Energy financing and energy management

Consulting Firm:
EnergyLink

Client:
True Media

Location:
Columbia, MO

Task:
Advanced Demand Management / Smart Solar

Date of Study:
October 2015

Case Study: True Media ADMS & Smart Solar

Background:

In a former life, the True Media building in Columbia, MO used to be a well-known bank.  It is a handsome two-story, flat-roof brick structure with a concave front wall of north facing windows.  Half of the tastefully redesigned inside area consists of an open atrium with a balcony off the second floor.  This 1970s era building was converted to offices for the marketing firm True Media in the summer of 2012, and opened for business that fall.

After several years of high energy bills and employee comfort issues, True Media’s owner and CEO, Jack Miller, took the initiative to take control of the energy usage of their small office building.  He contacted EnergyLink for help with lowering his monthly utility bills, and in the process, his tax liability.

The Challenge:

During EnergyLink’s study of the building and its energy usage, several factors contributing to demand spikes became apparent.  Analysis of historical usage data for the facility indicated that the building had a poor load factor (ratio of average load to peak load).

By analyzing the current flow at the main panel, it was determined that a major contributing factor to this poor ratio was the simultaneous startup of multiple air conditioning systems in the summer months.

Since Columbia Water and Light uses demand billing (the yearly energy billing rate is set by the maximum 30-minute period of usage), EnergyLink’s challenge here was to create a custom system to control load spikes while maintaining optimum comfort levels inside.

The benefits of this are multi-faceted: mitigating carbon emissions, saving money on energy bills, keeping employee productivity at a maximum, and relieving stress on the local utility grid.

true media solar installation process

The Solution:

Destratification

One major factor contributing to the overall inefficiency of the True Media building was the stratification of the inside air. Since the main area of the building is two stories tall, warm air would pool at the ceiling, while cool air would stay at ground floor level.

This contributed to year-round conflicts within the HVAC system and overall comfort problems.

A simple solution was designed to mix the inside air using quiet destratification fans mounted at ceiling level, gently pushing warm air downward, creating a homogenous mixture of temperatures throughout the building.

These simple but elegant fans were linked with our high-tech automation system to only energize at the appropriate times, increasing comfort and reducing energy-hogging conflicts within the heating and cooling systems.

HVAC Tuning & Improvements

EnergyLink’s survey also revealed a flaw in the programming of a main HVAC unit which caused excess outside air to be brought into the building.  A simple damper control unit was added to only bring outside air in at appropriate times.

Automation & Smart Solar

Our Advanced Demand Management Systems usually incorporate a form of onsite energy generation (in this case, a 33 kW Smart Solar array) combined with full building automation.

This array is oriented at a specific azimuth (relation to true south) to target the demand curve of the building at a certain time of day.

Since True Media’s peak usage was in the afternoon, the array was oriented facing southwest to drive down this specific demand curve.

This array is constantly monitored by our automation system to determine how much power is available for immediate use throughout the day.

A “Thinking” Building

The brain (and heart) of our demand reduction solution for this building was to install a central control system, programmed with our custom algorithms to comprehensively manipulate the entire HVAC system while also monitoring our solar array, inside temperature and the weather outside.

Our algorithms take control of the building’s energy usage, silently leveraging the utility billing structure for maximum savings.

The Incentives:

A number of financial benefits provide extra incentives for project completion. In Columbia, there is a cash rebate from the utility of 50 cents per DC watt installed, which totaled $16,470.

The Federal Renewable Tax Credit, which was extended as of this year, subsidizes 30% of eligible solar project costs, totaling $38,540 in this case.

The MACRS 5-year accelerated depreciation schedule, which typically comprises 8-13% of the initial investment, amounted to $43,241.

Financial incentives totaled almost $100,000 of total project costs, most of which are delivered in the first year.

Our systems are an energy asset investment for forward-minded investors to hedge against the ever-rising costs of energy.

Typical paybacks are less than 5 years and with all the incentives, only 30% of the total investment is exposed, making this a sound investment with low risks and high returns.

smart-solar-installation

The results

4,676

kWh savings from efficiency improvements

43,722

kWh offset by solar

48,398

total kWh offset

37.75

tons of CO2 Removed per year

2,205

equivalent Trees planted

11

cars taken off the road annually

 

The Timeline

The total process of installation, from initial contact to finished product, takes approximately one to two months, depending on project specifics.

Following an initial audit, we begin by analyzing real-time energy usage and gathering billing information from the utility for the past 12 months, including electric and natural gas. From there, we identify any applicable technology and possible areas of improvement.

Conducting a financial analysis then leads to a proposal that’s presented to investors and building owners.  Upon approval of the project, the necessary engineering stamps are acquired, and construction can begin.

Due to our experience, the process is fairly seamless, with individual teams handling each step, and our chosen subcontractors helping with installation.

Typically there is no major construction involved in areas that affect operations, which reduces the possibility of business disruptions throughout the installation process.

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