In an age where forward-thinking organizations are under pressure to become more sustainable and energy efficient, universities come under some of the greatest scrutiny to meet net zero and lower carbon footprints. From profit-driven investors and Boards of Directors who regularly cheer their teams on in high-octane stadiums down to the tech-savvy and carbon-conscious students who fill the classrooms and dorms, universities are held to some of the highest standards of accountability, with no room for downtime. And while some of the more illustrious universities can claim to be on the cutting edge of energy autonomy, most still struggle with being able to manage campus systems existing of aging, legacy energy assets and buildings that are hundreds of years old to new state-of-the-art, next-gen green buildings and Distributed Energy Resources.
So, when a major university system selected Blue Pillar to become a solution provider for their multi-campus energy monitoring initiative, Blue Pillar set up a new standard for connecting and integrating multiple legacy assets and systems with new power-generating systems to meet the university’s four-fold goal:
- Centralize university related energy usage into one system which would allow them to analyze multiple data sets in one place and evaluate equipment energy performance over time
- Provide accurate data and analysis to justify future facility upgrades, such as switching from fluorescent to L.E.D. lighting at one of their large stadiums.
- Help the university with their reporting to meet Net Zero Energy and Carbon Neutral goals.
- Allow the university to build energy management into their overall curriculum by using real-time data and software reporting
Keeping these goals in mind, Blue Pillar set out to create an expandable Energy IoT network that would connect multiple Building Automation Systems, dozens of meters and Photovoltaic (PV) systems from a variety of manufacturers, all of differing makes and models. The work was concentrated on two campuses, which could then be expanded to include additional campuses at a later time.
As a first step, we obtained the necessary data needed to integrate 15 Building Automation Systems. Multiple Building Automation Systems existed throughout the campus from a variety of manufacturers, including Automated Logic, Alerton, Johnson Controls, and Trane. None of these systems were integrated. And, even when the systems were from the same manufacturer, there was no connectivity between them. They could not roll-up their data or alarms they were collecting into a centralized, campus-wide view. Using Blue Pillar’s Aurora® platform’s, the university seamlessly connected all of the Building Automation Systems into a single, centralized Energy IoT network without having to disrupt the legacy systems or assets they were monitoring.
Next, we moved on to connecting the university’s multiple Photovoltaic (PV) Systems into the same network to provide greater visibility into the energy being generated on campus. In a similar way to integrating the Building Automation Systems, we were able to network systems from multiple PV manufacturers into the same Aurora network, streamlining visibility and data.
Lastly, we began integrating all of the varying types of meters that were pulling data from the legacy energy assets in multiple, disparate buildings. More than 70 meters had previously been installed through the efforts of a contractor and an engineering firm. As we started connecting these meters into our Aurora Energy Network of Things® platform, we noticed that the energy data we were collecting from many of the meters was not making sense. Data from numerous meters showed a very low power factor, with levels around .3 or .25, signifying the likelihood of meter connections not being correct. For example, on some meters we found that the Phase A Current Transformer (CT) was actually hooked up to where the phase B CT should have been. In other instances, our data’s negative power readings led us to find that some of the CTs were installed backwards, with the current flow direction indication on the CTs facing the opposite direction of the actual flow of electrical current. These meter connectivity issues, which previously went undetected by both the contractor and the engineering firm, were not caught until the meters were integrated into the university’s Aurora Energy IoT network. Based on the Aurora data, corrections were made, and the meter data now flows to manufacturer standards.
With this phase of the energy integration initiative now completed, Blue Pillar has been able to centralize the university’s major energy systems with well over 2,600 energy data points coming into a campus-wide view. Additionally, Aurora has been able to provide significant cost savings by eliminating the approximately 270 man-hours per year needed to do monthly inspections and data readings of each of the more than 70 meters in the Aurora network. Together, the cumulative savings being provided by Aurora is more than enough to justify future energy integration initiatives that will include additional metering and battery storage projects. The university now has the ability to quickly and cost-effectively add new assets into Aurora (e.g. battery storage), and a centralized campus-wide view to advance their energy management curriculum development.