EDF Climate Corps fellow | August 25, 2014
By: Nicholas Zuba, Student at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs
Do you hear something? Ah yes, the droning hum of data servers in a data center. On a daily basis, they send binary codes back and forth which represent different forms of information. Do you hear something else? Why of course, frenetic typing on computer keyboards. Programmers are writing code that will become innovative products used by clientele around the world.
Upon entering my fellowship, I knew my work at CA Technologies in Islandia, NY would involve machinery in some way. From mainframe servers to laptop computers, I was immersed in an eclectic array of hardware and software that fuel CA’s business approach. But, what I did not know then was how I would interact with technology to help CA reduce its energy consumption. If you think my fellowship involved these hustling and bustling machines, think again! In the end, my interaction with technology would take me in a completely different direction than I anticipated: the direction of smart energy management.
It all started with my introduction to CA’s Building Management System (BMS) during the second week of my fellowship. Learning alongside CA’s engineering staff, I discovered that this system was full of opportunities. From temperature set points to exhaust fan schedules, the system controls all aspects of the building’s operations. I recognized immediately the potential that was inside, and that this system needed to be leveraged to unlock additional energy saving opportunities.
From this introduction, I went to work on identifying ways that this system could be harnessed to develop new project opportunities. The first opportunity came courtesy of a retro-commissioning study conducted at CA earlier this year: HVAC start-stop optimization and night setback. This would make use of CA’s BMS, as well as data collected from temperature sensors on the inside and outside of the building. Together, this information allows the BMS to calculate the ideal start time for the facility’s air-handler units before occupancy begins and the ideal stop time before occupancy ends. Coinciding with this, night setback would be programmed into the BMS to have the air-handler units maintain an unoccupied temperature setting closer to the comfort set point. Working in concert with each other, this could reduce the amount of energy needed by their chiller and boiler systems to achieve the comfort set point at the start of building occupancy. For the entire facility, the energy reduction and cost savings potential are immense, achieving a net benefit to CA of approximately $1.5 million over seven years.
That is only one way to make use of a BMS and sensors, and it is certainly not the last. In addition, I explored other ways to make use of this smart energy combination. This includes the proven practice of installing occupancy sensors in conference rooms and private offices to control HVAC and lighting system operations. The multiplicative effect from this one application holds significant energy saving potential within dozens of conference and office spaces throughout CA’s Islandia headquarters. At the same time, using solar sensors to measure the solar load that CA’s facility absorbs can help to modulate HVAC set points to continue reducing their energy consumption.
And the list goes on. As I said, I knew my experience at CA Technologies would involve technology in some fashion, but what I thought it would be at the start was not what it turned out to be. After nine weeks of studious investigation, I discovered how a BMS and sensors can be leveraged to help reduce CA’s energy consumption.
About EDF Climate Corps
EDF Climate Corps (edfclimatecorps.org) taps the talents of tomorrow’s leaders to save energy, money and the environment by placing specially trained EDF fellows in companies, cities and universities as dedicated energy problem solvers. Working with hundreds of leading organizations, EDF Climate Corps has uncovered nearly $1.3 billion in energy savings. For more information, visit edfclimatecorps.org. Read our blog at edfclimatecorps.org/blog. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/edfbiz and on Facebook at facebook.com/EDFClimateCorps.