunity to take a property like this and demonstrate serious sustainability practices,” notes Agate. For example, all but two of the 16 buildings constructed onsite since 2002 were done to a LEED standard. “Five years ago, we said if we’re going to be serious about sustainability, we have to be serious about energy,” says Agate. “At the same time we were devising our real estate master plan, we created an energy master plan for the Navy Yard.”

In doing so, they were met with some challenges, such as needing to be able to bring a significant amount of electricity back onto the island in order to sustain the economic development goals.

Another challenge was to devise a way to introduce a higher concentration of alternative energy solutions as part of the sustainable project. Agate points out that at that time, he had no idea what a microgrid was. “We quickly learned that the microgrid business platform is really the way to be able to address both of those needs for the Navy Yard in Philadelphia,” he says.

“We’re assembling the collaboration that has to occur for smart energy projects to get legs,” adds Agate, who spent 25 years in the commercial redevelopment and ownership business. “When we purchased all of this land on behalf of the City of Philadelphia, we also purchased the responsibility for running all of the utilities on the same footprint and that included the electric distribution system,” notes Agate.

In 2001, the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission acknowledged the development should continue to be operated on an unregulated basis, he adds. “As the ownership of the Navy Yard in Philadelphia, we’re actually the only electric customer of the regulated utility, that being PECO,” says Agate. “We basically have one big energy project we are trying to make more efficient.”

That entailed help from Ameresco to install a 6-MW, natural gas generator that will be used to shave electric loads during peak conditions at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. “That is a form of great energy management in that it avoids the need for much more costly and usually much more polluted alternative means for providing peak demand,” says Agate.

A second measure is a customer engagement program among the 150 onsite businesses that will combine on-bill financing and an alternative tariff structure to incentivize them to engage in individual energy efficiency measures in their own facilities, he adds. The project also encompasses a community solar program constructed by the solar developer, the Alternative Energy Development Group.

“They are building at least two different arrays at the Navy Yard,” says Agate. “They will be set up like condominium ownership. Businesses can elect to purchase shares of the total capacity of the solar array.” Also involved in the project is Alstom Energy, which recently merged with GE Energy Solutions. The company serves as the microgrid integrator, creating the technology platform. Smart meters and communication systems were sourced from Landis+Gyr.

R&D is taking place onsite through the US Department of Energy’s GridSTAR Center, a smart grid education and research center that is part of Pennsylvania State University’s architectural engineering department.

The project is also expected to provide a multitude of other benefits, such as voltage support, capacity support, demand response, day-ahead response, and revenue generation. “This is about how the industry is changing so dramatically,” says Agate. “Another reason this project got started the way that it did, is we happen to be fortunate in that we live inside the PJM territory. PJM is one of the most sophisticated ISOs in the country and that’s, in essence, the marketplace.

“By being inside their footprint, they provide certain pricing and certain ancillary services which are revenue bases, so when we turn on our natural gas generator, there will be times when PJM will literally pay us money for operating that system because they are trying to provide that kind of incentive for these types of projects to be built.”

With more than 7 million square feet of space in service, nearly half of the acreage is developed for industrial and light manufacture offices and research and development. A residential component may be added over the next five years.

Agate notes “it’s important to understand that we are 60% of the way finished with a $33 million project, which is the implementation plan for what the energy master plan stated, and that project is largely about not having to incur costs we would have otherwise had to incur if we didn’t come up with this plan. Some of it has to do with creating these revenues.”

Through the client engagement program and the energy master plan in looking at all of the opportunities at the Navy Yard, “We have a goal of achieving 20% energy efficiencies,” says Agate. “That’s why the customer engagement piece of it is so critical. Most of the usage of the electricity is by our customers in the Navy Yard.

“The electric distribution part of the electric industry is really going through transformative and disruptive change,” notes Agate. “We are an example of how far that change could go if it’s widely adopted by the thousands of communities in the US.”

Agate points out that such projects can only attain success with a 100% commitment to building collaboration among all of the stakeholders. “The first partner we had to bring on board and listen to was PECO, the regulated utility company,” says Agate. “There are many value propositions that come out of this type of project that benefit the distribution and transmission companies. The key is to establish what they are and they are different in every marketplace.”

Credit: Philadelphia Authority for Industrial DevelopmentShips lined up at the Navy Yard

Credit: Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development
Ships lined up at the Navy Yard

The variety and volume of building data has “exploded in recent years,” notes Will Coleman, CEO of Lucid. “Commercial building owners and operators recognize that the deluge of data can provide valuable insights if collected and analyzed effectively,” he says. Energy management solutions are evolving to handle a wider array of commercial building data in order to identify the more useful insights that can be applied across energy, operations, and planning, Coleman points out.

“Rather than just focusing on optimizing particular subsystems, solutions need to centralize many different types of data, uncover portfolio-wide performance improvements, and streamline planning, reporting, and collaboration,” he says. “Building operations impact everything from the bottom line to turnover and productivity, so building performance systems need to deliver a common set of building insights to all stakeholders, from the basement to the board room.”

Lucid provides a business intelligence platform for building operations, BuildingOS. “BuildingOS natively connects to the broadest array of building and operations systems, including nearly 200 building systems, more than 1,500 utilities for interval and bill data, and an increasing array of operations and ERP solutions to create a single central data platform for buildings,” says Coleman.

Organizations can leverage their existing infrastructure to collect data from any utility meter, sub-meter, controls system, or software, and seamlessly access the data from a centralized data repository within BuildingOS, he adds.

BuildingOS is designed to give all stakeholders access to the data through a 360-degree view of their portfolio performance through a single platform to uncover actionable insights. With BuildingOS, performance can be benchmarked, monitored, and improved in areas such as energy efficiency, compliance, occupant engagement, finance and planning, and tenant or portfolio management.

To accommodate distributed energy resources and storage, Lucid integrates data from meters, systems, distributed generation, and storage “to provide a complete picture of how a building or portfolio is consuming resources,” notes Coleman.

“BuildingOS enables users to evaluate how they are using distributed energy resources relative to other sources, and measure and verify the effectiveness of their generation and storage strategies,” he says. “End-users are using BuildingOS to identify operating inefficiencies, optimize usage of DG or other resources, more accurately plan and forecast, and measure and verify results of energy efficiency measures.” BE_bug_web


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