4  FM quick reads on power

1. Operations an Important Part of Power Reliability


This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today's tip is that understanding the rules of rebate programs may be easier said than done. In bigger cities with well-documented demand-side management programs, documentation may change year to year. But some utilities change more often than than; one electric utility changed its form six times in six months.

Utilities often require facility managers to take certain steps before an energy upgrade actually begins. Some utility agencies will accept an initial energy audit from a third party, but some may send their own people to verify original conditions. That can sometimes lead to trouble. In one instance, a facilities department ripped out an old system and dumped the motors before the utility came for the initial inspection. The facility then had to do a huge amount of work, including digging up specifications, because they didn't follow the procedure properly.

The complexity of utility rules will depend in part on the nature of the rebate program. A prescriptive program is the most common road to rebates, where a certain amount of dollars are paid for such items as variable frequency drives or lighting retrofits. For example, most utilities will pay prescriptively, by the ton, for rooftop HVAC units above a certain energy efficiency rating. Custom programs usually have a longer time line and more complex measurement and verification. Equipment such as high efficiency boilers, furnaces, or water heaters must be metered over time to show the facility is saving energy.

Custom measures offer more robust rewards, but they require another level of energy analysis that involves measurement over a certain period of time. The measurement has to technically prove energy savings, which have to be reviewed by an agency, and that can take many months. The more complex a project, the more you have to do to meet rebate requirements.


2.  Operations an Important Part of Power Reliability

This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today's tip is that operations should not be overlooked as a part of power reliability.

One key point that's easily overlooked is that just having a UPS and backup generators isn't enough. It actually has to function when an emergency strikes. That can't be taken for granted. During the Northeast black-out of 2003, half of New York City's 58 hospitals suffered failures in their backup power generators.

The design of a backup power system is only one factor in how well it performs. Just as important is the operational side. Backup diesel generator sets require periodic maintenance and frequent testing if they are to be counted on in an emergency. A facility manager who scrimps on that maintenance and testing may very well compromise the system.

Another issue to consider is if the backup generator uses diesel fuel. Diesel fuel deliveries may be difficult if the power outage is caused by disaster.

Location can also have an operational impact. California had 540 power outages last year. If the batteries in the backup power supply are rated for 2,000 hours, their life expectancy in terms of calendar months is much shorter in California than in an area such as Chicago, where the outages are considerably less frequent. Outages along the East Coast grid also are higher than in other states.

Another problem is lack of commissioning. During commissioning, the design needs to be translated into the generators, uninterruptible power supply components, substation feeds and other elements that the contractor installed. Commissioning is essential to ensure that the backup power system meets the owner's requirements and expressed needs.

3.  Tips for Earning Energy Efficiency Rebates

This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today's tip is that energy efficiency rebates are available if you know where to look.

The past few years have been good ones for facility managers who want to use utility incentives to smooth the path to energy upgrades. In 2010, rate-payer funded programs provided $5.5 billion in incentives, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. The usual incentive of choice is the rebate. On individual projects, rebates may cover 15 to 20 percent of capital costs.

It can be a major disappointment for facility managers who fail to qualify for rebates they were hoping to get. But in many cases, facility managers have only themselves to blame. There are plenty of reasons that facility managers lose out on rebates, and many have to do with mistakes made in the application process.

To make the most of rebates, facility managers must, first and foremost, pay attention. Specifically, they need to pay attention to when rebates become available, when the paperwork needs to be in and how to dot all their i's and cross all their t's.

Demand-side management programs — a category that includes rebates as well as other utility incentives — have become so popular that utility companies sometimes run out of funds early in the year. That's why it's important to get applications in early. Facility managers can sometimes plan ahead, so that upgrades or new equipment installation coincide with available money from utility companies. For example, some utilities have been offering incentives to replace T12 lamps. This summer, new federal regulations will end the sale or import of most T12 lamps. Once those regulations are in effect, incentives to replace T12 lamps will be obsolete.

4.  Automated Demand Response a Better Way to Shave Peak Load

This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today's tip is that automated demand response can help manage your power usage.

The California energy crisis of the late 1990s exposed broad weaknesses in existing utility demand-response capabilities.

Issues included lack of availability and reliable performance, utility control strategies that often conflicted with occupant comfort and business operating requirements, and incompatibilities with existing building energy management systems. Utility-provided control switches often had limited functionality, and event notification for commercial buildings often required building operators to be present, to acknowledge signals, and to manually manage response settings.

The Open Automated Demand Response information exchange specification, known as OpenADR, was developed to reduce the cost, expand the availability, and improve the effectiveness and value of DR. OpenADR redefines conventional DR to make it more scalable and flexible. OpenADR also transfers decision making and control from the utility to the customer and integrates DR with existing building energy management and control systems. OpenADR is on track to become a national standard, which will further reduce costs and expand support among energy service providers and building system and controls vendors.

With automated demand response, price and reliability signals are communicated directly to existing energy management and controls systems or end-use equipment controllers. Facility managers develop pre-determined DR strategies based on an energy audit or building commissioning. These are automatically activated in response to price and reliability events. This approach allows facility managers to design response strategies that are consistent with business operations, tenant comfort and lease requirements.

Linking event signals to existing energy management systems provides facility managers with control and flexibility to develop more sophisticated response strategies encompassing a range of loads. While Auto-DR enables facility managers to opt-out of any event, the machine-to-machine automated approach eliminates the need to curtail loads manually.


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