Turning Energy Into Dollars

The greatest energy savings available to larger airports can be generated from a facility’s existing chiller plant operation, where even small tweaks can result in significant improvements. Today’s web-based monitoring systems can be an effective tool...


The greatest energy savings available to larger airports can be generated from a facility’s existing chiller plant operation, where even small tweaks can result in significant improvements. Today’s web-based monitoring systems can be an effective tool for the analysis of large chiller plants and district cooling systems. Built on open standards, they offer networked solutions that collect and format data in real-time and defined timeframe increments, monitor operations and equipment errors, and deliver oversight via web-based alerts and alarms. Based on the information generated, engineers are able to track performance and remedy any malfunction in order to optimize energy efficiencies.

Initial analysis

The monitoring process starts with an initial analysis of chiller plant operations. In most cases, industrial measurement devices are installed and existing equipment tested for accuracy. The data from the various systems is pulled together in one platform with data routed to an automation system and pushed to the web every five minutes via ftp. Once all of the accurate data collection is complete, an evaluation is done to understand how all chiller plant components are working and to determine the most efficient method of operating the plant.

By analyzing chiller operations, the monitoring engineers are able to establish a matrix that selects the most efficient/cost-effective chiller configuration as an airport’s cooling load increases. Optimization steps might include redoing the sequencing of cooling towers, balancing the amount of energy consumed by different pieces of equipment, and allowing chilled water to be generated at the best efficiency and lowest cost. Other cost-saving measures can be implemented by callibrating temperature sensors and the building automation system, eliminating inefficiencies in heat exchanger performance, lowering condenser temperatures when appropriate, and ensuring that flow through the plant and chillers meets the design tonnages recommended by the equipment manufacturers.

Once the initial reconfigurations have been achieved, the web interface enables continuous remote monitoring of a plant to ensure optimum operation is maintained on a continuous basis. Monthly reports are submitted to the airport’s operating team suggesting necessary system enhancements or improvements.

Monitoring-based commissioning

With new airport facilities, generating ongoing energy savings can be achieved through a comprehensive monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx) process to ensure that all building systems remain “in tune.” It is common knowledge that buildings rarely perform as intended. That’s why MBCx is beginning to emerge as an important new approach to keep buildings operating at maximum energy efficiency. Complementing other energy savings strategies, it refers to the “soft” process of verifying performance and design intent and correcting deficiencies through a continuous web-based monitoring program.

MBCx incorporates three components: permanent energy information systems and diagnostic tools at the whole-building and sub-system level; retro-commissioning based on the data this generates; and ongoing commissioning that ensures efficient building operations and measurement-based savings accounting. Traditional commissioning is a process designed to ensure that all building systems perform interactively according to the design intent and the owner’s operational needs. It involves the participation of an owner’s representative, architect, and engineer of record as well as independent third-party commissioning specialist. The commissioning specialist works with the entire project team to verify that the design, construction, and start-up of all equipment results in a facility that is achieving the owner’s stated project requirements upon initial occupancy and protecting the owner’s assets for the future.

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