Green Buildings Need Clean Electrical Power for Sustainability
By: Jerry Durham | Nov 29, 2018
The Green Movement
Major changes are taking place in the world around us as mankind moves ever forward into an era where reduced energy consumption and the use of renewable energy sources are now the “norm” and no longer the exception.
As new technology becomes available, along with promises of ever-increasing returns on initial investments, many business owners and homeowners are ready to become part of the green movement. There is no question that the time is right for all of us to move forward with our green initiatives.
With this in mind, it is essential to understand that there are two goals fueling this “movement.” First, whether homeowner or chief financial officer for a multinational corporation, we want to get the most bang-for-our-buck. We all want to save as much money as possible across our particular operating budgets. Second, as good stewards of our planet, we all hope to have as little negative impact on our environment as possible. When it comes to going green, it is usually assumed that to reach the first goal is to have made some meaningful progress toward the second.
Efficiency and Sustainability
There are two basic tenets to what is considered green operation, and they are: Energy Efficiency and Sustainability. For a building, a process, or a product to be truly green, it must achieve and maintain both of these.
There are many products and services available today that can dramatically reduce consumption of energy, thereby improving efficiency. Some of these serve to supplement our primary energy source and reduce consumption. These new technologies include such things as: variable frequency drives (VFDs), LED lighting, building automation systems, solar generation, and battery storage- all of which play a part in the production, storage, distribution and consumption of energy throughout a building. When these products and methods are combined, they often have the ability to have a positive or negative affect on one another, or on the system as a whole.
Having re-lamped an entire parking garage with LED lighting retrofits, a hospital was pleased with the energy savings they were experiencing. Then came failure of the lighting components due to power quality issues experienced in the building’s electrical system during generator operations. All of the previously enjoyed energy cost-savings then had to be forfeited due to the cost of replacement electronics for these new lights. In this particular case, less would have definitely been more; the addition of the generator system, without a means of filtering this “dirty” power before it reached the new electronic parking lot lighting destroyed their green energy efforts.
Sustainability of electrical equipment serving a building depends in large part on the quality of power being supplied to the building. It is often the case that previous repairs made or recorded glitches within building electrical systems can be traced back to power quality issues being experienced at that time.
In the past, it’s been considered expensive and time-consuming to have power quality surveys performed on a building’s electrical system. In most cases, studies such as these are completed ONLY after a major power event has occurred and significant disruptions and equipment failure has been experienced. This reactive method of reverse-engineering a problem to better understand the operating characteristics and power quality dynamics for a building’s electrical system after a failure, may have been acceptable in times past, but with all the new changes taking place, a more proactive approach is now needed.
The ability to install powerful, real-time power quality meters with alarming functions and data collection is now highly cost-effective. Power quality is key to maintaining the sustainability of our buildings.
These power quality data loggers are like the black box recorders located on aircraft. They sit quietly within the electrical cabinets and switchgear of a system, monitoring power quality in real time- all the time, while generating alarms via email as events occur.
This method of proactive power quality monitoring has proven to be highly effective in preventing major power problems, such as outages, while also reducing destruction that occurs to connected loads and equipment during outages. Several companies are offering these permanently mounted power quality data loggers, which are proving to be highly cost-effective for any application.
As a final note, one additional benefit associated with these permanently mounted data loggers is the reduced risk of ARC flash hazards. These data recording devices can give us real-time readings, reducing or even eliminating our need to open dangerous electrical gear, thereby reducing the risks involved in connecting a meter to a live power source.