Energy metering and monitoring systems offer a benchmark, measurement and verification of the results of applying more highly efficient motors, drives or other mechanisms. By quantifying savings, these systems are playing an increasingly important role in the energy-efficiency equation, the success of individual projects and programs, and the viability of future initiatives.
“Today, energy efficiency is a key driver in the market and a central consideration to most designs and how to achieve higher levels of efficiency,” says Mark Feasel, director of sales and marketing for Schneider Electric's Energy Solutions Business. “Central to what needs to be done is to understand the dynamics of the electrical distribution system.”
Whether a company is replacing blower motors or applying new equipment or drives, it is important that savings associated with the application of components can be quantified. Understanding results is vital to determining if changes should be rolled out to other applications as well.
A key role for metering and monitoring is to optimize the utilization of the existing equipment. When a company starts to install drives for energy efficiency, it could be introducing harmonics and other high-frequency voltage components into the system. The result can be heating the core of motors, and problems with heating transformers which can degrade life.
Feasel thinks the concept of “automated demand response” will also be an ongoing trend and catalyst for the monitoring market. For years, there has been a one-way relationship between the electrical utility and the users of electrical energy. But there is a fundamental shift going on, and consumers of energy are going to be able to monetize what Feasel calls elasticity, or an ability to reduce load when it is economically viable.
A building is like a battery in many ways. A facility can store energy in the form of hot or cold air and has a thermal mass that can also result in energy storage. The idea is that if electricity is more valuable in some parts of the day than others, buildings could set up a profile to store energy in the form of pre-cooling or pre-heating and coast through those peak times. The net effect is that a large facility or series of buildings would look like a big virtual negative generator because the electrical wholesale market is primarily driven by capacity. There is load on the line, a need for capacity and a safety margin.
“The size of the safety margin determines how much those kilowatt-hours are worth,” says Feasel. “In the past, people would just put in new generators to service the load. But if you could reduce kilowatt-hour usage during that time period with a high degree of control and a high degree of reliability, that is just as valuable to the wholesale market as adding a kilowatt-hour of generation, except you are not creating more greenhouse gases.”
The key is intelligence in the system in terms of software, monitoring and sensing, or what Feasel calls “making a facility situationally aware.” Now, primarily “dumb” facilities are maintaining temperature but not much more. Imagine if a facility understood the price of electricity at any given point in time, and what variables correlated to its energy consumption.
Research into Open ADR (Automated Demand Response) would create an open standard that OEMs and machine builders would be able to use in the future. In theory, if vendors would sign up for this program and agree to this standard, it could create ADR-enabled buildings and machines ready to get a price signal from a utility to monitor the exact cost of its energy usage. Feasel says there is a push in process industries for a higher level of automation, and to embed controllers with some standardization which would allow it to receive and react directly to price signals from a wholesale market.