Tag Archives: Building Automation Controls

Can Building Automation Really Save Money?

Question: Can my building automation system help cut down my utility bill?
Answer: Building automation is a control method for the mechanical systems within your building. You may not have new equipment or VFDs (Variable Frequency Drives) on every motor, but there are likely still savings that you could drive with a new automation system.

Take for example a small office building with constant volume package units. What could you possibly get for energy savings in this environment? Fan energy, or the energy used to blow air out of the grill in your office, comprises almost 70% of the energy consumption in a building. By controlling the fans more tightly with a schedule you can save up to 15% on your bill every year. To take it one step further, by increasing cooling and decreasing heating setpoints during peak usage hours you can alleviate 5-10% consumption; all with minimal impact to your workforce. That’s up to 20-25% reduction without any mechanical upgrades.

Question: What if I’m tired of my current controls vendor? How hard is it to switch vendors?

Answer: Although any vendor exchange within a site will come at an expense, you can minimize it with the right strategy. Historically, building automation systems have been proprietary to single or sometimes multiple vendors in a given territory. If you didn’t like your vendor, you’d have to strip out all the equipment at your site and start over (an expense typically in the six-figure range for most facilities.)

Now, control systems like Tridium can integrate your old equipment and prevent proprietizing your site to a single contractor. Integrations like this not only open the market to competitive bidding, but can cut integration costs as much as 40-50% versus the traditional strip-and-replace mentality.

Remember, switching vendors in most cases doesn’t simply mean bringing in any contractor and having them work on your current system. Controls vendors may be able to work on a few different systems, but accessing the software necessary to program your facilities’ system may be impossible due to its proprietary nature.

Question: My controls vendor said I need to upgrade my system to make it faster. Is that necessary?

Answer: The unfortunate part about technological advancements in everyday use, through handhelds and cellphones, is they’ve taught us that speed is everything. Faster computers mean increased productivity. Faster Internet means quicker loading times while surfing. But is speed a necessity of building automation? After all, it is part of the technology boom.

Speed in automation is only critical when considering industrial applications. Industrial PLC (Programmable Logic Controllers) need to compute information twice as fast to make sure control of variables like temperature and pressure fall within industry standards. These controllers are extremely costly in comparison to a commercial application that is only concerned with occupant comfort.

If you’ve ever watched a temperature increase in an occupied space you could easily compare it to grass growing. Unless a space is overwhelmed with occupants, the fluctuation of temperature is extremely gradual; thereby decreasing the necessity of faster control capability. Basically, speed is not conducive to a properly controlled commercial application and is not a valid reason to spend tens of thousands of dollars for an upgrade.

Question:  How long can I expect my control system to last?

Answer:  Control systems have historically lasted for 10-15 years on average when considering mid to late 90’s installations. Unfortunately, with the pace of technology, your physical controls equipment is likely to outlast the associated software support for the installed product line. Now you are dependent upon the manufacturer to support the product line for up to fifteen years which is highly unlikely.

Take for example the cases of Apple and Microsoft. Windows XP was released in 2001 and remained the staple of Windows operating systems for around 11 years. Many companies are being forced to upgrade now to the new Windows 8 plaftform with the lack of support from Microsoft. The new Windows doesn’t support older hardware and, therefore, companies all over the world are having to upgrade their machines to match the new software.

When considering Apple, think back to the days of the iPhone 3G and when it was released in 2008. By 2011, the last version of Apple Updates was released for the 3G iPhone essentially guaranteeing its hardware obsolescence by 2012 – only 4 years later.

No technology, including building automation, can ever expect to embody the longevity assumed in the 90’s. With the quickened pace of high-tech advancement all owners can hope for is hardware manufacturers that can manage revisioning for at least 5-7 years.

Question:  My vendor said they needed to replace all the wiring in my building because it was old. Do new systems need new wire?

Answer:  Wire install costs within a facility, especially one that’s occupied, embody at least 25-30% of the total project costs. Rewiring occupied spaces comes at a heavy expense in either occupancy comfort or total project cost. If you decide to rewire your building after hours to alleviate tenant dissatisfaction, the overall cost can be expected to increase as much as 30%.

Most controls contractors can utilize either the BACNet or LON protocol to recycle your existing wiring and cut down on expense. In order to reuse existing controls wiring, contractors need to have in-depth knowledge on how to tune or reduce traffic on the system to ensure proper operation.

About the Author – I currently maintain an engineering sales position at Western Allied Mechanical. Our business is consulting customers on energy consumption and reducing costs through a joint mechanical and automation venture. I’m an avid follower of the industry and am always open to new opportunities and approaches. You can reach me at zdenning@westernallied.com or my cell at 650-798-4154.

US Building Automation Market Primed for Growth

Could Help Commercial Structures Cope with Rising Energy Costs
The U.S. market for building automation equipment is set to grow by more than 40 percent within a five-year period ending in 2017, spurred by the need in commercial buildings for more efficient energy consumption, according to a new report from IHS Inc. (NYSE: IHS).

With electricity rates on the rise, driven by increasing wholesale prices and investments in renewable sources of energy, demand for lower energy consumption in buildings is bound to occur, the findings in the report entitled “Building Automation Equipment” suggest.

All told, the U.S. building automation systems market will reach a projected $1.65 billion by year-end, up 5 percent from $1.57 billion in 2012. Solid growth ranging from 7 to 9 percent will follow in the next four years, with industry revenue forecast to hit $2.24 billion by 2017, equivalent to a 43 percent increase from 2012, as shown in the below figure.

The spiraling cost of electricity is a major factor in the operational efficiency of a commercial building structure, which explains why building automation systems could play an important role. Prices for U.S. retail electric power will increase by 8 percent from 2012 to 2020, IHS CERA forecasts, with a sizable proportion of the increase in price related to the investments being made by the market in renewable energy.

A similar story is unfolding in Germany, where the Energiewende policy is promoting the move away from nuclear and fossil-fuel power generation and toward renewable sources of energy. Such investments are driving up the cost of energy overall and adding pressure to the already stretched operational budgets of many commercial and government organizations.

“With budgets cut and many large companies struggling to grow at more than 5 percent on an annual basis, the higher cost of electricity could prove to be a major headache for commercial and government building owners,” said Sam Grinter, market analyst for the Building Technologies group at IHS.
The solution to rising energy prices

In particular, buildings consume huge quantities of energy through heating, ventilation and cooling, Grinter noted. “Making buildings as efficient as possible is crucial to driving down energy consumption. And one way to increase energy efficiency is to install an integrated building automation system,” Grinter noted.

Building automation systems centrally manage the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems of a structure. Compared to more basic mechanisms, building automation systems can save a considerable amount of energy consumption, via scheduled periods of heating or through cooling controlled by a thermostat, to cite two examples. Some vendors of building automation systems claim that energy savings of more than 30 percent can be obtained when evaluated against conventional HVAC systems.

This is why building owners will increasingly look to building automation systems to achieve savings on energy consumption, especially as the cost of electricity keeps going up, IHS believes.

www.ihs.com

7 Keys To Successful Building Automation

Automation Integrator Guide: Successful automation projects contain these seven elements. How many will your next project contain?

Congratulations on your decision to automate. You want to build it faster, build it better, and build it safer. But with so many potential automation solutions available, it can be overwhelming for an engineering team to decide where to start. Once you have justified the need for automation, feasibility, and payback to your business, you are faced with a difficult question: How do you ensure your road to automation is successful?

Seven keys to successful automation follow.

1. People communication

Communication among all stakeholders is paramount. When creating system requirements for the automation solution, the various teams involved must work hand-in-hand. Clear and open communication may seem like an obvious key to success, but too often teams are not brought together until late in the automation process.

Each stakeholder will have different goals in mind. The quality team wants zero defects, the production team wants output increased, IT wants a sustainable and maintainable solution. Before you know it, an operator at the end of the line has an error-proofing application, a shipping application, and an inventory application all running on the same computer, yet none of the systems communicate. The operator is left to manually transfer data between the three systems, and operations become less efficient than pre-automation.

By working with all the teams from the start, you will be in a better position to make sure the solution accounts for the perspectives of all parties involved, and also meets as many requirements as possible. A system integrator can often act as a mediator to help remove the politics from meeting all stakeholder goals and assist in solving what can sometimes seem to be contrasting goals to create a solution that works for all.

When trying to collaborate with teams, one of the largest communication issues we see as an integrator is scheduling. It is difficult to free up all of your team members to be in the same place at the same time. Consider meeting off-site with all of the stakeholders and away from the production facility at the start of the project. Simply removing people from their day-to-day chaos allows the team to focus on the problem at hand. Most likely no one will be able to be away for more than a day or two, but the tight timeline to develop requirements will keep everyone’s focus razor sharp.

2. System communication

You may already have some automated processes in place, but these processes are often developed independently from one another and may not communicate with each other. System segregation leads to data segregation. Data segregation leads to inefficiencies and manual reconciliation, which can cause data loss or, worse yet, data corruption. To avoid this, you want to store as much data as possible in a normalized manner and in a centralized location.

To accomplish this, integration and automation should go hand-in-hand. Getting two automated systems to communicate can be just as important, if not more important, than automating a single process. A system that is a “black box” provides little value if it cannot communicate with other systems.

3. Standardized processes

Before addressing the potential automation of the manufacturing process, you should first standardize the process. Standardization of the process allows for reduced variation and reduced operator training, and aids in root cause analysis.

Without standardized manufacturing processes it can be difficult to identify how automation should be implemented. If you have “loose” processes in place, an automation project is the perfect opportunity to address standardization. Usually this occurs a naturally as a side benefit associated with automation. Let standardizing the manufacturing process help drive the automation process and vice versa.

4. Standardized (yet flexible) framework

When you are developing standards for your framework, focus on the data that is most important. Force the team to keep the same important pieces of data as a baseline for your enterprise to build on. By developing standard interfaces for systems, you can create a model framework for other facilities. Avoid making the framework too rigid so that it can be flexible enough to apply across operations.

With a standardized framework, your team shouldn’t be as bogged down determining how to implement a solution. Instead, they will be focused on developing solutions that will promote production innovation. A standardized framework promotes collaboration so that groups work together, share information, and are positioned for success.

5. Standardized data

Data is king in today’s manufacturing environment. For that reason, you want to avoid proprietary and closed systems as much as possible. Focus on getting, keeping, and sharing your data. You likely already have proprietary systems in place to solve manufacturing problems, and minimizing manual transfers of information between these systems is crucial. Automating important transfers between systems allows employees to focus on their job instead of the white noise.

6. Pick your integration strategy, not your solution, first

Identifying what data you expect your automation solution to provide before you select a solution will also help minimize inefficiencies. All too often clients decide on a solution before they have outlined what data they need. This can lead to two potential downfalls. Either the solution needs to be vastly modified to meet the requirements, or the solution cannot be changed and some of the requirements simply are not met.

The more industry knowledge you can obtain about what solutions are available, the better. This is where a true systems integrator should be able to help. A systems integrator should be able to match a solution to specific goals. Whether it is a custom software solution or an off-the-shelf software package, you want established business processes dictating software solutions used, not vice versa. Keep in mind that whatever solution is selected, it should be a solid and expandable one that the team in place can build upon.

7. Commitment to support

Consider who the end owner will be. Whoever will be supporting the automation solution, the infrastructure, and software should have buy-in from the start that the solution is both maintainable and supportable from a technological standpoint.

Over the past 10 years there has been a transition from the manufacturing team managing software solutions to IT managing the software solutions. While it may be the manufacturing team developing the automation systems, it is more frequently the IT team’s responsibility to maintain the system. With IT becoming such a key player in the process, it is important to get them involved early and often. By including IT at the beginning of the process, you can help ensure a smooth transition from conception to production.

An automation project can seem daunting, especially when you are faced with legacy systems, siloed teams, minimal framework, and varied processes. But if done correctly, automation can provide all the benefits to build it faster, better, and safer. With some planning, standardization, and communication, and maybe a little help from an integrator, the automation project should be headed for success.

Article By:

– Chris Mikola is a project manager at Leidos, formerly part of SAIC. He currently directs the software programming group within Leidos Engineering’s systems division. The programming group specializes in quality information systems, real time production information systems, and custom software development. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, Plant Engineering, and Consulting-Specifying Engineer, mhoske(at)cfemedia.com.

Energy Savings: the Data Are in the Details

Energy managers know that every commercial building is complex. The upside to that complexity is that many of these buildings offer large energy efficiency potential. Through identifying efficiency opportunities in thousands of commercial buildings to-date, we have confirmed a simple premise. A commercial building’s energy use data set is like a fingerprint: no two are exactly alike.

With that in mind, energy managers need a smart strategy for understanding and capturing efficiency opportunities. Here are a few tips:

1)     Don’t just look across the road – A recent slew of energy management tools suggest that energy managers can design energy efficiency strategies based on comparisons to buildings with a similar size and use-profile. Don’t be tempted to compare your efficiency achievements with building operators overseeing other properties.

Our research has shown that ‘like-building’ hypothesis may prove true for the residential sector or the smallest commercial buildings such as pizza shops. But for most of the commercial sector, even very similar buildings can have vastly different energy-use profiles, and it’s important to tailor your strategy accordingly.  Take for example the two buildings highlighted in the infographic below, both of which operate near Chicago with similar sizes, sources of heating/power, assets, and Energy Use Intensity. Their strong resemblance on the surface disappears with a deeper dive into the building’s true energy usage patterns.

While a “like-building” analysis using benchmarks or past databases might suggest that these buildings have similar opportunities, in fact, Building #1 has nearly twice the annual savings potential as Building #2.  It also has more operationally-focused energy conservation opportunities coming from lighting controls, HVAC/plug controls and cooling set points. In contrast, Building #2 would benefit most from a lighting retrofit, making its energy reduction opportunity more about asset improvements than about operational changes.

Looking even deeper, an even larger difference is noticed in how energy is used throughout the building. Cooling usage dominates Building #2 (48% vs. 18%), while Building #1 has more usage going to lighting and plug loads. These breakdowns are part of what drives the differences in recommendations.  It’s worth noting that these unique building results came from advanced analytics applied to their meter data, leading us to the next tip…

Every Building Has Its Own Story To Tell

If all buildings have their own story to tell, how can you effectively approach each and every one?

2)     Real data doesn’t lie – Greater availability of high frequency consumption data coming from commercial building utility meters, coupled with recent advancements in data analytics provides a completely new way to understand energy performance. This data is just as available as square footage and EUI, but much, much richer.  Using consumption data as a starting point for understanding your usage gets you to the source of energy (in)efficiencies. It is not uncommon for data analytics to uncover, for example, a simultaneous heating and cooling issue that a building operator is adamant doesn’t exist. That is, until he goes and double checks the air conditioning systems.  You can’t hide from what the data reveals.  Although it may be uncomfortable to see the truth,data and advanced analytics provide great insights into ways to save energy and money in your building.

3)     Go deep and be objective – not wide and subjective. Many energy efficiency initiatives start with an audit, so the quality of information gained from that step is critical. Sending in a team of people with hard hats and clipboards to record the minutiae of energy use, from how often the mechanical equipment is shut down to how many times the building automation system is manually overridden, may be the first choice. However, in some situations, it may not be the best. Besides being an expensive and time-consuming endeavor, those kinds of audits may be led by individuals with differing experience, motivation, and techniques.  Numerous studies have shown that onsite audits yield highly inconsistent results, mostly because it’s hard to make consistent auditors.

Think about audit partners that can strive for objective consistency each and every time they analyze a building. There are firms that can provide that level of deep and specific building detail without requiring all those boots on the ground. An even better approach may be to perform the analytics first and then provide those results to the energy audit team, therefore enhancing the overall process.

4)     Put your utilities on speed dial – It is becoming common knowledge that many utility companies have significant monetary incentives for increasing building energy efficiency. So, it’s time to take full advantage. Every commercial energy manager should know who runs the efficiency programs within their utility providers, and should be in regular touch to better understand their buildings’ energy use profiles and savings opportunities, and available incentives.

Like all relationships, however, the energy manager-utility relationship is a two-way street. The better data and insight that utilities have on your energy usage, the better job they can do to help you realize savings. As the infographic above contends, every commercial building in a utility’s portfolio is different, and you should look to partner with your utility to identify the right kinds of operational and asset-based cost savings opportunities.

5)     Go public. Making your buildings’ energy performance part of everyone’s business is, well, good business. Providing energy audit results to your constituents – from tenants’ facility personnel to your preferred energy contractors to your own CFO – is crucial in ensuring that efficiency projects don’t fall by the wayside.

Why is transparency so important? Because it enables you to demonstrate not just the hows of energy efficiency (e.g., turning off the lights at 6:00 p.m. will save 10,000 kWh of energy) but also thewhys (e.g., turning off the lights at 6:00 p.m. saved the company $1,500 in energy costs last month, enabling us to purchase better equipment for our staff or our tenants). Most important, making energy use and savings data available helps make a stronger business case for energy efficiency projects.

Every building has its own story to tell, and the plotline is in the detail revealed through analytics. Data that lives deep within the lighting, power, HVAC and water systems in every building should be mined, analyzed and presented in a way that shows the value that energy efficiency projects can unlock. By looking at each building’s unique energy fingerprint, you can find hidden opportunities for efficiency and cost savings without always having to putting on a hardhat.

Article By: Swapnil Shah is CEO of FirstFuel.

Financial innovation is the next big thing in clean energy and efficiency

Financial innovation is the next big thing in clean energy and efficiency By: Chris Nelder- Smart Planet

Old Windmill

A new wave of innovation is sweeping the energy transition sector, promising to accelerate deployment and cut the costs of energy-efficiency measures, as well as wind and solar generation.

It isn’t a technological improvement, like cutting hardware and labor costs. It isn’t a policy mechanism like feed-in tariffs. It isn’t even a new business model, like selling storage services.

It’s financial innovation.

If the very words make you clutch your wallet and roll your eyes, I understand. After all, it was the innovation of mortgage-backed securities, credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations that opened the door to an unprecedented level of financial recklessness and nearly brought down the global economy five years ago.

However, at the risk of incurring the wrath of the market gods: This time it’s different.

The problem: The capital gap

Financial innovation in the cleantech sector is needed for a simple reason: Wind and solar systems (even large, utility-scale ones) and energy-efficiency upgrades are hard to finance. They typically require a homeowner or business owner or renewable project developer to come up with a significant chunk of capital up front, then receive the benefits of the investment over a long time horizon — typically, 20 years or more. They’re all a little different, making it hard to evaluate risk. Even if an investment offers an excellent return over time, coming up with the initial capital can be too high a hurdle. And when a developer manages to raise the money to build a project, it usually needs to sell the project to a long-term investor so it can free up its capital to build the next solar park or wind farm.

The natural long-term holders of assets like these are pension funds, infrastructure funds, sovereign wealth funds, insurance funds, and the like. They are accustomed to investing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars at once and then receiving modest, single-digit returns over a period of decades. This is the so-called fixed-income market, where the investments are usually come in the form of very low-risk assets like Treasury bills, equity positions in historically stable sectors like utilities, or long-term, high-grade corporate debt.

The problem in the cleantech sector has been matching assets to their natural investors.

Over the past year, I’ve heard the same story over and over again. Globally, fixed-income investment entities have trillions of dollars of available capital that they would love to put into renewable energy and efficiency projects. Enough to build a huge chunk of the new infrastructure needed to transition the world from fossil fuels to renewable energy. But the available projects are too small. Whether the investment is $50,000 or $500 million, it still requires about the same level of due diligence effort to evaluate: many billable hours paid to high-priced lawyers, accountants, researchers, and fund managers. That cost can be a killer if the investment is less than (roughly) $5 million dollars; there just isn’t enough margin to justify it.

So the trick has been to find a way to “de-risk” (do the due diligence) and bundle cleantech and energy-efficiency investments, in order to be able to offer a suitably large investment to the fixed income market at an acceptably low transaction cost.

Enter financial innovation.

Solution 1: Standardization

Several recent initiatives are tackling the first part of the problem by finding ways to standardize investments.

The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) just this week released a set of standardized contracts for solar projects. The contracts, which include lease agreements for residential solar systems offered by third-party solar leasing companies and commercial power purchase agreements (PPAs) for larger systems, were developed by a working group NREL convened in the spring called Solar Access to Public Capital (SAPC).

Comprising some 20 to 25 companies in the sector — including project developers, law firms, and analytical entities — SAPC analyzed many existing contracts for solar projects and figured out which parts could be standardized and which parts needed to be customizable.

I asked NREL Energy Analyst Paul Schwabe, who headed the contract standardization project, why new contracts are needed. “We see a number of benefits for those leases and PPAs,” he says. “One, lowering transaction costs for entities who don’t already have those documents available; they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Two, improving customer transparency, particularly on the residential side. By using a standard contract, the consumer can more easily compare multiple projects and know that the contract has been analyzed by a number of industry stakeholders. And three, we think it can help facilitate the pooling of cash flows into a common investment that can access capital markets.”

The working group hopes standardized contracts will reduce the cost of capital for project developers, and make it easier for customers and investors to evaluate investments. So far, the prospects are good.

“We’ve gotten buy-in from a large majority of the residential installer community, and we’ve made good inroads in the commercial industry as well,” Schwabe says. “We’ve confirmed that a large percentage of the market will use them.” The working group now has more than 125 members, he estimates, and that number is growing rapidly.

Ultimately, the standardization of contracts will make it easier to assess the expected cash flows from solar projects, and thus make it easier for investors to feel assured that projects will perform as advertised.

Solution 2: Data and metrics

The contract standardization effort is part of a broader NREL initiative to organize the industry and establish collaboration between stakeholders. NREL is also collecting data for solar performance, which will help standardize an understanding of how well various pieces of solar gear perform.

Another industry working group called TruSolar is working on a complementary set of metrics and tools to standardize solar project financing, including rating photovoltaic (PV) projects for performance and establishing credit screening criteria. TruSolar is part of SAPC. It has partnered with NREL to publicize their respective efforts and highlight the synergy between them, Schwabe says.

By collecting historical data on actual system performance and establishing standard credit criteria, the two groups will solve another part of the problem: the lack of a trusted track record.

Whereas the performance of mortgages has a well-analyzed record that stretches back over more than a century, the data trail for solar projects is only a few decades long, and only the last decade of that trail is really representative of how well modern equipment performs.

These investments in collecting data and establishing metrics will make it easier to de-risk solar projects and assign them a credit rating major investors can accept without having to do so much of their own due diligence. This will ultimately reduce the cost of capital and increase the velocity of deal-making.

Schwabe was not at liberty to say whether or not any of the major credit rating agencies are involved in SAPC, but did say that a key conclusion from an earlier NREL paper that led to its formation was that “standardization was needed for securitization and those stakeholders felt it was necessary.”

Solution 3: Securitization

Securitization is the process by which a pool of assets is bundled, graded, sliced and diced, and sold into capital markets. It’s the same process that brought the world the dreaded mortgage-backed securities. But the underlying assets in cleantech are quite different, and far less risky.

Securities in the cleantech sector rely on cash flows generated by stable things: solar equipment sits in the sun, insulation sits in buildings, and wind turbines stand and spin. As long as the gear has been properly evaluated and graded — which is part of what SAPC and TruSolar are doing — and properly maintained, then the only real risk to continued production of cash flow is weather. Fortunately, on an annual basis, insolation (the amount of light falling on a given location), wind, and temperature are quite predictable and have very long historical data records. Averaged over a period of decades, they will not deviate enough from historical averages to constitute a significant financial risk. So the actual risk of non-performance in solar- or wind- or efficiency-backed securities is far lower than the risk of a homeowner who got a “liar’s loan,” lost his job, and then couldn’t pay his mortgage.

Several new approaches to securitization in cleantech are now coming into existence.

NREL, as part of its suite of initiatives, is developing a “mock portfolio” comprising a pool of solar park assets, both commercial and residential, and testing how it might perform as a securitized investment.

SolarCity, one of the largest third-party solar leasing companies, announced this week that it will begin offering $54 million worth of “Solar Asset Backed Notes” to qualified investors. The securities, which will be secured by a pool of the company’s solar systems, leases and PPAs, will pay investors out of the cash flow those assets generate, and free up the company’s capital to invest in new projects.

Jigar Shah, the founder of SunEdison, pioneered the third-party solar leasing model companies like SolarCity and Sunrun have followed. I asked him for his take on securitization.

“The financial innovation that we’re doing now is just an extension of what we started in 2003,” he says. “We popularized it at SunEdison. Securitization is the next step. The first step was to make solar an asset class acceptable to insurance and pension funds. We got Wells Fargo, MetLife, and a few others to give SunEdison $2.3 billion in commercial paper, and something on the order of $1 billion in residential paper. Now we have the right to pursue securitization. But it only happens because the banks believe there’s a multi-billion-dollar market. Until then, the ratings agencies like S&P are not able to participate.”

Although SolarCity’s $54 million offering is tiny in the world of commercial securities, Shah sees it as significant because the company has obtained, for the first time, an investment-grade rating for commercial solar securities. Within five years, he expects the sector to be well into the billions of dollars.

In a detailed Oct. 21 essay about solar securitization for Power Intelligence, energy finance attorneys Elias Hinckley and David John Frenkil wrote that solar asset-backed securities “will enable the solar industry to access a much larger and more diverse investor base, which will eventually help to reduce the long-term cost of capital to a likely range of 3 percent to 7 percent, compared with the 8 percent to 20 percent rate required by some project finance equity and tax equity investors in the current market.”

Securitization is also coming to the building efficiency sector. Massachusetts-based insurance company Energi Insurance Services has extended its risk evaluation services for renewables to the energy-efficiency sector, including energy-savings warranties, electricity-generation performance warranties and equipment warranties. It also backstops performance guarantees offered by energy-efficiency contractors through product underwritten by the International Insurance Company of Hannover. Last month, Energi started working with NREL to analyze and quantify risk for small building energy-efficiency retrofits, giving lenders a tool they can use to rate energy-efficiency loans. Ultimately, the methodology could give rise to efficiency-backed securities, which will deliver cash flows to investors much as securitized solar projects do.

Solution 4: Crowdfunding

Oakland, Calif.-based Mosaic also offers solar asset-backed securities. Instead of being based on a pool of assets, they are issued for specific solar projects. Each note issued by the company corresponds to a certain solar installation, and the payment on those notes derives directly from the cash flow generated by the loan obligation attached to that installation.

After less than a year in business, Mosaic has more than 2,500 investors from nearly every state, who have invested as little as $25 for shares in 19 solar projects with a combined $5.7 million in asset value. Investors typically receive 4 percent to 7 percent returns annually, depending on the project. The company boasts 100 percent on-time payments with zero defaults thus far.

Speaking at the VERGE San Francisco conference last month, Mosaic CEO Billy Parish said interest is brisk in his company’s offerings. Investors are disillusioned with conventional financial markets, he says, and increasingly feel that the stock market is rigged against them. With tens of millions of dollars worth of new solar projects in the Mosaic pipeline, he is confident investors will continue to find the low risk and modest return of the notes attractive. “The transition from fossil fuels to renewables is the biggest opportunity for wealth generation this century,” he declares.

Another Mosaic innovation could open up a torrent of new capital: a security that will be eligible for purchase through IRA accounts. There is $17 trillion sitting in IRAs in the United States alone, according to Parish.

A related recent development in financial innovation will give more investors access to the cleantech sector. The JOBS Act, which President Obama signed into law in April, created a new playing field for crowdfunding that makes it easier for individuals who don’t qualify as high net worth “accredited investors” to invest small amounts in small businesses and startups which, in turn, weren’t qualified to offer public securities.

Earlier this week, the Securities and Exchange Commission finally proposed rules defining the new terms. Investors with less than $100,000 in annual income and net worth will be able to invest up to $2,000 a year, or 5 percent of annual income or net worth, whichever is greater. Those criteria are considerably looser than the ones Mosaic has operated under thus far, so it will open a much larger pool of potential investors in renewable-energy- and efficiency-backed securities.

“We’re glad to see financial innovation occurring in the renewable energy sector, including through use of securitized investments,” Parish told me.

And that’s not all. A multi-billion-dollar market in global finance for renewable energy and efficiency is now giving very large investors, like sovereign wealth funds and pension funds, easy access to these new securities. Stay tuned to this space for more on that exciting new sector.

Photo: William Kamkwamba’s old windmill, Malawi (whiteafrican/Flickr)

Coppertree Analytics: The Technology


Our Technology

Coppertree solves energy management issues through technology that automatically checks the integrity of your Building Automation System (BAS) while pinpointing system inefficiencies. It compares the data gathered from your system to a defined baseline and highlights any changes. Its powerful reporting tool automatically generates visuals and allows you to build custom dashboards and reports. It can even send notifications, reports, and alerts directly to your phone or tablet. The Coppertree technology is achieved through the three step process of: Acquire, Analyze, and Advise.

Acquire

Coppertree acquires relevant data such as BACnet objects and trend logs from your existing Building Automation System (BAS) and stores them securely in the cloud. A CopperCube will first be installed at your building so data can be gathered and uploaded. Once data collection starts, analysis and optimization begin immediately.

Analyze

Coppertree’s continuous commissioning analysis allows your building to be fine-tuned for optimal efficiency every few seconds by analyzing data as it is received. The powerful analytical engine also automatically detects system errors and notifies you as soon as issues occur. Energy consumption is measured against model baselines so you can reach your energy targets.

Advise

Coppertree allows you to schedule immediate, daily, weekly, or monthly reports and receive insights into building abnormalities. Notifications and alerts are sent right to your computer, phone, or tablet. Access customizable dashboards, charts, tables, and diagrams to visually present energy information to clients or educate employees.

Acquire

Coppertree acquires relevant data such as BACnet objects and trend logs from your existing Building Automation System (BAS) and stores them securely in the cloud. A CopperCube will first be installed at your building so data can be gathered and uploaded. Once data collection starts, analysis and optimization begin immediately.

Analyze

Coppertree’s continuous commissioning analysis allows your building to be fine-tuned for optimal efficiency every few seconds by analyzing data as it is received. The powerful analytical engine also automatically detects system errors and notifies you as soon as issues occur. Energy consumption is measured against model baselines so you can reach your energy targets.

Advise

Coppertree allows you to schedule immediate, daily, weekly, or monthly reports and receive insights into building abnormalities. Notifications and alerts are sent right to your computer, phone, or tablet. Access customizable dashboards, charts, tables, and diagrams to visually present energy information to clients or educate employees.

If you would like to learn more please visit: Coppertree here or contact a Setpoint Systems Corporation Account manager here for a live Demo!

ENR Mountain States 2013 Best Projects Winners

Please join us in congratulating a few of our customers for being highlighted or winning “Best Projects in the Mountain States Award!”

  • NREL Controllable Grid Interface, Jefferson County, Colorado
  • Energy Systems Integration Facility, Golden, Colorado
  • Southeast Wyoming Welcome Center, Cheyenne, Wyoming
  • Crestone Charter School, Crestone, Colorado
  • Metropolitan State University of Denver Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center, Denver, Colorado

ENR Mountain States 2013 Best Projects Winners By: Mark Shaw

ENR Mountain States is pleased to announce the winners of its 2013 Best Projects competition in the region, which includes Utah, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

A panel of eight judges from all areas of the industry—architects, GCs and engineers—selected winners in each of categories. The judges also selected a number of merit winners and awarded ties in some categories where they thought the projects were of similar quality.

This is the 13th year producing these awards, which are detailed below. In addition to the awards listed, ENR will present safety awards to several deserving projects, and one project in each area (Intermountain and Colorado/Plain States) will win top honors as the Best Overall, along with some judges’ special recognitions. The safety winners will be announced soon, but the special judges awards will not be named until the morning of the awards banquets.

The awards are split into two areas (Intermountain and Colorado), to correspond with their respective awards events, and arranged by category below. Scroll down to see both lists. Projects will be covered in more detail in the October issue of ENR Mountain States and honored at two breakfast awards events: Salt Lake City on Oct. 29 and Denver on Oct. 30.

If you have questions, please e-mail (Mark Shaw, Editor-in-Chief, ENR Mountain States) at mark.shaw@mhfi.com.

Congratulations to all of the winners!

Intermountain Winners
(Utah, Idaho and Montana)

Airports/Transit

Winner: Utah Transit Authority Airport TRAX Extension, Salt Lake City

Cultural/Worship

Winner: Boise LDS Temple Renovation, Boise
Merit: Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum, Vernal, Utah

Energy/Industrial

Winner: FCF Rebuild, Salt Lake City
Merit: High Mesa Wind Farm, Twin Falls, Idaho

Government/Public Building

Winner: Salt Lake City Public Safety Building, Salt Lake City

Health Care

Winner: HCA MountainStar Lone Peak Hospital, Draper, Utah
Merit (tie): Utah State Veterans Nursing Homes, Payson and Ivins, Utah
Merit (tie): Salt Lake Clinic, Salt Lake City

Higher Education/Research

Winner: Tooele Applied Technology College, Toole, Utah
Merit (tie): University of Utah L.S. Skaggs Pharmacy Research Institute, Salt Lake City
Merit (tie): University of Utah Spencer Fox Eccles Business Building, Salt Lake City

Highways/Bridges

Winner (tie): U.S. 95 Sand Creek Byway, Sandpoint, Idaho
Winner (tie): Mountain View Corridor, Salt Lake County
Winner (tie): I-15 Corridor Expansion (I-15 CORE), Utah County
Merit (tie): SR-14 Landslide Emergency Repair, CM/GC Services,
Cedar Canyon, Utah
Merit (tie): Carbon and Duchesne Counties Nine Mile Canyon Road Reconstruction, Utah

Interiors/Tenant Improvement

Winner: MRM // McCann, Salt Lake City
Merit: Clearlink Call Center, Winner Floor, Orem, Utah

K-12 Education

Winner: Granger High School, West Valley City, Utah

Manufacturing

Winner: Swire Coca-Cola USA Distribution Center, Draper, Utah

Office/Retail/Mixed-Use

Winner: Adobe Corporate Campus, Lehi, Utah
Merit (tie): Deseret Book, Rexburg, Idaho
Merit (tie): eBay Global Customer Service Center, Draper, Utah

Renovation/Restoration

Winner: Ogden High School Restoration, Ogden, Utah
Merit (tie): Wheeler Office Renovation, Salt Lake City
Merit (tie): Tribune Building Renovation, Salt Lake City

Residential/Hospitality

Winner: The Village at South Campus, Provo, Utah
Merit (tie): Weber State University Residential Life Complex, Ogden, Utah
Merit (tie): Westminster on the Draw Student Housing, Salt Lake City

Small Project (Under $10 million)

Winner: 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Boise
Merit: Uintah County Library, Vernal, Utah

Specialty Contracting

Winner: Rocket Express Car Wash, Midvale, Utah
Merit: Adobe Omniture Phase 1 LEED, Lehi, Utah

Sports/Entertainment

Winner: Provo Recreation Center, Provo, Utah
Merit: Megaplex Theatres at Valley Fair Mall, West Valley, Utah

Water/Environment

Winner (tie): Orange Street Sewer Trunk Line Rehabilitation, Salt Lake City
Winner (tie): Jordan Basin Water Reclamation Facility, Riverton, Utah
Merit (tie): Streamside Tailings Operable Unit – Silver Bow Creek
Subarea 3 Remedial Action, Butte, Mont.
Merit (tie): Jack Waite Mine Superfund Site Remediation, Bunker Hill, Idaho
Colorado/Wyoming/Kansas Winners

Cultural/Worship

Winner: Mesa Verde National Park Visitor and Research Center, Mesa Verde, Colo.

Energy/Industrial

Winner: NREL Controllable Grid Interface, Jefferson County, Colo.

Government/Public Building

Winner: Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center, Denver
Merit: Energy Systems Integration Facility, Golden, Colo.

Green Project

Winner: Windsor Readiness Center, Windsor, Colo.
Merit (tie): Southeast Wyoming Welcome Center, Cheyenne
Merit (tie): Galileo’s Pavilion, Overland Park, Kan.

Health Care

Winner (tie): Rangely District Hospital Replacement Hospital, Rangely Colo.
Winner (tie): University of Colorado Hospital —
New Inpatient Tower and Critical Care Wing Expansion, Aurora, Colo.
Merit (tie): Children’s Hospital East Tower Addition, Aurora, Colo.
Merit (tie): Castle Rock Adventist Hospital, Castle Rock, Colo.

Highways/Bridges

Winner: I-70 & Central Park Boulevard Interchange, Denver

Interiors/Tenant Improvement

Winner: Turner Construction Offices, Denver

K-12 Education

Winner (tie): Manhattan High School West Campus & Bishop Stadium,
Manhattan, Kan.
Winner (tie): Garden City High School, Garden City, Kan.
Merit: Crestone Charter School, Crestone, Colo.

Office/Retail/Mixed-Use

Winner: Trimble Rockies Campus, Westminster, Colo.
Merit: Suncor Energy USA Denver Regional Headquarters, Commerce City, Colo.

Renovation/Restoration

Winner: Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse,
Grand Junction, Colo.
Merit (tie): Colorado State University Parmelee Hall Revitalization, Fort Collins, Colo.
Merit (tie): Hotel Jerome, Aspen, Colo.

Residential/Hospitality

Winner: Metropolitan State University of Denver Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center, Denver

Small Project (Under $10 million)

Winner: Drive at TAXI, Denver
Merit: Elk Camp Restaurant, Snowmass, Colo.

Water/Environment

Winner (tie): Horsethief Canyon Native Fish Facility, Fruita, Colo.
Winner (tie): Southern Delivery System South Pipeline 2, Pueblo County, Colo.