Month: October, 2018

30 Oct

Energy Management: Trick or Treat?

Bright Power efficiency, energy management

Real estate owners and managers are often spooked by energy and water investment projects for a variety of reasons. Maybe they’re haunted by unsuccessful past projects or maybe the results are just ghosting them. Whatever the reason may be, success lies in the approach. Below are some of our top tricks that will help you reap the treats of an intelligence-driven approach to energy and water management.

Don’t be Caught by Surprise

There’s nothing like an unsuspected scream or menacing shadow to scare the bejeezus out of you. However, scary situations are often avoidable with careful planning and awareness of your surroundings. For example, locking into a fixed-rate energy procurement contract is a proactive way to manage the cost of energy supply against volatile (and sometimes terrifying) market prices. This is a particularly useful strategy to consider in a mild autumn when prices are stable. If you’d like to learn more about this winter’s energy market predictions, check out our blogs on the state of the energy markets here.

Survey the Whole Scene (or don’t just grab the first pumpkin that you see)

When you hit the pumpkin patch, you need to survey your options before landing on the perfectly shaped, sized, and inspirational gourd. That’s how we recommend implementing energy projects too, especially across a large portfolio.

For example, take government and utility financial incentive programs. NYSERDA and ConEdison are offering matching incentives for cogeneration projects in ConEdison’s BQDM zones in New York City. The BayREN program in Northern California is another opportunity to upgrade properties at low cost. But which properties should you choose? By evaluating your entire portfolio, Bright Power can assess where your investment dollars will have the biggest impact and show the highest returns.


Don’t be on the Losing End of Dramatic Irony

If only you could explain to the horror movie lead that answering the door is a poor choice because you know what is lurking on the other side. Alas, they can’t see the whole picture. Buildings are complicated environments with sprawling, interrelated systems and you want someone who can think holistically across all of them in order to effectively manage energy and water. Just because there is a heating problem doesn’t mean that the solution is in the boiler room. In fact, sometimes the source of the problem isn’t related to the equipment at all. In multifamily buildings, residents are as important a factor as any to consider when diagnosing any problem. This is why we recommend whole-building audits and continuous energy management services. Having our engineers go inside a building, speak with residents, and examine all of the systems’ functionality is crucial in diagnosing the root of an issue and presenting an informed solution. Providing continuous expertise and energy management lets us help you anticipate problems and recommend how to avoid them. Otherwise, you’re liable to be frightened purely because you’re operating with incomplete information.

Don’t Jump to (Scary) Conclusions

As any parent can attest, some of the scariest things are the things that we don’t understand. And the only way to combat that is to probe a bit deeper and to figure out what is actually going on. It’s like in the Wizard of Oz when they finally peek behind the curtain…or those big, spooky Halloween displays that make your five-year-old scream and cry until you show him that it is just a toy (with an on-off switch), not a real skeleton coming to life.

For example, one of our clients always found water on the floor of their boiler room. Noticing that it appeared to be leaking from the bottom of their water-tube steam boiler, they called the manufacturer’s representative to come out, drain, and inspect the boiler. When he opened it up and saw corrosion on the tubes, the rep said: “it’s all gotta go.” Our client was looking at frightening repair costs, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Before rushing into anything, we helped our client select a nondestructive testing (NDT) company and supervised a more thorough ultrasonic testing of the boiler tubes. When the results came back, they were surprising. The corrosion had looked bad, but there was actually minimal loss of tube wall thickness. When we leak-tested the boiler, there were just two pinhole leaks and a leaking joint. The root cause was likely that this boiler had run much more than the standby boiler, and therefore experienced many more heat up and cool down cycles. The rep replaced the two leaking tubes, we fixed the control logic so that the lead boiler would rotate weekly, and together we filled, started, and tested the boiler – just in time for heating season.

There is so much to gain from strategic energy and water management. From avoided capital costs to utility bill savings and resident retention, the list of benefits is hard to pass up. But in order to get the treats, it’s important to bear in mind these tricks.

Happy Halloween!

 

This blog was originally posted October 31, 2016. It was updated October 30, 2018, to highlight different incentive programs.

29 Oct

What to Know, Now: Energy Market Update: October 2018

Dan Levin Energy Markets, procurement

Winter is coming. Higher prices are here and they may stay. 

The Bottom Line

Natural gas price volatility continues, and with it comes higher rates. In the last month, there has been a price jump that amounts to $.04/therm increase on a 12-month natural gas fixed rate. It’s not a great time to lock in. And you should try to avoid the high utility default rates. What does that mean? You should consider short-term winter buys or variable products which may perform better than long-term fixed rates. But you don’t have to go it alone – we can help make those options clear and explain the benefits and risks.

What to Know About 2018

What’s the cause of this volatile market? Low amounts of natural gas in supply. The US maintains storage of gas that ensures we have enough gas for winter heating. But compared to this time last year, there is now 16% less gas available. Although production has increased and will continue to pick up, we’re likely to continue to see a volatile natural gas market due to low gas storage. While we don’t recommend having accounts return to utility rates and receive default pricing, it may be beneficial to explore other pricing options before locking in for multiple years at high rates. Unsure how to proceed? Our energy markets experts are here to help and provide clear recommendations.

Temperature Probability Maps

This fall and winter are forecasted to have warmer than usual temperatures. The orange/red in the maps below indicate heat increases from normal. A mild fall that doesn’t require much heating in the North East would improve gas storage conditions and bring down prices. An average cold East Coast and Plains winter would reduce stored gas levels further and raise prices through all of 2019.

November 2018
November 2018
December 2018, January and February 2019
December 2018, January & February 2019
Summer 2019
Summer 2019
04 Oct

Bright Employee: Samantha Pearce

Bright Power Bright Employee

We’re proud of the intelligent, passionate, and hardworking people that make up the Bright Power team. Each month, you’ll get a chance to meet one of them, understand how they contribute to the organization, and what makes them excited to come to work every day.

Samantha PearceThis month, we’re excited to introduce you to a new member of our team, Samantha Pearce, Director of Energy Management Services.

What made you decide to join Bright Power?
Having worked with Bright Power for the last 8 years as a client, I am most excited to actually get to work WITH the people I have a collaborated with over the years. There’s something about the people who choose to work at Bright Power. They are such a talented and passionate group of individuals who genuinely seem to care about their work, and that really inspires me to bring my A-game. It’s getting to work with people who put action behind their words that excite me the most!

What are some projects and accomplishments you’re most proud of?
I am really truly excited about Energy Management Services (EMS) and that I get to provide a much needed, impactful suite of services. I have watched Selfhelp expand their capacity, make smarter efficiency decisions, and save money because of the work and joint efforts of Selfhelp staff and the Bright Power EMS team. I am really proud to have set up this service “on the inside” at Selfhelp working with Bright Power and now am excited to shape what the service will grow into for others to meet their unique needs.

What’s something people might not know about you and your role at Bright Power?
I think this role, and my career trajectory, was a bit more fortuitous than it might seem. I have a degree in and had wanted to be an Architect since I was probably seven. But then I decided it wasn’t the best fit for me. So, after a short stint as an AmeriCorps member with Habitat for Humanity, I ended up working at Enterprise Community Partners on their Weatherization team, without even knowing what the program was really about when I took the job. It was the best happy accident and introduced me to working on sustainability initiatives to help owners. Not all journeys follow a straight line – and for this hyper-organized planner that was a tough lesson to learn! I became a LEED AP about 10 years ago because I love the environment, and I worked with Bright Power when there were only 12 or so employees, so perhaps the universe was telling me something all along.

Why are energy management services so critical to the health and long-term performance of a building?
Think about a building like a body. The same way you need to get checked out by a general physician, a building needs to be checked out holistically as well via EMS. If you have a cough, you do not go directly to the lung specialist and ask them to diagnose the ailment. That would be ridiculous and expensive! Instead, you visit your primary care physician who not only listens to your lungs but also takes your temperature, checks your throat and perhaps even ends up diagnosing you with a sinus infection  not even in your lungs at all! 

This sounds extreme, but I think that is how most current operators oversee their buildings. Most owners aren’t themselves ‘primary care physicians’ yet they call in a specialist as soon as there is an issue. No one is monitoring or keeping track of how the systems are functioning, or training the owners how to diagnose issues on their own. And while a direct problem might be fixed when a specialist is called, often larger systemic issues are left undiagnosed because no one is looking at the whole building as a system.

Keeping all the systems in a building working well together helps keep operations costs down and preventative maintenance costs manageable, if not highly predictable. All of this leads to a building that is more efficient to manage and can, therefore, keep costs stabilized.

02 Oct

Resiliency for Real Estate

Danielle Brocker Resiliency

Before the last week of October 2012, the notion of resiliency was largely an afterthought for the New York City real estate industry. Then Superstorm Sandy hit.

Lights went out.  Basements and boiler rooms flooded. A lack of diesel fuel rendered emergency generators silent. Apartments were left without the basics: electricity, running water, elevators, heat, and general access to the outside world. Remembering lower Manhattan in a complete blackout still sends chills through the spine of the Oculus.

By Halloween, Sandy was gone but owners, managers, and tenants alike had already begun thinking about how to make their commercial and residential buildings resilient enough to stand up to the next Superstorm.

Resiliency makes your building stronger — and more profitable.

How do you make your building more resilient? With technologies like solar, cogeneration, and battery storage,* you can produce and store cleaner power at your buildings and provide site-level power security against utility outages. By carefully selecting, configuring, and operating the right set of technologies, a resilient power system can even pay for itself through demand reduction, peak shaving, and reduced supply cost. Bright Power’s Resilient Power Hub integrates solar, batteries, and cogeneration to provide:

  • Energy cost savings
  • Reliable, efficient onsite power generation
  • Cleaner backup power
  • Power security
  • Reduced risk

A resilient building is a more profitable building. Being prepared for superstorms like Sandy is critical. But so is having clean and efficient systems to help your daily operation. Peak demand shaving? Yes. Cheaper electricity? Check. Safer and healthier residents? You got it!

How are real estate owners prioritizing resiliency?


Located steps from the Atlantic Ocean in Rockaway, New York, Arverne View was not originally built to withstand major storms like Sandy. L+M Development Partners acquired the property soon after Sandy, and worked with Bright Power to revitalize the community and develop a long-term resiliency and sustainability strategy.

The improvements implemented were focused on both maximizing utility savings and allowing the property to better withstand another Sandy-like event. These included installing new storm-proofed HVAC systems, and exterior wall insulation that both makes it easier and less costly to maintain desired indoor temperature and provided much-needed facade improvements. More recently, Bright Power worked with L+M to install 36 kW of battery storage and 36 kW of solar PV at the property to power onsite offices, emergency indoor and outdoor lighting, booster water pumps, and a community room in the event of an electric utility outage. On a regular basis, the solar and battery systems will provide peak demand shaving to reduce electric costs throughout the year.

Now, Arverne View is well-equipped to keep essential systems operating in the face of storms and grid outages while also keeping energy costs low.

 

Community Access is in the final stages of construction on their 126-unit affordable and supportive housing building on East 172nd in the Bronx. As with many affordable or supportive developments, it was important to build housing with low long-term operating costs. With a priority on operating efficiency and resiliency, Community Access worked with Bright Power to install a Resilient Power Hub (RPH) – a combination of a 53 kW solar PV system, an 18 kW battery storage system, and a 10 kW cogeneration unit.

The solar PV and cogeneration systems would create much-needed cost savings while the battery system, during an electric grid disruption, would run critical equipment to keep residents safe.

By installing the RPH, the project team was able to use a small emergency generator to meet code-required loads. Without the RPH, the building would have needed to install a larger, more costly backup generator. While a large generator would have powered critical equipment in the event of an electric grid disruption, such a system would have provided no operational savings to Community Access.

With these technologies, Community Access will not only be able to avoid peak demand times, but in the event of a power outage, they will have backup electricity to power an elevator, water pumps, lighting to the corridors and exit stairwells, and the fire alarm. Importantly, the RPH will produce ongoing cost-savings so Community Access can provide resilient power that pays for itself over time, unlike the traditional generator.

“Managing energy consumption efficiently is better for our world, and reducing energy costs means more can be spent on programs and facilities for our tenants.”- Steve Coe, CEO of Community Access.

Protect your properties and residents

Resiliency improvements arm buildings with consistent, efficient, and reliable power on a day-to-day basis. And they keep the building operating during an emergency. Technologies like the Resilient Power Hub can maintain your ROI and help you contribute to the fight against climate change through the use of renewable and cleaner energy systems. Not sure where to start? Find out if your new development or existing building is a good fit for resiliency solutions by contacting one of our experts today!


*Solar harnesses the energy from the sun, producing site-level electricity. Battery storage captures and stores electricity for later use during peak demand pricing and grid outages. Cogeneration systems use natural gas to produce power onsite, generating electricity and pre-heated domestic hot water (a byproduct of electric generation). These systems power electrical systems such as common area lighting, elevators, pumps, and laundry and help reduce costs in areas where electricity rates are high.