Why do microgrid projects need to start with energy monitoring and energy efficiency? Jules Nohra, director of optimization services, Veolia North America, explains in an interview with Yasmin Ali, Microgrid Knowledge contributor.
Why is it important to make a facility as energy efficient as possible before you install a microgrid?
Jules Nohra: The first, and probably the most important reason, is to make sure the microgrid is not oversized. Energy efficiency measures reduce a facility’s energy demand, so taking these measures after installing a microgrid would result in it being oversized, meaning that the capital cost was unnecessarily high. The second reason is because energy efficiency is typically a lot cheaper to implement than a microgrid.
Energy efficiency has evolved far beyond efficient light bulbs and HVAC systems. What are some of the key elements and technologies used today?
JN: A key development is using data for the identification of energy efficiency measures. Data science and machine learning allow us to continuously monitor the performance of buildings on a large scale, for a variety of buildings, and helps build a continuous picture versus a one-time snapshot of a facility. Improvements in the data science field also mean that we can do continuous commissioning at scale and a lot more intelligently that we did in the past.
What is “continuous commissioning”?
JN: Let’s start with commissioning. Equipment installed in a new building is usually commissioned, or tested to make sure that it is operating as per the design specification. Unfortunately this process isn’t always perfect. In some cases, issues are missed during commissioning, for example a piece of equipment is left in manual mode for years to come, without anyone noticing. You would have paid a lot of money to install a piece of equipment that essentially doesn’t do anything.
Retro-commissioning is going back to a building that has been operating for a long time and commissioning it. Some places will re-commission every few years, as equipment in buildings tends to drift away from the specification over time.
And finally, continuous commissioning is essentially continuous monitoring of energy performance and equipment in a building to make sure that you’re never drifting away from the original design intent.