As more organizations look to reduce their environmental impact, the interest in renewable energy technology has reached an all-time high. According to a recent report from the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, renewable energy use is growing much faster than 10 percent per year throughout the world. The generation capacity from solar photovoltaic systems alone was up 56 percent last year compared to 2006.
The trend is very evident in school systems. However, they also need to pay close attention to payback vs. first costs.
The Perkins School System in Sandusky, Ohio, had limited funds to make infrastructure upgrades. They also wanted to set a good example by using resources that reduced their carbon impact, while allowing them the capability to use the technology as a kind of teaching tool. They had to make sure the system they chose would be appropriate for their resources.
“Renewable energy and sustainability are all very popular topics,” said Ron Blagus, energy marketing director, Honeywell Building Solutions. “More importantly, they are important ways customers can help put a little stability and economic value in their energy budgets. Is it possible for us to get an idea, before we see a customer, of what type of renewable technology will benefit a customer? We built this model” [the Renewable Energy Scorecard] “to predict which technologies would work best in North America.”
The modeling program takes into consideration the cost of power, thermal loads, rebate/incentives available, investment or production tax credits, value of the carbon offset, and tax implications. After evaluating all these variables, the program calculates what type of renewable would work best for the customer. The score card is a one-page summary - ideal for contractors to show decision makers - that can kick off the conversation, said Blagus.
“We direct our discussion to those technologies that will have those economic drivers,” he said. “It’s for a first- or second-call discussion. It does not take the place of due diligence.”
OFF ERIE'S SHORESAt Perkins Schools, Honeywell used its energy scorecard to determine which renewable technology would be best suited to replace the original boilers in all of the school buildings, some of which date back to the 1920s.
The economic analysis helped administrators decide that the district’s best option was to install three 20-kW wind turbines at the high/middle school complex, with an anticipated output of 144,000 kWh per year. The system is expected to cover 11 percent of the electrical load at the complex, and reduce annual CO2 emissions by 137 tons. The turbines will be erected this fall.
The wind turbines are part of a larger, $2.1 million energy-saving program for the district. Honeywell guarantees the work will cut the district’s annual utility bills by approximately $136,000 per year for the next 15 years. The project is also expected to generate operational and maintenance savings of around $56,000 per year without a loss of maintenance personnel, but a reduction in their overtime hours, according to Lisa Cerscimano, treasurer at the school system, and Steve Schuster, Perkins board member. “When the maintenance staff has too much going on, we use outside vendors; but those will no longer be needed and can be cut,” said Cerscimano.
In addition to the wind generation system and boiler replacements in all of the school buildings, the renovation will include repairing the envelope, replacing the lighting in all gyms, and asbestos abatement.
Training of the district’s maintenance staff by Honeywell is part of the package, as well as an annual audit “to make sure things are holding up and procedures are being adhered to,” said Schuster.
There also will be benefits from an automated staff communication system that will allow the maintenance supervisor to be able to take care of some problems remotely - a nice change during the area’s hard winters. “Right now we have to come in during problems,” said Cerscimano. “Our maintenance supervisor will be able to take care of some things at home.”
Funding is being provided by a grant from the state of Ohio. “It will end up being a break-even proposition for our schools, but the excess energy it produces will go back to the school,” said Schuster. And from an educational standpoint, “there will be a teaching byproduct,” he said.
“One of the goals was to look at the infrastructure and lifecycle of buildings. I don’t think they expected me to do as much as I did,” said Cerscimano.
Convincing the powers that be that the work was necessary was more difficult, in a way, because maintenance supervisor Greg Linkenbach had been keeping the old systems working without an abundance of emergency situations. “It was harder because everything was working,” said Schuster. “But we anticipated a rise in energy costs. What we’re doing today is multiplied out as far as energy costs are concerned.”
THE SCORECARDThe Honeywell program, which is only available through Honeywell authorized companies, helps address one of the main challenges that comes with choosing the renewable technology: finding one for a particular location that is good for the environment as well as the bottom line. A number of location-specific variables come into play - fuel availability, heating and cooling loads, utility rates, and rebates and tax incentives - making it difficult to identify the green solution that will deliver the greatest return on investment.
This selection tool provides customers with the data contractors need to get them on the road to making an informed buying decision. “Popular technologies such as wind or solar power are often the default options for renewable energy, yet in some cases they offer little if any economical return,” said Devin Castleton, Energy Group consulting analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
“The Honeywell Scorecard is a unique tool that can help lead organizations directly to the technologies that offer the strongest economic drivers right away, providing an optimum advantage for organizations who are not only motivated by environmental stewardship but also by economic value.”
The tool looks at six proven renewable technologies (including solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal), and provides a simple payback for each. It provides a financial forecast derived from calculating tax implications, rebates, subsidies, and other incentives.
The scorecard is the output of an energy profiling model built on a database that contains extensive information on each of the factors that influence the viability of the various technologies. This database provides an accurate vision and analysis of renewable energy at any location in North America.
“The Renewable Energy Scorecard is a data-driven solution to a complex issue,” said Kent Anson, vice president of global energy, Honeywell Building Solutions. “It’s important that environmental stewardship makes good business sense too. The scorecard takes the guesswork out of the equation.”
The scorecard is part of an ongoing effort Honeywell is making to help its customers maximize the use of renewable technologies and cut energy costs. Over the past three years, the company said it has helped a variety of customers - from colleges and hospitals to cities and the federal government - install biomass thermal and solar photovoltaic technology. These projects are expected to reduce annual carbon emissions by 21 million pounds and nitrous oxide emissions by 187,000 pounds.
According to figures from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, this is equivalent to removing more than 6,500 cars from the road, or planting 8,100 acres of trees.
Biomass converts a waste product to create heating. With biomass generation, a vessel is heated with waste instead of natural gas, explained Blagus. “The idea [behind the scorecard] is to have a very simple summary of the attributes of renewable technology upgrades. We want customers to know where the economic drivers are.
“Most customers don’t have the funds available to invest in something that will have a 25- to 30-year payback. The scorecard points the way to the resources that will have the most economic payback.”
These are very practical pointers for customers who may like the idea of using a technology, without truly understanding its financial implications. “A customer candidly will become enamored with a technology,” said Blagus.
“We have been engaged with customers who have been researching a technology for a year or two, but they may not have the conditions required for certain technologies in certain locations. This can be very expensive and time-consuming, spending their time looking at things that aren’t going to work.”
After getting its scorecard, for example, Perkins Schools decided to go for the wind power technology. “They chose it over biomass because they liked the fact that it was a very visible solution. The community could see their program in action.” A biomass program might be considered for a second phase.
“You can have wind energy in one location that isn’t available in others,” Blagus said. “There are microclimates for wind. The school isn’t that far from the water front.”
Data that supports the Scorecard is updated regularly, he added. State legislation and utility data are monitored and captured in the database on a quarterly or annual basis. The company also watches a number of other technologies, like wave-generated energy, so that “when they become practical, we will work them into our models.” The company is also looking at working in carbon offsets generated through energy efficiency. “They have a value on the open market through the Chicago Climate Exchange,” or CCX, Blagus said. “Cap-and-trade markets are the carbon markets. It’s meant to advance the concept of containing global warming.”
There are benefits for mechanical contractors who happen to be working with a Honeywell salesperson, he said. “The best way for a contractor to avail themselves of this is through a Honeywell sales rep.
“Most people’s frame of reference is wind and solar,” said Blagus. “This gets people a chance to see what other types of renewable energy is available. If the end game is a green and sustainable energy program, this gets us to the end game much faster.”
For more information, visit www.honeywell.com/buildingsolutions.