In honor of Energy Efficiency Day 2017, Freddie Adom, the Department of General Services' Energy Manager, provides a window into how his work supports energy efficiency and conservation on a daily basis.
Energy is defined simply as the ability to do work. Computers use energy to run programs for users to create documents. Light bulbs use energy to emit light that helps building occupants see their environment. HVAC systems use energy to keep us warm inside of buildings during the winter, and cool during the dog days of summer.
Energy consumption, however, comes at a cost. Energy for facilities is typically purchased through utility providers, which can be expensive, especially for larger facilities. Also, the harvesting and conversion of natural resources into useful energy comes at a cost to the environment. From excavation and deforestation to the production of greenhouse gas emissions, the need for energy has led to environmental impacts observed across the globe. The need to reduce energy consumption is evident; however the need for comfort inside the building should not be dismissed. Comfortable environments allow building occupants to perform their work without distractions, and ensure that customers have a pleasant experience.
As Energy Manager for the Department of General Services, I would like to take the opportunity on this Energy Efficiency Day 2017 to give an insight into what the department does to manage energy use -- and promote energy efficiency -- in our facilities.
Energy data is recorded and stored for every General Services'-managed facility. This includes energy use from our electricity, natural gas, and water utilities. Along with knowledge of building operations, we are able to take the data and determine the energy efficiency of the building. Entering the utility data into EnergyStar's Portfolio Manager allows us to quickly calculate the building's Energy Use Intensity (EUI), which shows the amount of energy used per square foot over the course of a year. This metric helps General Services determine which buildings to focus on in our energy reduction efforts. For our LEED-certified buildings, General Services uses the energy data to develop the department's annual High Performance Building Report. This report contains energy data for the LEED buildings and compares usage to facilities of similar size and building type.
Table 1. Energy use for the Clifford Allen Building
Over the course of time, building equipment becomes less efficient. Bolts and fan belts loosen up, filters become clogged with dirt, and valves become more difficult to open. All of these scenarios cause HVAC equipment to use more energy than normally required. If left unattended, the building energy use can increase significantly, because the HVAC system needs to work harder to get the same results. Of course, let's not forget to mention that these inefficiencies can lead to equipment failure over time. To combat this, General Services employs a practice called preventative maintenance. Building equipment, such as boilers, chillers, and air handler units, are serviced every quarter. Technicians have a checklist where they verify the condition of the equipment. Maintenance is performed on the equipment, and parts are replaced when they are identified to be in poor condition. Technicians then verify that the system as a whole and its components are operating smoothly. This practice not only keeps equipment operating efficiently, it also extends the lifetime use of the equipment, and possibly the entire facility.
Energy management is also conducted through the use of building automation systems (BAS). BAS allows the building equipment to be controlled and operated through computers. The BAS systems for over 35 General Service’s buildings are pulled in to the Center of Responsible Energy (CORE), located in the Howard Office Building. BAS controls HVAC, lighting, and generator systems for our facilities. In these programs, the desired operating conditions are set into the program, and the program operates the equipment at these settings. The settings for these systems have a strong influence on how much energy is consumed by our buildings. BAS controls activities such as the scheduling for lighting and air conditioning throughout the day, temperature settings for specific parts of the building, and keeping rooms at an appropriate humidity level. Another example would be exhaust fans turning on in the garages of fire stations in order to expel fumes when carbon monoxide levels reach a certain point. As we gain further information about a building's energy use, settings may be changed in the BAS to improve upon the facility's energy efficiency. These systems also track the performance of individual components; that way we can look into that piece of hardware before it causes further problems.
During extreme weather conditions in the summer and winter months, facilities all across TVA's electrical grid use more energy to cool and heat their buildings. In order to prevent the grid from overloading, TVA, through EnerNOC, offers facilities the opportunity to enter into their demand response program. In this program, TVA sets aside a number of hours (typically around four) and asks participants to curtail their energy use during this time period. General Services has six facilities that participate in demand response. Power consumption is reduced in these buildings without compromising comfort for occupants. Engaging in this program helps keep the TVA grid strong and resilient, especially as more and more people move into Nashville and the middle Tennessee area.
One of the most important ways to reduce the need to purchase electricity from utility providers is to have a sustainable, regenerating energy source. Fortunately, the Sun is an abundant supplier of energy and solar photovoltaic systems are a great way to harvest that energy for homes and buildings. General Services has eight facilities that feature roof-mounted solar panels. Seven of these facilities are under the Green Power Provider's agreement with TVA and NES, where the solar panels are supplying clean energy to TVA's grid. The other facility, Fire Station #19, which is under the Dispersed Power Production agreement, uses the electricity generated by its solar panels directly, and purchases the remaining need for energy from Nashville Electric Service. Depending on the time of year, 13%-16% of Fire Station #19's electricity use is provided by its solar panels.
As a team, we strive to improve our buildings and make sure that everyone (building occupants, customers, employees, and the Nashville community) is placed in the best environment. To do this, we have to take into account many factors, with energy being a key component. Thankfully, I work with a great team of people who work diligently, are very knowledgeable, and are always willing to share thoughts and opinions. No one person can do this on their own, especially with the number of buildings that we operate and manage. To manage energy effectively, takes knowledge and understanding. With our staff, I am in a great place to do so.
Freddie Adom is the Department of General Services' Energy Manager.