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Airport Gardens sets trial of energy-management system

John Seelmeyer

For years, James Parker has been telling anyone who would listen that information is beginning to replace energy.

For example: Folks these days don’t drive down to the DMV to renew a vehicle registration if they can do the job on line. They’ve replaced energy the gas they’d spend driving with the information that’s available through the DMV Web site.

Which gets us to the newest project of Parker, the chief technology officer of Reno-based SunScience Corp.

The company is installing a wireless network of monitoring and control devices throughout the Airport Gardens office building near the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, part of an energy-management system designed to reduce the operating costs of mid-sized office buildings.

Once again, Parker says, information is replacing energy.

The 79,395-square-foot building constructed three decades ago relies heavily on about 100 heat pumps throughout the building.

If those heat pumps come on simultaneously say, at 8 a.m. when tenants arrive in their offices and want to cool things down they create a big spike in electric demand.

Even though the spike might last only a few seconds, commercial utility bills are partly based on the highest spikes in demand from a building.

“For a commercial building, this is a real issue,” says Parker.

The SunScience solution calls for the 100 heat pumps to come on sequentially, one after another every few seconds, to reduce the spike.

The system also ties into weather forecasts to reduce power costs. If another hot, cloudless day is on the way, the system is set to begin pre-cooling the building early in the morning when other power demand is minimal.

Again, Parker says, information is replacing energy.

Once SunScience has gathered information about energy savings in the Airport Gardens building, it plans to begin marketing the technology to owners of other medium-sized office buildings in the region.

The technology will be marketed by Sky West Real Estate Services which, like SunScience, is a tenant in the Airport Gardens building.

Jeffrey Lowden, president of Sky West, says the companies believe that the system will reduce power costs in office buildings by 20 to 50 percent.

Even simple steps can have a big impact.

Commonly, Lowden says, tenants leave lights and air conditioning on after they leave for the day. Air conditioning and heat commonly runs constantly in common areas, even on weekends and holidays.

Smart thermostats installed throughout the Airport Gardens will manage energy use room-by-room in the building.

Big companies General Electric, Siemens and the like make big money installing similar energy-management systems in large office skyscrapers.

Parker says that SunScience targets smaller buildings office buildings of one to three stories.

Within a five-mile radius of Airport Gardens, about 4,800 buildings potentially are markets for the technology, he says.

Because power costs typically are the second-largest expense for office landlords only mortgage payments are greater Lowden says the expected 20 to 50 percent energy savings created by the SunScience system will create a quick return on investment.

That’s especially true for property owners who apply for NV Energy rebates for investment in energy-conservation systems, he says.

Other landlords, he says, may look for a marketing advantage from their ability to trumpet an energy-efficient building with a reduced carbon footprint.


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