You've heard of "big data," perhaps. It's broadly defined as sets of data so massive that they are extremely difficult to analyze and manipulate, even though the data has a depth and granularity to help any organization understand its problems and opportunities.
Its foothold in reality seems to involve huge, global entities. A portion of Schneider Electric's annual media day was devoted to the impact of big data on energy, and how Schneider's EcoStruxure software architecture can help.
So what was Andy Schonberger, director of the Earth Rangers Centre, doing sharing a panel with people from TRW Automotive and Duke Energy? Earth Rangers is a not-for-profit in Ontario that educates many thousands of children on the importance of biodiversity and sustainable behaviors.
Well, here's a refreshing take on the big data that hides in small places like Earth Ranger's 66,000 ft2 footprint that among other things houses a few dozen animals.
It has its own wastewater treatment plant, 55 kW solar power generation, and is geothermally heated and cooled. It was one of the first buildings in Canada to use displacement ventilation as its air distribution system. It circulates air through diffusers located near the floor level, and staff help displace the supplied air by walking and breathing. Air eventually becomes stale from heat, moisture and carbon dioxide, causing it to rise to the ceiling and be sucked into the central exhaust duct system. Underground tunnels, called earth tubes, temper the fresh air entering the ventilation system.
"We put a lot of automation and monitoring systems in place when we built it, and had the capability to create a lot of data, but didn't know what to do with it all," Schonberger said. "We're a charity, so we have to keep those operating costs low, as well as have a compelling story to tell our sponsors: the foundations that support us, parents of kids we're engaging."
Schonberger said at first he had a SQL database collecting 80 points of measurement in the building and more than 200 points from the automation system. "Getting this data out in a useful form to our management team and tenants was a 10 hr event for me every time," he stated. "And everyone wanted me to do it to see how the building was performing, particularly those who helped pay for it."
He eventually found Schneider's Energy Advanced dashboard software. "In the past year of using it, I've paid for the subscription fee three times over," he said. "This didn't mean making big mechanical changes. It was being able to digest the data in a meaningful way and then change my actions based on what I saw."
The building was designed to be 63% more efficient than the energy code in Canada. "After using the data with the dashboard, we're 85% more efficient," Schonberger said. "It gets tougher to achieve reductions every year, so it's vital to understand the data."