True Media Smart Solar & Energy Management

Background:

In a former life, the True Media building in Columbia, MO used to be a well-known bank.  It is an elegant two-story, flat-roof brick structure with a concave front wall of north facing windows. The tasteful redesign consists of an open atrium with a balcony off the second floor.  This 1970s era building was converted to offices for the marketing firm True Media in the summer of 2012 and opened for business that fall.

True Media St. Louis, on the other hand, is a 5,066 square-foot building that houses another branch of the well-known marketing agency.

After several years of high energy bills and employee comfort issues, True Media’s owner and CEO, Jack Miller, took the initiative to contract EnergyLink to implement an energy savings program that decreases expenses and enhances the overall feel of the offices.

After EnergyLink conducted our comprehensive Commercial Energy Audit on both buildings, we found substantial savings opportunities available.

Project specifics:

Client

True Media

Location

Columbia, MO & St. Louis, Mo

Project Date

October 2015 & June 2016

Rebates & Incentives

Columbia Water & Light Solar Rebate, Ameren Electric Lighting Rebate

The Challenge:

True Media, Columbia

During EnergyLink’s energy audit several factors contributing to high demand spikes became apparent. An analysis of historical usage data indicated both buildings had a poor load factor (ratio of average load to peak load).

After analyzing the energy flow for the Columbia facility, it was determined a major energy draw was the simultaneous startup of multiple air conditioning systems in the summer months.

Columbia Water and Light uses Demand Billing (which is the yearly billing rate set by the maximum 30-minute period of usage). Our challenge was to create a custom system to control Load Spikes while maintaining optimum comfort levels inside.

True Media, St. Louis

For True Media St. Louis, EnergyLink had a different challenge. The office areas contained a total of 106 4-foot 3-bulb fixtures containing 135 T-8 and 183 T-12 lamps. Due to the number of fixtures each required re-wiring to bypass the worn-out ballasts. The project was scheduled over two days.

To minimize disruption of the office’s employee workflow, the lighting was replaced in sections. A storage area was designated for unpackaging new bulbs and preparing old bulbs for recycling.

Our Solution: True Media, Columbia

Destratification

A major factor contributing to the overall inefficiency was the stratification (stagnant air) inside. The main area of the building is two stories tall resulting in warm air pooling at the ceiling, while cool air was grounded at floor level. This contributed to year-round conflicts within the HVAC system and overall building comfort.

A simple solution was designed to circulate the inside air using quiet destratification fans mounted at ceiling level. This gently pushes warm air down creating a homogenous mixture of temperatures throughout the building.

These simple yet elegant fans were linked through an automation system to only energize at the appropriate times. Thus leading to increased comfort and reducing energy-hogging conflicts within the heating and cooling systems.

HVAC Tuning & Improvements

Our survey also revealed a flaw in the programming of the main HVAC unit. Excess outside air was flowing into the building.  A simple Damper Control unit was added to bring outside air in at the appropriate times.

Automation & Smart Solar

A 33 kW Smart Solar Array was combined along with Advanced Demand Management Systems (ADMS) combined with full building automation.

True Media’s peak usage was in the afternoon so the solar array was oriented facing southwest to drive down the  demand curve. The array is constantly monitored by our automation system to determine how much power is available for immediate use throughout the day.

A “Thinking” Building

The brain of our demand reduction solution was to install a central control system programmed to comprehensively manipulate the HVAC system while monitoring the solar array along with the inside temperature and the weather outside. Hence “A Thinking Building”.

The Incentives:

There were numerous financial benefits for True Media, Columbia. There was a cash rebate from the utility of .50 cents per DC watt installed, which totaled $16,470.

A Federal Renewable Tax Credit totaling $38,540.

Additionally, the MACRS 5-year accelerated depreciation schedule (which typically comprises 8-13% of the initial investment) amounted to $43,241.

In total, financial incentives to almost $100,000 of total project costs- most of which were delivered in the first year.

Energy asset investments are geared towards forward-minded investors to hedge against the ever-rising costs of energy; True Media, Columbia’s project is a prime example.

Typical paybacks are less than 5 years, and, with all the incentives, only 30% of the total investment is exposed, making projects like the True Media, Columbia one a sound investment with low risks and high returns.

Our Solution: True Media, St. Louis

True Media St. Louis upgraded to LED bulbs which average 30% more efficient than fluorescent light bulbs and last 35,000 hours longer. The lighting upgrade decreases maintenance time, save money, creates a comfortable workplace and reduces the stress on the electrical grid.

Fluorescent light bulbs contain toxic mercury that must be properly disposed to avoid water and land pollution. EnergyLink follows all regulations to properly dispose and recycle hazardous materials from T8 and T12 bulbs, contributing to the sustainability of local businesses and the environment.

Energy savings and statistics

Utility Savings

$17,490

Annually

Project Payback

4

Years

Annual kWh Savings

111,120

Kilowatt hours

C02 Removed Per Year

172,000

Pounds

Amount of Forest saved Equivalency

73.9

Acres

Amount of reduced coal burned equivalency

83,348

Pounds

Reduced average vehicle driving distance equivalency

187,181

Miles