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“Seeing” the Value from Green Energy:

Real-time Monitoring for Renewable Energy Sources

Introduction

Renewable energy sources are becoming increasingly important to supplement the under capacity and aging North American energy grids. As energy demand continues to increase, so will the frequency of black-outs and brown-outs.

Housing developers and individual homeowners across the continent are taking action. Infrastructure is now in place allowing private homeowners with renewable energy systems to “sell back” excess energy to their local grid. However, renewable energy systems can be expensive to install and therefore difficult to justify on an economic basis unless hard data is made available for analysis.

Check-It Solutions

Energy Monitoring

Renewable energy providers typically focus on the selection and design of the energy system and monitoring and control of the energy generation equipment. This is a critical part of the renewable energy solution but not the only part.

The long term value to the customer is the ability to realize ongoing energy efficiency improvements. Most often the controls provided with the renewable energy system are geared towards monitoring of the energy generated, not the energy consumed. Being aware of energy usage Beyond the Meter (or on the customer side of the meter) is where the home owner really saves money.

Green energy alternatives, especially when employed in the residential market, require cost-effective solutions for monitoring and control of energy usage. It is not enough to only know how much energy is being generated by the renewable energy system and the total energy being consumed in a home. To really make an impact with green energy, you also need to know where the energy is being consumed.

In other words, if you don’t know, you can’t fix it!

Application to Renewable Energy Systems

Geothermal Application

A new green housing development on Canada’s west coast installed a large geothermal facility to provide heating and cooling to the new homes. The original design did not include instrumentation or a system to monitor individual home usage and the developer/geothermal facility owner was forced to estimate energy consumption on a cost per square foot basis. This was a problem for those homeowners whose life styles supported less energy usage because they were charged at the same rate as those who were less energy efficient.

An accurate method to calculate actual geothermal energy consumption for each home was required. The green housing development company selected the Check-It Monitoring Solution.

The Check-It Monitoring Solution was selected because it was most cost effective and easiest to install and use.

The Check-It system monitors and stores data for these points for the geothermal operator:

  • Heat pump electrical consumption
  • Back-up heater electrical consumption
  • Supply and return temperatures to calculate loop differential
  • Ambient air temperature

Real-time alerts are provided to the operator when the geothermal heat pump switches off and/or the back-up heater switches on. Back-up heat is electric, very costly and should only be required in extremely cold weather or with complete shutdown of the geothermal facility.

The geothermal operator is able to view the real-time and historical trends for monitoring and troubleshooting and can also now properly justify the utility cost recovery for each individual home owner.

Solar Application

A housing developer in the southern United Stated is building homes to replace those lost during Hurricane Katrina. Ponchartrain Park homes are being constructed using state of the art technology. The homes are designed to be energy efficient, meet and exceed green building standards and are capable of withstanding 200 mile per hour winds.

As part of the green solution, the homes are equipped with grid-tied solar energy packages. The solar packages are targeted at Net ZERO energy consumption. The concept is called Net metering and the premise is that the solar panels generate and “sell” back to the grid an amount of energy equivalent to what the home actually consumes.

GENERATION – CONSUMPTION = 0!

The Check-It system is monitoring and storing data at the breaker panel for the amount of energy generated by the solar panels and consumed by the home.

The Check-It system provides proactive maintenance alerts to the homeowner when the solar energy system is not performing as it should such as if the power inverter fails.

The Check-It Monitoring Solution was selected because it was most cost effective and was capable of storing a large volume of historical data. Some of the funding for this housing development is provided by government programs that require reports in the future which must demonstrate the economic savings achieved with the green energy and construction approach. The Check-It system was the only system currently on that market that could meet these strict requirements.

Wind Application

A farmer in Nebraska interested in conserving energy and saving money installed his own wind turbine system. Even during hot summer months when air conditioning is running, the system is providing up to 75% of his electrical needs.

On windy days, the grid-tied wind system can produce up to twice his requirements so the “excess” electricity is returned to his local energy grid. Some months the farmer receives a credit on his electrical utility bill.

This wind system, as is typically the case with private wind turbine systems, was supplied without a system to monitor and track the performance of the wind turbine. In order to realize the full economic benefit of his new wind system, the farmer realized he needed to put some sort of monitoring system in place.

The Check-It Monitoring Solution was selected because it was most cost effective and provided the added benefit of proactive maintenance alerts to the farmer such as when the blades are turning but no power is being generated.

The Check-It system is monitoring at the breaker panel and storing data for the amount of energy generated by the wind turbine and consumed by the home.

The system has been in place since June of 2009 and the farmer still logs into the Check-It system twice a week to check on his investment in green energy.

Check-It Solutions

Summary

The Check-It Monitoring Solution has been successfully deployed in a variety of renewable energy schemes. In each case customers have been impressed by the simplicity of the system. Being able to log on to the system from a computer or smart phone means the customer has access from anywhere at any time to view their energy generation and consumption in real-time. In addition, they can easily configure alerts that will let them know when there is a problem, possibly saving them hundreds of dollars.

The Check-It Monitoring Solution

The Check-It Monitoring Solution provides tremendous benefits to its customers including:

Proactive Information

The Check-It Solution is the only service available that provides real-time verifiable savings with every energy improvement. Proactive information is sent to customers via a weekly scorecard and real-time alerts can be configured to let customers know immediately when there has been a sudden change in their energy profile.

Sub-circuit Monitoring

The system is designed to monitor whole house energy consumption as well as energy consumed by sub-circuits. This is critical to understand not just how much energy is being used but where specifically it is being consumed.

Low System Cost

The Check-It Monitoring Solution is the most cost-effective home energy monitoring system currently on the market. There is no requirement to upgrade software or to have a dedicated computer running. Customization of user views of the data has been minimized to ensure rapid deployment of the system. The Check-It system does not use expensive and proprietary measurement devices, as long as the measurement device can wirelessly communicate with the Check-It gateway, any device can be used.

Web Access

The Check-It solution is web-enable which means that the system is available over the internet. The customer can log onto the Check-It portal from their computer or smart phone and view their energy profile in real-time. Check-It Monitoring Solutions manages its own server farm providing the customer with 24/7 access to their home system and none of the headaches and maintenance costs associated with a system of this caliber.