Here’s a statistic that should strike both fear and hope into the hearts of the building energy-efficiency industry: nine out of ten buildings today don’t use energy properly.
Maybe that’s why Sheeraz Haji, Cleantech Group CEO and the source of that bit of depressing data about today’s building energy-efficiency landscape, has invited several energy-smart building startups to announce new partnerships and projects at Tuesday’s Cleantech Forum in San Francisco.
One of them is BuildingIQ, maker of software that helps optimize building heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to save power without compromising building comfort. On Tuesday, the San Mateo, Calif.-based startup announced a partnership with a major player in the building energy management space: French giant Schneider Electric.
Tuesday’s announcement claims that the combination of Schneider’s building management system (BMS) and BuildingIQ’s HVAC optimization and demand response software will be “the only system on the market to automatically optimize the BMS to deliver daily energy and peak load savings.” I’m guessing that other vendors of building energy optimization technology, including startups like SCIEnergy and Viridity Energy, as well as major vendors like Honeywell, Siemens and Johnson Controls, will disagree with that statement.
The proof will be in the projects. BuildingIQ CEO Mike Zimmerman wouldn’t give any details about where the two companies are working during a Tuesday interview at the Cleantech Forum event. But he said that projects are underway, and he’s expecting a few to be announced in the next few weeks.
BuildingIQ does things like pre-cool buildings before peak afternoon prices hit, then turn off air conditioning systems and let temperatures gradually drift upward, saving money or bidding the reduction back as “negawatts” for the grid. BuildingIQ has announced pilots underway with several Australian utilities, and recently announced a deal with San Francisco-based energy services company Syserco to roll out its product in the United States.
Meanwhile, Tuesday also saw the announcement of an interesting project linking smart networked lighting with smarter HVAC controls. That’s the 500,000-square-foot, 12-building installation for Tarlton Properties’ Menlo Business Park in Menlo Park, Calif., which just won an Environmental Project of 2012 award from Silicon Valley environmental nonprofit Acterra.
Enlighted, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based networked lighting sensor and control startup, installed the wireless sensor and control lighting fixtures that are projected to shave 50 percent to 70 percent from anticipated lighting bills, via enhanced occupancy sensing, daylight harvesting and adjusting light levels to suit the specific use of each lighted workspace. Enlighted is doing similar projects for customers including Interface Global, the carpet tile manufacturer.
But the Menlo Business Park project adds a few new twists, Zach Gentry, vice president of marketing and product management, told me in a Tuesday interview. First of all, Enlighted’s sensors are providing data to the buildings’ HVAC system from Consolidated Electrical Contractors, allowing the buildings to adjust heating, cooling and ventilation energy use based on temperature readings coming from every lighting fixture, he said.
That’s expected to shave another 10 percent or so from the buildings’ total energy usage, Gentry said. Stay tuned for other networked lighting startups, like Adura and Daintree Networks, to start linking their ubiquitous sensors to more and more building operations. After all, once you’ve got a wireless node in each light fixture, why not use it to collect all sorts of data?
Beyond that, the project has enabled the buildings’ lights and HVAC systems to reduce power consumption to meet automated demand response calls, he said. Tarlton Properties has enlisted Global Energy Partners, the California energy services company bought by demand response giant EnerNOC in late 2010, to manage the demand response program.
OpenADR, the emerging standard for automating demand response, will be at the heart of the Menlo Business Park’s connections to utility Pacific Gas and Electric, Gentry said. California’s grid operator has been expanding its Proxy Demand Resources program to connect building owners to the grid via OpenADR.
EnerNOC, which joined the OpenADR alliance last year, no doubt wants to build its access to that business. It has plenty of competition, however, including from Honeywell, which bought OpenADR server maker Akuacom in 2010 and has been rolling out OpenADR-based projects around the world.
Office buildings, however, have traditionally been a tougher target market for demand response, since office tenants aren’t so happy about having their lights and air conditioners turned off to allow building owners to make money. Getting automated signals to interact with intelligent building energy management systems in ways that reduce power without affecting those tenants will be a key challenge for companies and partnerships trying to open that market.