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The Crucial Nexus: Trust and Cybersecurity in Operations

The Crucial Nexus: Trust and Cybersecurity in Operations

Published
29 January 2024

Facilities managers, security officers, and executives are tasked with a myriad of responsibilities such as optimizing energy efficiency, ensuring the comfort and safety of occupants, and protecting their assets and investments. In the modern era, where technology underpins nearly every aspect of a business’s operations, the importance of trust and cybersecurity cannot be overstated. This article explores the critical relationship between trust and cybersecurity in operations.

 I. The Inextricable Link: Trust and Cybersecurity

Trust is the cornerstone of any successful business. In the realm of operations, trust is the assurance that the systems and equipment will perform reliably, efficiently, and safely. It encompasses the belief that the technology supporting the operation will not fail or pose any risk to the occupants and the environment. There is also a large degree of trust that is built between service and parts providers and the company running the building or facility. This trust is paramount as facilities managers are typically not installing, repairing, or providing support diagnostics for every component or system. They rely on building optimization providers to ensure that chillers are operating within normal parameters, sensors are providing reliable data points, and their building management systems (BMS) are optimizing their building operations.

Cybersecurity, on the other hand, is the foundation upon which this trust is built. It is a set of practices, technologies, and protocols designed to protect digital systems, data, and the entire operation from malicious intent or inadvertent breaches. In today’s world, where building systems have become more sophisticated and interconnected, the relationship between trust and cybersecurity is particularly critical.

II. The Vulnerabilities in Building Operations

HVAC systems and other building management devices are no longer standalone mechanical devices; they are now an integral part of building management systems (BMS). Modern HVAC systems have sensors, controllers, and connected devices that enable remote monitoring, control, and automation. While this advancement provides numerous benefits, it also opens the door to vulnerabilities.

Cyberattacks on Building Automation Systems

With the proliferation of interconnected systems, Building Management Systems have become attractive targets. This has been the case with companies like Target in 2013 when they suffered a massive data breach. Attackers gained access to Target’s computer network and stole financial and personal information. [1]The full report from the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation can be found here.

IoT Devices and Weaknesses

IoT devices can be known for their inherent weaknesses when it comes to security. Many IoT devices are not adequately protected, making them easy entry points for hackers. These devices often lack firmware updates, have default passwords, and are susceptible to common attack methods. In 2019 Amazon’s Ring cameras were breached and reports of customers being hacked were popping up globally (Read the court hearing here). [2] Amazon provided a security patch that has since shored up the problem.

Human Error

With all the security in the world, companies can never forget about the human element. While firewalls and anti-virus software can continually buffet outside attacks with relative success, employees who unknowingly click on a phishing email can open the door wide open to security breaches. There are many examples of this occurring, robust and frequent security training is paramount for today’s companies to stay secure. Moss Adams, an IT and Cybersecurity Consulting Firm, goes into greater depth on the risks of human error in their article “How to Identify Top Cybersecurity Threats and Protect your Organization”.[3]

III. Building a Trustworthy System

While all these vulnerabilities are frightening to think about, operations managers and security officers can take some steps to ensure their operations remain secure.

First, businesses must also develop strong relationships with their service providers to ensure security is a cornerstone of the products and services they provide as these products and services are directly linked to the company’s facilities.

Building Optimization providers like Optimum Energy (OE) are committed to continuing to provide first-in-class security procedures and policies for its clients and stakeholders.

Risk Assessment and Management

Identifying and understanding the risks associated with building systems is the first step. Facilities managers in conjunction with their BMS provider should conduct a comprehensive risk assessment, considering factors such as the type of equipment, its connectivity, and the potential consequences of a breach. With this information, they can develop a risk management plan that outlines security measures and incident response procedures. For providers like Optimum Energy, these policies and procedures are built into OE’s products and services.

Implement Strong Access Controls

Access controls ensure that only authorized personnel can modify building system settings. To enhance access security, use strong authentication methods, like two-factor authentication (2FA). Additionally, regularly review and update user access privileges to limit the potential damage in case of a breach.  

Encryption and Data Protection

Operational data, such as temperature and humidity settings, are not required to be encrypted. But any sensitive data such as healthcare, personal identifiable information (PII), and payment information should be encrypted during transmission and storage. This prevents attackers from intercepting or tampering with data as it flows between devices and control systems. Security managers should establish data retention policies to minimize exposure in case of a breach. It is also imperative that facility or security managers understand how their BMS provider is handling their data. Providers like Optimum Energy provide redundancies within their data centers that keep their client’s data secure and untampered.

Continuous Monitoring and Response

Real-time monitoring of operational systems is essential to detect anomalies and potential security breaches. A strong BMS provider typically has an intrusion detection system (IDS) and/ or third-party security services to monitor network traffic and system behavior 24/7. In the event of an incident, having a well-defined incident response plan in place is crucial to minimize damage and downtime.

High Standards for Service Providers

While building optimization providers should be highlighting their cybersecurity prowess and certifications, facilities managers also have a responsibility to ask questions about security and trust. Service and BMS providers should be equipped with various cyber security certifications and have a robust risk management plan to ensure that if an attack does occur, their software or hardware is blocking the malware or attack.

Providers like Optimum Energy’s commitment to security is emphasized by their SOC2 Type 1 certification. This mark of compliance indicates OE’s commitment to strong data transfer controls and security of customer data. This type of certification requires periodic audits, proving that a building optimization provider meets the industry’s highest standards of security and data protection.

IV. Conclusion

Trust and cybersecurity are inextricably linked in the world of operations. A breach in the security of a building’s systems can result in dire consequences, including financial losses and reputational damage. Businesses and service providers must prioritize cybersecurity as an integral part of their operations to maintain the trust of stakeholders, ensuring that building systems and business operations function reliably and securely. 

Building Optimization providers like Optimum Energy provide not only cutting-edge solutions, but security infrastructure and protocols designed to protect its systems and, by extension, their client’s interests. In a rapidly evolving technological landscape, where building systems continue to become more interconnected and sophisticated, the onus is on operations managers, security officers, and service providers to stay ahead of potential threats and vulnerabilities. By adopting a proactive approach to cybersecurity, facilities managers can build a foundation of trust in their building systems that not only safeguards the facility and its occupants but also enhances operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness in the long run.

[1] https://www.commerce.senate.gov/services/files/24d3c229-4f2f-405d-b8db-a3a67f183883

[2] https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/16630199/1/orange-v-ring-llc/

[3] https://www.mossadams.com/articles/2021/09/identify-top-cyberthreats

The Evolution of Smart Building Technology: A Focus on HVAC Systems in Commercial Buildings

The Evolution of Smart Building Technology: A Focus on HVAC Systems in Commercial Buildings

Published
06 November 2023

In today’s rapidly advancing world, smart building technology is transforming the way we design, construct, and manage our buildings and facilities. Among the many innovations within this field, the integration of smart HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems is playing a pivotal role in enhancing energy efficiency, occupant comfort, and overall building sustainability. In this article, we will explore the current state of smart building technology with a specific focus on HVAC systems and controls in commercial buildings, and their integration into other smart building systems.

The Growing Importance of Smart HVAC Systems

The HVAC systems in hospitals, data centers, universities, and other commercial buildings have long been critical for maintaining optimal indoor air quality, comfort, and energy efficiency. However, as energy costs and environmental concerns have become more prominent, there is a growing need for smarter, more efficient HVAC solutions. This has led to a significant shift towards integrating technology and data analytics into HVAC systems, transforming them into smart, dynamic, and responsive entities.

Modernizing HVAC equipment

Chillers, compressors, evaporators, heat exchanges, and ducts are just some of the components that go into a commercial HVAC system. They are responsible for cooling water which is then distributed throughout the building to maintain a comfortable temperature, among other tasks that adjust and dial in the airflow and quality of a building. These components have typically operated in a fixed, inefficient manner, using constant energy regardless of the actual cooling demands. However, the integration of smart technology is changing this paradigm.

Today with the integration of sensors, readers and IoT devices as well as the ability to connect all these devices to the cloud has transformed traditional HVAC systems into modern systems that are smarter, more efficient and allow for a greater level of precision and control. Now facilities managers can monitor and make adjustments to individual HVAC components based on real time data insight and smart recommendations. This translates into major energy savings as well as better preventative maintenance measures.

Smart Building Systems: The Backbone of Modern Building Management

Smart building systems are the cornerstone of large commercial buildings seeking to optimize their HVAC operations. These systems encompass a wide range of technologies, including building automation systems (BAS), data analytics, and cloud-based platforms, all aimed at creating a cohesive and efficient building ecosystem.

BAS, also known as building management systems (BMS), have been around for some time, but recent advancements have made them more powerful and user-friendly. These systems can control and monitor various building functions, including HVAC, lighting, security, and more. They serve as the central nervous system of a smart building, collecting data from sensors and other devices and translating it into actionable insights.

The integration of smart HVAC systems with BAS allows for real-time monitoring and control of HVAC equipment. When temperature or occupancy conditions change, the BAS can automatically adjust settings to optimize energy use and maintain occupant comfort. This level of automation is essential in large commercial buildings, where the HVAC load can vary significantly throughout the day. While BAS and smart HVAC systems aren’t new to the scene, the uptick in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have opened the door for a whole new level of optimization for Smart Building Systems.

Data Analytics and Machine Learning:

The availability of big data and machine learning algorithms has revolutionized the way we analyze and manage HVAC systems in buildings, plants, and facilities. Data analytics platforms can process vast amounts of data collected from various building sensors and systems. This data is then used to identify patterns, inefficiencies, and opportunities for optimization.

Machine learning algorithms take this analysis a step further by predicting future HVAC system performance and suggesting adjustments in real time. For example, suppose a machine learning algorithm detects that a chiller is running inefficiently or that a particular part is likely to fail soon. In that case, it can alert facility managers and suggest preventive maintenance measures or a change to the operation of the chiller.

Cloud-Based Platforms:

Not only has Data Analytics and ML transformed the smart building landscape but cloud integration has also significantly expanded the capabilities of smart building systems by providing a centralized, scalable, and secure platform for data storage and analysis. With data stored in the cloud, building managers can access real-time information and make informed decisions from anywhere with an internet connection.

Cloud-based platforms also facilitate remote monitoring and control of HVAC systems. Facility managers can adjust settings, receive alerts, and analyze data through a user-friendly interface, improving efficiency and reducing the need for on-site personnel. This level of remote access is particularly beneficial for large commercial buildings with multiple locations or facilities.

Energy Efficiency and Sustainability:

As mentioned previously, one of the primary motivations behind the adoption of smart building technology, especially in HVAC systems, is the pursuit of energy efficiency and sustainability. Large commercial buildings are significant contributors to energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and improving their energy performance is an economic and environmental imperative.

The integration of smart HVAC systems and chillers plays a crucial role in reducing energy consumption and carbon footprints. By adjusting operations based on real-time data, these systems can minimize energy waste, lower operating costs, and decrease environmental impacts. In addition to energy savings, smart HVAC systems can enhance indoor air quality and occupant comfort, contributing to a healthier and more productive working environment.

Challenges and Considerations

While the adoption of smart building technology is promising, it is not without its challenges and considerations. Facility managers and building owners must address several key factors to implement these systems successfully:

Cost Considerations:

The initial investment in smart building technology, including the installation of sensors, controllers, and data analytics platforms, can be substantial. However, it is essential to consider these costs within the context of long-term savings in energy consumption and operational efficiency. Many governments and organizations also offer incentives and rebates for adopting energy-efficient technologies. Companies like Optimum Energy are beginning to look into Energy as a Service offering to cover those initial investments (stay tuned for future content on this topic).

Integration and Compatibility:

Integrating various smart building components, including HVAC systems, with existing infrastructure can be complex. It is crucial to ensure compatibility between different systems and components, as well as scalability for future expansion. Optimum Energy’s OptiCx platform not only integrates seamlessly with existing smart building components, but it also is adaptable and modular, allowing for future expansion. Visit our website to learn more about OptiCx.

Data Security and Privacy:

As more data is collected and stored in the cloud, the issue of data security and privacy becomes paramount. Building owners and facility managers must implement robust security measures to protect sensitive information and comply with data protection regulations. With Optimum Energy all our products, services, and providers are AICPA SOC certified to ensure your platform and building are safe from malicious actors. Learn more about Optimum Energy’s cybersecurity standards here.

Training and Maintenance:

Proper training for personnel and maintenance of smart building systems are critical for their ongoing success. Facility managers should be well-versed in the operation of these systems and be prepared to address issues promptly to avoid downtime. At Optimum Energy our support services ensure that you get your questions answered quickly and our HVAC operations experts and energy engineers are always available to support your building needs. With Optimum Energy’s deep seeded knowledge we can tackle all of these challenges and ensure success in your smart building transformations and updates.

User Experience:

The user experience of smart building technology is essential for its successful adoption. User-friendly interfaces and clear communication of the benefits of these systems can help ensure that building occupants are on board with the changes.

Conclusion

Smart building technology is revolutionizing the way we manage buildings. By leveraging the latest technology, users can enhance HVAC systems with advanced building automation and data analytics all from a centralized cloud-based platform, allowing building owners and facility managers to optimize their buildings energy efficiency, reduce operational costs, and improve occupant comfort.

The evolution of smart building technology is an essential step in addressing the challenges of energy consumption and environmental sustainability in large commercial buildings. As technology continues to advance, we can expect even more innovative solutions and increased adoption of these systems to create smarter, more sustainable, and more comfortable buildings for the future.

Cloud-Connected HVAC Systems Are at the Core of Smart Facilities

Cloud-Connected HVAC Systems Are at the Core of Smart Facilities

Published
18 October 2023

By Ian Dempster

You can’t have a smart facility without a connected HVAC system.

Facilities become intelligent only to the extent that their operators collect, analyze, and learn from the massive amounts of information flowing from building systems and equipment. HVAC data is fundamental, given that the system typically accounts for 44 percent of a commercial building’s energy consumption and is central to occupant comfort and, for many manufacturers, product quality. And that makes connecting the HVAC system to a cloud-based data center a crucial aspect of creating a smart facility.

Simply optimizing an HVAC system can yield substantial savings, reducing its energy usage and resulting costs by 20 to 50 percent (30 percent is typical). But without ongoing monitoring, those results will start to degrade after about a year or so. A two-way data flow between a facility’s HVAC equipment and building automation system (BAS) and an optimization provider’s network operations center enables real-time monitoring, analysis, maintenance, and fine-tuning of the HVAC system. It’s the only way to maintain the efficiencies gained through an HVAC system upgrade, and to gain ongoing insights into a facility’s performance.

Unconnected Systems Lose Their Edge

In the first year after optimization, results may remain constant without cloud connectivity. By the second year, typically, equipment begins to age and the facilities team probably has changed settings in the BAS, causing savings to fall off. By the third year without cloud connectivity, a site can lose as much as half of its original carbon and cost savings through natural system performance degradation and operational overrides. Without the external “brain” a cloud connection provides, the falloff can go unnoticed for quite a while, costing the facility thousands of dollars.

Establishing a two-way connection between an HVAC plant and an optimization provider can be a project, but it is getting easier: new chillers, pumps, variable frequency drives (VFDs), and even smart actuators are now designed to connect with control software and upload data to the cloud, enabling ongoing monitoring and system optimization. A facilities manager can collect and share BAS and environmental management system (EMS) data, which can reveal where the facility is consuming the most energy, whether the equipment is working correctly and efficiently, and if the automation sequence is controlling the HVAC system effectively.

At the same time, the optimization provider can watch for failing components, mechanical drift, changes in ambient conditions, and other fluctuations in the HVAC system. In response, they can access the installed optimization solution, use the data to troubleshoot the equipment, improve sequencing, and adapt set points to meet environmental parameters as they change. They can also remotely install software updates that can increase efficiencies or reliability.

Security and Product Quality Take Precedence

Connecting a BAS and EMS to an optimization provider’s data center raises network security concerns for any building or facility IT team. And for facilities with strict environmental requirements—hospitals, labs, pharmaceutical manufacturing plants—ensuring precise temperature and humidity controls is paramount. Both types of challenges require careful, collaborative information systems engineering.

The first step is to implement robust security separations between networks used for BAS sensors and monitoring, and those used for business transactions. This ensures that intellectual property, financial information, and other business-related data remain siloed from operational data.

A security-conscious optimization provider will then work with the facility’s IT team to establish a site-to-site virtual private network (VPN) tunnel between single points—a secure, private connection linking designated devices—that provides strong encryption with unique keys and access controls that give the optimization provider’s engineers access only to operational data for energy management and optimization services. In addition, the optimization software should be installed with intrusion detection, secure network connectivity, and limited user permissions. For next-level security, some vendors offer a security appliance that creates the secure VPN tunnel connection between the optimization software and the vendor’s cloud servers, using standard outbound secure ports only. That avoids the need to set up a link from the company’s network.

Where the building environment affects product quality or core operations, facility managers may worry about automated controls, believing that a hands-on approach is the only way to maintain the correct operational parameters. That’s a sure way to lose the benefits of optimization and building intelligence over time, though. The vendor should work with facility operators to fine-tune optimization settings with both efficiency and environmental needs in mind, and provide training on how the optimization system works.

Getting Connectivity Right Brings Rewards

The benefits of cloud connectivity make it well worth the effort to establish the appropriate security setup. First and foremost is the assurance of continual energy-use and cost reductions. For example, we’ve seen an 18-million-square-foot university campus improve the efficiency of its chiller plants by 23 percent. Every year, the facility is saving more than $1 million due to the cloud-connected optimization software. We’ve also seen a 110,000-square-foot research laboratory improve its efficiency more than 27 percent by optimizing and connecting the chiller plant. Hershey Medical Center in Pennsylvania is saving more than $300,000 a year using connected optimization software, which reduced facility energy use by 4 GWh annually and improved system efficiency by 21 percent.

Sharing operational data via the cloud also provides greater visibility into HVAC, BAS, and EMS systems, leading to better control over the equipment. A two-way data flow enables full access to the analytics software as well as the HVAC equipment from any location. The facility manager can check on the chiller, for example, from home first thing in the morning, and the optimization vendor can remotely troubleshoot the system right down to its individual components. Even mechanical problems can get fixed much faster, because repair people know in advance what isn’t working.

Additionally, cloud connectivity allows the transfer and storage of large amounts of operational data cheaply and securely off-site.

Even Smarter Systems Are on the Horizon

Machine learning and artificial intelligence are poised to enable even better control of HVAC systems. With data sequencing, archived data, and efficiency and building energy models, optimization and analytic software can learn how various pieces of equipment respond to different conditions and can tell the BAS how to most efficiently run the HVAC system in real time, or even predict the best equipment to use in future conditions.

Automatic optimization through machine learning could increase savings—we’re already starting to see companies gain an additional 5 to 7 percent efficiency improvement through machine learning programs added onto their optimization platforms. One example is dynamic sequencing, which determines the most efficient combinations of equipment to run, taking into account system load, weather, and occupancy. The program learns over time, and as equipment efficiency changes it determines new sequences to maintain or even improve system energy savings.

Two-way connectivity through the cloud is what enables that kind of machine learning—which is ultimately what will make a facility smart.

This originally appeared in ACHR News.

Optimum Energy® Q2 Announcements – New Sales Leadership and Hydraulic Model Offering

Optimum Energy® Q2 Announcements – New Sales Leadership and Hydraulic Model Offering

Published
16 May 2023

Seattle, WA – May 16, 2023 – Optimum Energy®, a global leader in HVAC optimization solutions, is pleased to announce the appointment of Anthony MacDonald as Vice President of Sales and Marketing. In his new role, MacDonald will oversee the company’s sales and marketing strategy, team development, and revenue growth, leveraging his extensive experience in the energy and facilities sectors. Anthony officially joined OE on April 17th, 2023.

Bringing over two decades of expertise to Optimum Energy®, MacDonald most recently served as Vice President of Enterprise Sales at GridPoint®. Prior to that, he held prominent energy and sales leadership positions at EnerNOC (now Enel) and Target. His proven track record in building efficiency solutions and leading high-performing sales teams positions him as a valuable addition to the Optimum Energy team.

“Optimum Energy is fortunate to attract talented individuals like Anthony,” stated CEO Larry Stapelton. “His experience in building efficiency solutions leading high-performing sales teams will help OE expand our global footprint.”

MacDonald earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Bethel University and holds certification as an Energy Manager in the Association of Energy Engineers.

Furthermore, Optimum Energy is proud to introduce their new Hydraulic Model offering, which enables a software-based approach to fluid system modeling and calculation. This innovative service provides clients with in-depth analysis of system capabilities, limitations, power cost assessments, and lifecycle system analysis. Overseeing this service is Dan Schaible, appointed as Director of Hydraulic Modeling. Schaible brings over 23 years of mechanical engineering and design experience in various sectors, including pharmaceutical, mission critical, institutional, and commercial markets, with a specialization in central utility plants over the past 15 years.

“We are excited to announce Optimum Energy’s newest capabilities using PIPE-FLO,” said CTO and Founder, Ben Erpelding. “Combined with our engineering expertise, Optimum can now provide customers with a digital twin of their distribution piping. By creating a digital representation of your chilled water, hot water, condenser water, or steam distribution system, OE can establish hydraulic limitations, improve optimization and decision-making, and provide root-cause analysis of problem areas. This is a natural extension of our engineering capabilities, our quest for the highest customer reliability and resiliency, and our suite of optimization products for chilled water, steam, hot water, and net zero operation: OptimumLOOP and OptimumHEAT.”

 

About Optimum Energy®

Since 2005, Optimum Energy’s patented software and engineering expertise has helped customers reduce energy use in heating and cooling systems, the largest consumer of energy in buildings, by up to 50%. Our solutions combine technologically advanced HVAC optimization software with powerful cloud-based data analytics and world-class engineering support. It’s a proven, measurable approach that verifiably reduces energy and water usage, while also resulting in significantly improved operations. From dramatic energy reductions to improved business continuity, from better asset management capabilities to powerful tools and engineering support that augment your existing facilities staff capabilities, Optimum Energy has the complete solution for maximizing your HVAC system’s operational efficiency.

Optimum Energy Awarded EcoVadis Bronze Medal for 2023 Sustainability

Optimum Energy Awarded EcoVadis Bronze Medal for 2023 Sustainability

Published
01 May 2023

Optimum Energy’s Sustainability Efforts Recognized

SEATTLE, 5/1/2023– Optimum Energy, a leading provider of energy optimization solutions, has been awarded a Bronze Medal by EcoVadis for its sustainability performance. EcoVadis is a global platform that provides sustainability ratings and assessments for companies, enabling them to manage their sustainability risks and improve their overall sustainability performance.

EcoVadis assessed Optimum Energy’s sustainability performance in four key areas: environment, labor and human rights, ethics, and sustainable procurement. Based on the assessment, Optimum Energy was awarded a Bronze Medal, which places the company in the top 50% of all companies assessed this year. This recognition not only confirms that Optimum Energy is taking significant steps towards achieving its sustainability goals, but also highlights the company’s willingness to improve its environmental and social impact continually.

About Optimum Energy
Since 2005, Optimum Energy’s patented software and engineering expertise has helped customers reduce energy use in heating and cooling systems, the largest consumer of energy in buildings, by up to 50%. Our solutions combine technologically advanced HVAC optimization software with powerful cloud-based data analytics and world-class engineering support. It’s a proven, measurable approach that verifiably reduces energy and water usage, while also resulting in significantly improved operations. From dramatic energy reductions to improved business continuity, from better asset management capabilities to powerful tools and engineering support that augment your existing facilities staff capabilities, Optimum Energy has the complete solution for maximizing your HVAC system’s operational efficiency.

Join Us at IDEA Campus Energy 2023 in Grapevine, TX

Join Us at IDEA Campus Energy 2023 in Grapevine, TX

Published
23 February 2023

Optimum Energy is excited to be live in person next week at the upcoming 2023 IDEA Campus Energy Conference in Grapevine, TX on February 28 to March 2, 2022. If you are attending the conference in person, will have the honor of co-presenting with the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) Galveston.

Ben Erpelding (Optimum Energy) and Colin Hartwell (UT Medical Branch Galveston) will tell the story of how our partnership improved efficiency and enhanced reliability at UTMB.

So, join us on

Wednesday, March 1, at 8:30 AM EST.

Session: 4E: System Optimization

Title: Increasing Reliability And Resiliency Through Chilled Water Plant Optimization Presenters: Ben Erpelding (Optimum Energy) and Colin Hartwell (UT Medical Branch Galveston)

While you’re at the conference, please come by our booth (#135) to discuss how Optimum Energy optimizes HVAC systems to deliver energy savings of up to 50%, reduce carbon output, and reduce water consumption, while improving an organization’s business continuity and overall operational efficiency. You can either drop by during the dedicated “Exhibit Hall” time or set up an appointment to speak with us at another time of your choosing.

TECO: A deep dive into optimization data yields unexpected savings

TECO: A deep dive into optimization data yields unexpected savings

Published
16 May 2022
Photo courtesy of Thermal Energy Corporation (TECO)

 

Layered efficiencies drive down costs while maintaining reliability

This article originally appeared in Districted Energy Magazine

Michael P. Manoucheri, P.E. is TECO’s president and CEO; and Ben Erpelding, PE, Chief Technology Officer, Optimum Energy

A three-phase initiative to explore and implement cost savings across the largest district cooling system in North America has paid off handsomely and quickly bringing significant system improvements even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Efficiency gains have been seen in condenser management, chiller operations, and thermal energy storage.

The project’s genesis can be traced to IDEA’s annual conference in June 2019, when representatives from Thermal Energy Corporation (TECO) and Optimum Energy struck up a conversation about the pitfalls of drawing electricity from the grid in the sweltering heat of a Texas summer.

The TECO team wondered if the company could decrease electrical consumption from its main site before June 2020, the start of the next peak demand season. Customer chilled water demand was growing rapidly enough to soon exceed on-site generation resources.

TECO needed a solution that would maintain reliability, keep costs down and conserve resources. That initial conversation, in 2019, turned into a multiphase, plant-wide optimization journey that now saves TECO $550,000 and 16.1 million kWh of energy annually – even as customer demand for chilled water continues to rise.

TECO, named IDEA’s System of the Year in 2019, provides chilled water and steam to Texas Medical Center in Houston, which – as the world’s largest medical campus – requires reliable, economical heating and cooling and has growing needs.

Peak chilled water demand has increased by 9,000 tons over the past four years and is expected to grow by an additional 9,000 tons over the next three years. TECO has found that the most cost-effective way to manage district growth while maintaining its historical reliability of 100%, with no unplanned outages since 1992, is to layer on new efficiency measures.

Partnering with Optimum Energy, TECO’s engineering team developed a three-phase plan. First, for the condenser water system to conserve more energy and reduce costs; second, to have the chiller staging procedures better handle changing loads; and third, to take advantage of real-time electricity pricing for the thermal energy storage (TES) tank dispatch.

Two years down the road, TECO has improved control over the energy balance of its CHP system and its TES tank, reducing the chiller plant’s electrical demand. In the first seven months of optimization – from June to December 2020 – TECO lowered peak demand by 2 MW, saving nearly 10.5 million kWh, and reducing the plant’s energy consumption by 6%. Now, TECO can avoid spot-purchasing power from the sometimes unreliable public grid and more easily keep up with customer demand. By reducing peak demand, TECO also bought time to develop a new master plan, including how and when to add power production capacity.

Read the full article here

We are excited to welcome Jason Whittier, our new Senior Director of Product Development

We are excited to welcome Jason Whittier, our new Senior Director of Product Development

Published
23 November 2021

We are excited to announce that Jason Whittier has joined the Optimum Energy team as our new Senior Director of Product Development. Jason received his BS degree in Computer Science and then attended Arizona State University earning an MS degree in Information Management. For the last twenty-five years, Jason has been in the software development and intelligent building space, working to make buildings smarter, better integrated, and more energy-efficient. Prior to coming to OE, Jason lead engineering teams at Buildings IoT in the development of a cutting-edge building systems platform. Prior to that, Jason spent fifteen years at Tridium in various positions, building a strong foundation for his follow-on leadership roles in smart building technologies.

When he’s not working on industry-leading software projects, Jason enjoys some serious road and off-road cycling, supporting his daughter at chess tournaments and swim meets, or perfecting his chef skills with his backyard smoker.

We are thrilled to have Jason on the Optimum Energy leadership team!

Join Us at the SRAPPA (Southeastern Region of APPA) Conference in Mobile, AL

Join Us at the SRAPPA (Southeastern Region of APPA) Conference in Mobile, AL

Published
06 October 2021

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Optimum Energy is delighted to be returning in person to the SRAPPA Annual Conference in Mobile, AL from October 9 to 13. At this conference of leaders in educational facility stewardship, we will be sharing our stories of successful HVAC optimization implemented at prominent campuses like Georgia Tech, UT Austin, and Baylor University. If you’re going to be at the show, stop by booth #9 to learn first-hand how our chiller plant optimization software solutions can significantly reduce your campus energy costs and increase your facility’s operational efficiency. leading

For more information on the conference, visit the SPAPPA website

We are excited to welcome Chris Sidwell, our new Project Manager III

We are excited to welcome Chris Sidwell, our new Project Manager III

Published
27 July 2021

 

We are excited to welcome Chris Sidwell, our new Project Manager III. In 2002, Chris received his PMI certification as a Project Management Professional and has worked as PM for well over 20 years in multiple disciplines. Prior to Optimum Energy, Chris worked for several major control’s companies including Danfoss, Novar, Alerton, Teletrol, and Daintree. Chris’ experience spans many technical positions, from fieldwork, to programing, to program/project management. Chris has a strong background in HVAC/R, spending many years performing mechanical work and working on controls systems.

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When Chris is not immersed in HVAC technology, he is enjoying the outdoors camping with his family and friends. Chris is also busy taking advantage of his time with his son, who is about to start his 1st semester of college. Somehow, Chris also finds time to build street rods and explore his creativity through his laser engraver.