The Issues: An Institution of Higher Education in New Mexico has numerous buildings on campus, all served by one electric meter. There is no way to determine where energy use is highest and therefore which building should be of primary focus in a planned ongoing series of energy use reduction projects on campus, and the campus-wide sustainability committee is unable to see and demonstrate the results of their activities. Energy use is neither understood nor controllable, and management wants to both control and reduce its use. In addition, there appear to be electrical issues in a new building, but their source has not been identified. Lastly, the green building department would like to compare energy usage in two buildings – one built “green” and the other not – as an educational exercise.
The Solution: Working with management, the facilities department, and teaching staff, Current-C Energy [Systems] is designing a monitoring system which provides general answers to the questions above, with further monitoring planned once problem areas are identified in order to quantify the impact (actual and projected) of projects to be implemented over time. The first phase is designed to monitor incoming power at 3 buildings on a minute-by-minute basis, providing electrical usage and cost totals and usage patterns to management, the facility department, and faculty via a web-based server and easy-to-understand “dashboards”.
The Numbers: The payback period for the initial monitor installation should be two years or less, on an electricity bill of approximately $300,000. Maintenance and operations changes and low cost / no cost methods should enable the bulk of the savings, including occupancy sensors, temperature setpoint changes, relating thermostats, installing occupancy sensors, elimination of “personal heaters”, insulating water pipes, etc. Discovery of equipment issues which may lead to failure, overloaded circuits, and air handling equipment repair is actually likely to bring the payback period under a year – once those issues are located and identified with the assistance of the monitoring equipment. More importantly for this educational institution, students are becoming involved in the effort to be more sustainable because they are able to see and understand the results of their actions immediately, by looking at the individual building dashboards.
The Comments: “I am pleased to endorse … Current-C Energy [Systems] … (who have) … worked with (our institution) for over a year on a variety of projects with great success. (They are) currently engaged with us in a systems performance analysis of a new LEED Gold building we have added to the campus and has been not only helpful in the work, but a source of professional advice and information that goes well beyond the scope of work for which we contracted.”