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5 Things You Need to Know about Energy Storage

Posted on 7/26/2016 6:59 AM by Carl Mansfield

Utility charges for commercial and industrial facilities are made up of two major parts, energy charges and peak demand charges. Energy usage, measured in kilowatt hours (kWh), reflects the total amount of energy consumed during a billing cycle; peak demand, measured in kilowatts (kWp), reflects the greatest amount of power or load during a specific period over the billing cycle (typically calculated for a 15-minute interval). In many regions of the U.S., peak demand charges are the fastest growing part of utility bills for commercial and industrial customers and can often represent as much as 50 percent of a company’s monthly utility bill. Behind-the-meter energy storage solutions are now emerging which can cost-effectively cap peak demand usage. Here are 5 Things You Need to Know about Energy Storage:

1) It Can Reduce the Peak Demand Usage Part of your Utility Bill Without Changing Day-to-Day Operations

As mentioned above, the peak demand charge is typically derived from the greatest power load over a 15-minute interval during a billing cycle. Energy storage systems used for demand management store energy during periods of low building load (often during off-business hours) and deploy that energy when building load is at its highest – decreasing the amount of peak power being drawn from the grid and lowering peak demand usage. This is an alternative to a curtailment program and allows the building to maintain its normal daily operations.

2) Solar Doesn’t Make Sense? Solar Plus Storage May

In some cases, installing solar on its own may make economic sense if a large enough system can be deployed to benefit from a favorable utility tariff. However, many buildings simply do not have enough rooftop space to support a solar system large enough to offset a sufficient amount of the building’s energy requirements. But, for these customers, a smaller solar installation paired with storage can be economically viable. Coupling an energy storage system with sophisticated analytics and system controls to manage the release of energy at an optimal time, together with a solar installation, enables optimized utility bill savings on both peak demand and energy usage. A solar PV system makes storage more effective by narrowing the demand peaks and storage makes solar more effective by firming the demand savings - the two work in concert.

3) You Don’t Need an Engineering Degree to Manage a System

As a building owner or facility manager, you don’t need to put a lot of thought into your system. The right system will not only predict the building’s energy consumption, but will know when a peak is about to begin. It will then discharge its battery to offset those peaks. Effective energy storage systems will be able to do this automatically, without any intervention from the building owner. When you select a system, you should also take into consideration the supplier’s available warranty and service agreement. Many systems today include maintenance packages that remove the headaches of managing a system and can eliminate operating and maintenance (O&M) costs. However, since energy storage is an emerging market, it’s important to understand and trust the company backing the system.

4) ROI Can Be Seen in Four Years or Less

The economics of solar plus storage are increasingly attractive. Select systems can provide a good return on investment with a payback period of less than four years in areas with high utility charges. We are also beginning to see the introduction of zero-down financing options for these systems, making them more financially accessible for those of you looking to take control of your bottom line but don’t want to worry about upfront costs.

5) Big or Small, Storage May Be a Good Solution For Your Building Size

There is not one specific building type or building size that is suitable for energy storage. Actually, there are a wide variety of commercial and industrial buildings that would benefit from an energy storage system for demand management, especially when the system is deployed together with solar PV. What matters in making this determination is the energy usage profile of the building itself. In general, facilities that are likely candidates for energy storage have somewhat consistent day-to-day operations, where they experience times of high energy demand throughout the day. For example, manufacturing facilities where heavy machinery is consistently operating at near maximum capacity every weekday between 10 a.m. and noon and again between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., or schools that run most of their electricity between 8am and noon and again between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. are likely candidates for peak demand management. Another factor in determining if your building is a good candidate for a demand management system is if your building is in a region being hit by high peak demand charges, such as California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.

Carl Mansfield is General Manager and Founder of Sharp Electronics Corporation’s Energy Systems and Services Group (ESSG).

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Leveraging New Technologies To Impact Top Building Problems

Posted on 7/21/2016 8:50 AM by Jason Burt

Facility managers have been asked to do more and more as their budgets have decreased, equipment has aged, and experts in the field are retiring.  It’s no surprise, given the constraints they face, day-to-day that buildings are not run as efficiently as they could be.

Verifying that a building’s HVAC and lighting systems perform efficiently and according to the design intent and owner’s project requirements can offer enormous savings.  The DOE estimates that a building that is not running correctly costs 8-20% more to operate.  

The same DOE energy study of 60 commercial buildings reported that:

  • Over 50% suffered from control problems.
  • 40% had problems with HVAC equipment.
  • 33% had sensors that were not operating properly.
  • 15% of the buildings studied were actually missing specified equipment.

Many facility managers are turning to modern centralized standardized reporting, to help prioritize work and move from a reactive to proactive approach to facility operations.

This type of software pulls data from existing systems and identifies areas for improvement. It provides more context around issues to help teams manage their work flow more efficiently. In particular, new plug-and-play software allows small-to-medium sized commercial buildings to use automated data alignment for rapid and affordable onboarding.  Most buildings have data that can help reduce operation time of equipment, improve tenant comfort, and potentially make an impact on the environment, and centralized standardized reporting can turn that data into actionable insights used to streamline operations.

The new technologies which act as a cloud-based analysis tool, work with existing and legacy systems, and address the issues of fault detection and diagnostics.  Data can be monitored and analyzed 24-hours a day.

When the data is examined, what are the major problems? How can buildings leverage it to lower costs and increase environmental impact?

Problems tend to fall into three distinct areas:

  • Setpoints: Temperature and CFM (cubic feet per minute) airflow.
  • Schedules: When building equipment is set to run.
  • Sequences: How equipment should stage on. (For example, simultaneous heating and cooling issues)

How often your data should be reviewed and audited will depend on how often your building has schedule changes and the variation in your area’s seasons. Sequences can be set up and appear to run fine in winter and colder months, but issues can become apparent during summer time.  Experts recommend checking setpoints and schedules quarterly and sequences during cooling and heating periods in fall and spring.

While interim measures such as raising or lowering the setpoint so the unit is always heating or cooling can be temporarily effective, they don’t address the actual issue. Consider resetting all setpoints during unoccupied hours. This will reduce the runtime of your equipment increasing its overall life. 

Minimums and maximums should also be applied. Deadbands should not just be +/- one or two degrees on a general setpoint. ASHRAE design standards recommend not allowing heating setpoints above 70 or 72, and cooling setpoints shouldn’t be lower than 74 or 76.  Each degree outside of intent increases the runtime of your equipment, reducing its life. It also makes equipment cycle rapidly, reducing tenant comfort.

Additionally, equipment performance needs to be verified. Just because the schedule is set correctly does not meant the equipment is following it, so FMs need to verify schedule adherence with runtime data from the equipment.

Maximum schedule resolution will result when zone level scheduling is used.  Buildings should avoid a single schedule for the entire building. For example, holiday and exception scheduling can be nested to apply global changes from one location.  Finally, effective optimal start maintains a memory and trains itself to heat or cool based on the individual zones rate of change in heating or cooling mode.

While many of these things can be manually identified, the time to do so reduces the amount of time the facility team can be in the field fixing problems and working with tenants. By leveraging modern analytics, teams are realizing improvements not only to their team’s effectiveness but also to their building operations and tenants’ happiness.

Jason Burt is the VP Product Manager & Co-CEO of BuildPulse. You can reach him at or by e-mail at

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