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EMAIL INTERVIEW - Barry Haaser & Ken Sinclair
Barry Haaser, Senior Director of the LonWorks Infrastructure Business at Echelon Corporation
Echelon Corporation (NASDAQ: ELON) provides a central nervous system for energy conservation and power management to a range of US and international entities as diverse as Boeing, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories, the Louvre, the City of Oslo, the country of Italy, Japan’s Roppongi Hills (one of the largest multi-use developments in the world), New York City’s public schools, the government of China and many others.
The company's technology and products run, control and conserve the electrical and gas, lighting and HVAC (heating, venting and air-conditioning) usage in more green buildings and homes, train systems, municipal street light systems and utilities than any other company - achieving better economies for its customers, and a better environment for us all. More information is available at www.echelon.com.
– beyond materials and into energy
Sinclair: Most of the attention on green buildings seems to be focused on construction materials. What role can building automation play in green buildings?
Haaser: Surprisingly, LEED certification and other industry initiatives in support of green buildings focus more attention on construction materials than they do on energy efficiency and the systems that manage the consumption of energy. While construction materials offer a one-time, substantial green payback, energy management tools such as well-designed HVAC and lighting control systems, continue to keep buildings green year after year.
According to recent research by the U.S. Department of Energy, buildings use more than 70 percent of the nation's electricity and more than 50 percent of natural gas. The industry needs to do more to curb energy consumption. With roughly 15 million new buildings expected to be built by 2015, we will see an enormous spike in energy consumption. This creates a real dilemma for utilities that will be unable to build energy generation facilities that satisfy clean air requirements. Clearly, it’s energy efficiency plus materials that constitute true green buildings.
Sinclair: Makes sense. So what can building owners and managers do to help curb their use of energy and become greener?
Haaser: The best way to become green is to put the focus on “true building integration”. Sure, we hear about open systems and better automation technologies but what are building owners and facility managers doing to really optimize their operations? There are a number of simple energy management strategies that can be deployed. For instance, in addition to installing a building management system (BMS), they can leverage an open protocol to add lighting control to individual offices, conference rooms and hallways. In addition, occupancy sensors, thermostats and other intelligent devices can be easily added to the network for granular control.
Finally, they can adjust boiler controls and chillers to building occupancy and actual usage patterns. While building owners and managers are learning about these and other green strategies, the emergence of Demand Response (DR) programs by utilities is also a big help. These programs will prompt more companies, including building managers, to look deeper into energy load patterns, particularly during peak energy demands when load shedding goes into effect.
Sinclair: What is Demand Response?
Haaser: Demand Response (DR) refers to mechanisms to manage the energy demand from customers in response to energy supply conditions. There are several ways to respond to DR requests, including manually turning off or changing comfort set points at each equipment switch or controller; pre-programmed demand response programs whereby someone initiates the program via a centralized control system; and a fully automated solution whereby there is no human intervention and everything is automated. I should mention that participants in DR programs also receive economic incentives to participate, making it worthwhile to manage energy wisely and therefore, become green.
More information can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demand_response.
Sinclair: Are utilities implementing DR programs?
Haaser: California utilities have been mandated by the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to implement DR programs this year. Fortunately, the utilities can learn a lot from the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs (NBNL) project that has been running for the past few years in the area of automated critical peak pricing.
The data indicates that buildings with more granular controls, an environment that enables individual devices to communicate throughout a whole control system, tend to do better than buildings without intelligent controls, or those integrating only partial or sub-systems.
A granular control system allows buildings to automatically reduce energy consumption precisely where the most energy can be saved with the least noticeable impact on the tenant.
Sinclair: How is DR automated?
Haaser: Echelon and other companies offer devices to connect a utility’s DR program to a building management system. When a utility issues a DR event notification, it sends a web message that defines the date and timeframe of the event. When the DR message is received, let’s say noon, the building system (via a web server) sends messages to various equipment in the building to shed the energy load.
More technical information can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_service.
An example of how this works can be found inside Echelon’s green headquarters located in San Jose, California. When our utility company sends us a DR event message, at the directed time, the system will automatically shut off one air handler and lights in offices with windows and will also dim lights in hallways, conference rooms and other offices. This state can be held throughout the remainder of the work day with minimal disruption to office staff.
Looking beyond DR, utilities are now concerned about shifting loads rather than just dealing with peaks. This approach will place more pressure on building controls to ease peak demands which makes it even more important to have granular controls in place.
Sinclair: So, what I am hearing is that buildings need to become greener and more efficient or the utilities will do it for them?
Haaser: That’s a great question. Essentially, industries as a whole will have to figure out how to produce energy more efficiently with less green house emissions. Building new power plants, while giving us more energy to use, has only compounded our global emissions problem leaving us worse off. Recent legislation prevents utilities from being able to build more power plants, so industry must find additional and better ways to consume less energy. Utilities are now forced to implement DR programs to help avoid rolling black-outs. One way to do this is by creating more energy efficient buildings utilizing better integration and innovative control strategies.
Regardless of your control system, participating in utility DR programs is becoming an absolute necessity for an energy efficient green building. Ultimately, DR programs offset the cost of new controls, while contributing to a greener environment.
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