In the future, everything from household appliances to industrial machinery will likely connect to the so-called Internet of Things. Inexpensive hardware embedded in these devices will send a stream of useful data to allow local and grid-wide energy optimization.
But until the communications hardware becomes standard in these devices, plug-and-play solutions are required to communicate energy-consumption data to the cloud where robust tracking and analytics applications already offer benefits to energy-intensive enterprises.
Panoramic Power, a company offering a plug-and-play solution, has published a case study about the benefits delivered in a pilot project with The North Face retail stores in Northern California that has a projected ROI of 18 months.
Single-day installations monitor critical systems
Panoramic Power, which was acquired last month by Direct Energy, explains that approximately 150 of its circuit-level sensors were installed in four of The North Face’s highest trafficked California locations — Corte Madera, San Francisco, Palo Alto and San Jose.
The sensors (shown in a video here) are about the size of a matchbox and snap onto the live wires of a circuit box, drawing power from the magnetic fields surrounding the circuit wires and communicating wirelessly with a nearby bridge device every 10 seconds. The bridge collects the data from the sensors and passes it along to the company’s cloud-based analytics platform.
According to the case study, The North Face will achieve a quick ROI as a result of system-level visibility. The installation at each retail location took less than six hours, and once installed on critical systems such as lighting and HVAC, The North Face facilities manager was able to log in to a web-based analytics engine to gain insights from the energy management system (EMS).
Equipment malfunctions responsible for significant energy waste
Identifying equipment problems was a source of significant cost savings. In Palo Alto, for example, the system helped identify an improperly functioning AC fan. Early detection reportedly saved $10,500 in energy savings and avoided equipment failure.
Similarly, the HVAC system in Corte Madera was operating incorrectly, causing air handlers to over-cycle. Panoramic Power said in that instance early detection saved the store $2,250 in combined energy and maintenance costs.
At the San Jose location, The North Face determined a change in the off-hours lighting schedule that would save 10 percent in annual energy costs.
The case study points to other types of benefits as well. In San Francisco, real-time monitoring gave managers an alert when the store’s security cameras went down on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
Pilot outcomes lead to program expansion
Following the pilot program, The North Face plans to install Panoramic Power’s system in additional stores and distribution centers, as well as expand the scope of its monitoring and analytics program. The expanded program will have four goals: To identify energy savings; support predictive maintenance; study and analyze operational patterns; and benchmark equipment and systems between locations.
The goals are in line with a recent white paper published by Panoramic Power on best practices amongst retail chains for implementing an EMS.
The North Face parent company, VF Corporation, also installed Panoramic Power’s systems in a 350,000 square foot Wrangler apparel distribution center in Seminole, Oklahoma. According to that case study, monitoring HVAC and ventilation systems in the industrial setting had an even quicker ROI of just six months.