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New Energy Monitoring Appliance

New Energy Monitoring Appliance

Opto 22 and Vancouver-based Pulse Energy are teaming up to help companies capture energy usage data, pinpoint problems and reduce costs. Using a new energy monitoring appliance to gather streams of data and a hosted software application for viewing and analytics, the goal is to make it easier for industrial customers to monitor energy consumption and use the information to reduce utility bills.

Opto 22's OptoEMU Sensor energy monitoring appliance couples with the Pulse energy management software to connect to customers' metering devices, electrical panels, machines and equipment and then deliver comprehensive energy-related data over standard networks and the Web for viewing and analysis.

New Energy Monitoring Appliance
"In the industrial sector, the general rule is that energy is not accounted for in the same way as other costs in a process or manufacturing facility," says Arun Sinha, director of business development for Opto 22. "Automation vendors tend to deal with plant engineers and technicians that are running the machinery or process. While these individuals may be very familiar with measurement and control of processes and parameters, energy is not typically part of that from a usage and cost perspective."

Sinha says the cost of energy to run a machine or process often dwarfs all of the other costs combined, but is typically considered overhead and a fixed cost. There is normally no correlation between the plant floor and payment of the energy bill, or a goal of putting energy consumption into the bill of materials for a product being produced.

"With energy management systems, there are expensive and complicated solutions on one end of the spectrum, and home energy monitoring devices on the other end," says Sinha. "We feel the technology is moving somewhere in between and have developed an energy monitoring appliance which is based on automation technology but geared toward a new group of stakeholders. This may not be the person who knows how to program a PLC or PAC, or has the skill set required to use Wonderware, Intellution or Citect."

On the hardware side, this new approach to energy monitoring can be deployed by everyday facilities and maintenance personnel, with no controls experience, and configured using web pages - similar to the way a user can configure a home router.

The second part is how to visualize the data, so that business executives and IT personnel can access it using cloud-based computing, which is growing in popularity.

"What we have done is developed an energy monitoring appliance that a user can connect and configure via web pages and, with the click of a button, post captured energy data to a cloud application," says Sinha. "That data could be from a building main, a subpanel or down to a specific piece of equipment like a compressor or semiconductor machine."
New Energy Monitoring Appliance

Pulse Energy is one of two "connectors" currently available with the OptoEMU device; the other is a free tool called Google PowerMeter. Both are hosted applications, which means data capture and communications doesn't need to be hosted locally and there is no need for a server or local data logging.

Using Google PowerMeter, the authorization process consists of setting up a Gmail account and all captured data becomes associated with that account for instantaneous viewing of kilowatt hours on the web. The Pulse Energy connection takes things a step further and provides a more comprehensive software tool. After data is posted, users are issued a license key to use the paid service.

Pulse offers real-time data monitoring and detailed analytics such as predictive curves, plus the ability to perform calculations and create triggers based on specific thresholds. Automatic emails can be sent based on reaching a threshold, which provides alarming, and there are also extensive reporting functions. The analytics are aimed at the facility manager and the reporting is geared to finance and business executives. Reports include things like the actual dollar cost per hour, day, week, etc., for running a machine or facility, as well as greenhouse gas emission totals.

The Pulse Energy tool also provides dashboards for "occupant engagement", where the idea is to inform and educate company employees or building residents by presenting data on a screen in a lobby or perhaps an LCD panel in a break room.

Once an appliance is installed, the user can capture energy data in a couple of ways. One is using the discrete inputs to accept incoming pulses from devices such as utility and subpanel meters. Pulses are scaled in the configuration screens using data from the local utility, with one pulse representing a specific number of kilowatt hours. The plan for the future is to include gas and water meters as well, which also provide pulse outputs.

Another method is by direct connection using current transformer inputs and voltage, typically at the building mains using clamp-on CTs. The appliance scales and processes the data, so that what is presented in the Pulse Energy SaaS application represents real time demand in kilowatts. While the general implementation strategy is to start at the building main, the next level of granularity would be to deploy devices at subpanels or establish a direct connection to an actual machine. Large motors are good candidates, but users can also monitor a specific production line or machines such as a boilers, chillers and compressors.

Sinha says one advantage is that users can look at energy from a macro perspective, including total building consumption, or take a more granular view to track usage for sections of a manufacturing floor, individual devices or machines.

To create the interface to Pulse Energy, Opto 22 used PAC automation technology and re-packaged it to create the energy monitoring appliance. The configuration is fixed, with multiple inputs, no outputs and packaged in an enclosure which can be mounted onto a wall or panel. No control programming software is required to configure the unit and users can utilize web pages to configure the device. Both wired and wireless Ethernet interfaces are available, along with a serial port.

In Version 2, Opto 22 plans to utilize those ports to provide standard connectors to EMS systems and power quality analyzers via standard Ethernet and serial protocols like Modbus and BACnet. And though the OptoEMU Sensor is designed to provide energy data to non-automation personnel, by using OPC and other common industrial protocols, the appliance is able to share data with traditional plant floor equipment like PLCs, PACs and HMIs.
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