Monthly Archives: April 2014

Is Energy Conservation the Next California Gold Rush?

By: Jonah McLeod, Dir. of Corp. Mkt. Comm. at Kilopass Technology Inc.

Nothing epitomizes California more than a gold rush, which in the twentieth century took the form of the personal computer, then the smartphone, and most recently the social networking made possible by these devices. For some time, venture capitalists have been betting on energy as the yet another “rush.” While many investors have concentrated on finding new sources of old energy—crude from shale, natural gas, and various forms of renewables, others have been betting on the other side of the energy equation: conservation.

This second group has been given a windfall of sorts in the form of Title 24, California Code of Regulations, 2013 Triennial Edition, which goes into effect on July 1, 2014. The elevator pitch is that Title 24 mandates new commercial construction and remodeling affecting more than 10 percent of an existing structure meet the new building codes defined by Title 24. These new codes require all lighting, temperature, and load plugs be controllable to reduce building energy use. For example, rooms must have occupancy sensors so that lights automatically turn off when no one is present. Lighting must be dimmed in office space that has sufficient sunlight to illuminate the space. Power plugs that are drawing small amounts of energy must be turned off.  And the list goes on.

Companies betting on building automation using Internet of things technology now have a new source of demand generation:  regulatory mandate. One such enterprise is Daintree Networks.  The company’s core competency is energy management software and wireless networking, which was leveraged to enter the energy management market. The initial focus was enabling companies to manage the energy consumed by lighting. It later expanded into thermostat control and is now provides electrical load plug, fan control, carbon dioxide sensing and other environmental conditions monitoring.

The business model centers on connecting devices via wireless networking and managing their operation using software. Thus corporate customers control and manage different devices from lighting to thermostats and all other connected devices to achieve a significant return on investment through vastly improved energy efficiencies. For example one customer achieved a 94 percent savings in energy use over a 12-month period, a 1-year payback of their initial investment according to Mandeep Khera, vice president, marketing and channels at Daintree Networks.

The popular misconception that increasing energy production will solve the nation’s energy requirements has had to confront the reality that new energy development has stopped growing.  The objective of government directives such as Title 24 is to eliminate the need for new energy through conservation.  “Today, commercial buildings in California account for 37 percent of primary energy usage—much of which is wasted,” according to the white paper “Untapped Potential of Commercial Buildings Energy Use and Emissions” published by Title 24 aims to make all buildings in California realize this potential energy conservation.

How would a commercial building be configured to meet Title 24 requirements?  All the building’s lighting would be under control of occupancy sensors to detect when a space is occupied or empty. These sensors communicate to a wireless access controller installed in the building’s ceiling. Daintree software routes wireless sensor data through the controller to a server where the software controls lighting (including dimming, day-light harvesting, on/off based on occupancy etc.), thermostat, and other sensors such as carbon dioxide sensors, smoke detectors, among others, explains Mandeep Khera, vice president, marketing and channels at Daintree Networks.  Based on rules established by the building administrator, the server adjusts lights, air conditioning and heating, plug-loads, etc. to maintain an ambient illumination building temperature, and electrical power consumption.

Zigbee IEEE 802.15.4 is the most prevalent standard in commercial building management for connecting devices to one another and allowing systems to manage those devices, Khera declares. The ecosystem for Zigbee is larger than any other wireless connectivity standard in the commercial building automation space. Automating the lighting for a commercial building is accomplished by adding a small Zigbee wireless adapter to an LED light for granular control or at the circuit level for zonal control. For new construction or replacement of fixtures, the game-changing trend is to embed wireless directly into the LED driver that controls the fixture as done by LG recently with support from Daintree. This eliminates the need for adding an adapter to convert fixtures into wireless devices resulting in significant cost savings. Some devices come with Zigbee embedded, thermostats, etc.  However, the Daintree solution is driven by open standard communications and could also in the future accommodate emerging standards such as WiFI if necessary.

Daintree solution also integrates with OpenADR (Automated Demand Response) Communications standard created by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory with funding from California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program. This allows the utilities to manage supply during peak times. And companies benefit from significant rebates from the utilities.  In the process less energy will be wasted and less new energy production required. In the process, companies such as Daintree Networks aim to ride the energy conservation wave.  Daintree’s OpenADR certified solution provides the ability to use lighting, HVAC, and plug load control strategies to respond automatically to an OpenADR event, ensuring easy Title 24 compliance.

Building controls and energy management are the core for the Enterprise Internet of Things. Ultimately, using open standards like Zigbee will enable all machines in commercial buildings to connect and communicate with one another to create a truly intelligent building.