June 2016


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EMAIL INTERVIEW – Terry Casey and Ken Sinclair

Terry Casey, Intellastar

Where Smart Buildings meet Smart Grid

Yes, we find the Edge Computing and Analytics – aka Fog Computing – combined with Central Enterprise Server works best to deliver this complete solution.

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Sinclair Terry, you talk about Intellastar being at the intersection of Smart Buildings and Smart Grid.  Those are clearly two very important and topical subjects for us to understand today.  We certainly are hearing a lot about Smart Buildings – what do you see being the salient functions that make a Building Smart?

Casey:  Firstly we see a shift in the way Smart Buildings are managed.  Smart Buildings are managed by professional Services Companies who proactively use the new Technology we provide to manage the operation and functionality of the Buildings better, resulting in reduced costs and better outcomes.

Sinclair: OK, so what does this new Technology do for the Smart Building?

Casey:  The Technology is used in three main areas, Energy Analysis, Analytics for Fault Detection and Diagnosis FDD and Optimization.  Energy Analysis is normally the first stage of any Smart Building Program.  Measuring energy consumption at high frequency – typically every 15 minutes – and using analytics techniques such as Degree Day Normalization, Regression Analysis lets us track energy consumption trends and calculate the savings that our programs bring.

The high frequency data lets us see if the building is running outside normal hours, but other than that it does not tell us what if anything is wrong, what isn’t working as it should and is causing excess energy consumption.  So Energy analytics is more akin to an accounting system for a business, it gives us valuable information about savings and time of use but not much more.

Sinclair: I understand what you say about the importance and the limitation of Energy Analysis, but what can be done to improve the Building’s performance?

Casey:  Analytics let us find the things in Buildings that go wrong, often remain undetected and cause excess energy consumption.  Using Rule based systems we can find the common things that go wrong; plant left in hand and running 24/7, simultaneous heating and cooling – normally caused by mechanical failure of the valves and actuators – economizers not functioning, sensors misreading and control loops out of tune and unstable.  These are the most common faults that cause Buildings to use more energy than they should, but usually go undetected by conventional Building Automation Systems.

These Rules also help diagnose faults so that the Technicians going to site know in advance what’s wrong and can hopefully take the appropriate parts with them to effect a fix first time, and that saves hugely on the number of truck rolls and the overall Service Costs.

Optimization is about adding in more control capability on top of what’s already there. So for a Chiller System that can be to dynamically optimize the chilled water temperature so that it just meets the building’s needs at that time, make sure the chillers only run if there is a need for the Chilled Water Service and to sequence the plant to maximize efficiency.  On a VAV system the duct pressure and be adapted to match the load from the VAV’s with the result that the fans work less hard on average and consume less energy.

Sinclair: That’s a great summary of what Smart Building Technology can do for us, but how does that tie into Smart Grid?

Casey: By connecting our Building to Smart Grid we can reduce the cost of Energy, sometimes quite significantly, by being clever and adaptive with when we use the energy, particularly by allowing a little flexibility in the indoor temperature, so if we allow the temperature to be between say 68 and 75 deg F we can precool the building when energy is cheaper and use the thermal mass of the building to reduce the energy used during peak period with the highest costs.  We can use this same capability to reduce peak demand – often a large component of any Electricity bill – and to factor in a local Micro Grid with Solar PV Generation and increasingly Battery Storage, so we use the available MicroGrid to not only minimize Grid consumption but to use it in a way that minimizes cost.

Sinclair: How do Smart Buildings and Smart Grid requirements work together?

Casey:  We find that the Connectivity, Data and techniques we use for Smart Building have a significant overlap with what we need to know to manage the Building as a full member of the Smart Grid.  The connections to the Energy metering, BAS system for HVAC, Lighting Systems to monitor, analyze and optimize are the same as we need to handle Demand Response, Peak Load Management and Dynamic Pricing.

Sinclair: What about the impact of Renewables and Energy Storage – of having a Micro Grid on the Building?

Casey: There is increasing use of Distributed Generation and MicroGrid which is changing the load profile on the Grid with the result that the Peak Demand Charges are getting higher relative to the Consumption Charges of KWH’s of use. Because of this it's getting more important to control when we use the electricity we need as well to control how much if we are to minimize the overall cost.

Sinclair: How does Intellastar help achieve all this?

Casey: Intellastar provides Technology in the form of Hardware for use on site, Cellular Connection Services and Enterprise Software to run in Central Servers for our Partner Companies to deliver these Services to the Building that they run. Our partners are typically Smart Services Providers, ESCO’s and Demand Response Aggregators.

Reliable Controls Sinclair: Is this a Cloud based Service offering or does it rely on local intelligence installed in the Building?

Casey: Our InferStack Software lives both at Enterprise Servers that our Partners host, and in T-Star boxes in the Building at the edge as it often described.

Sinclair: Is Distributed or Edge Computing an important part of the solution?

Casey:  Yes, we find the Edge Computing and Analytics – aka Fog Computing – combined with Central Enterprise Server works best to deliver this complete solution.  Real time Control, which we need for Optimization and many of the MicroGrid functions, needs to be local to the building for Speed of Response, Reliability and Security of the system. It’s really not a good idea to try to perform Real Time Control from the Cloud.  Energy analysis, Billing, Measurement and Verification is best done at the Central Enterprise or Cloud level, because it’s not Real Time and the Data is held and analyzed over a long time period.

We have also found that Plant based Analytics work much better if they are placed in the edge device because of the speed of sampling that is needed to detect things like unstable Control – typically sampling every minute.  It’s much easier to move the Rule to the Data than the other way round.

Sinclair: Will we see major change in the way we Operate and Manage Buildings?

Casey:  This is all part of the Internet of Things, and the impact it is having on the way we provide Services and Manage Buildings. Smart Buildings and Smart Grid are an elemental part of IoT applied to Buildings.

These changes are underway today and early adopters are already using this technology and it is set to move into the mainstream in the next period.

For more information about Intellastar read this Intellastar white paper Building Internet of Things - How will it affect our Buildings & Business?


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