David GruppDavid Grupp, Associate Engineer and head of the WCEC division of the SPEED demonstrations program 
A few HVAC case study demonstrations done by WCEC

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To view more case studies, please visit the State Partnership for Energy Efficient (SPEED) Demonstrations Website

One of the biggest barriers to the proliferation and adoption of energy efficient technologies is the perceived risk. Will these products actually save energy once they are installed in a real-world environment? Are they resilient enough to stand the test of time like their tried-and-true standard cooling solution cousins? What are the real-world return-on-investment rates for these products?    

To help solve these questions in a risk-adverse market, the CEC created PIER, the The Public Interest Energy Research Program as an R&D arm of the energy commission that works to find energy efficiency solutions by bringing together utilities, manufacturers, and world-class scientists at California’s universities and national laboratories. The implementation arm of PIER that puts these new, realized technologies into real-world demonstration testing is SPEED (The State Partnership for Energy Efficient Demonstrations). 

SPEED partners with university research facilities like the WCEC and the CLTC to evaluate new energy efficient technologies and then install, test and monitor these technologies at California Universities. Technologies such as Bi-level LED lighting, smart controls, Demand Control Kitchen Ventilation, Evaporative Cooling, Fault Detection and intelligent energy management systems are just a few of the well researched technologies that SPEED implements on California’s colleges. The HVAC-based energy efficient technologies arm of SPEED’s research is headed by WCEC’s own David Grupp.  

Q: What is the latest project for SPEED you are working on?
I am currently evaluating an intelligent energy management system by Vigilent. My initial goal is to build a set of standardized metrics based off of the system’s performance that can be applied to other potential projects. These metrics would then be used to determine, with some accuracy, how much energy savings can be achieved by installing this system. 

Q: What are the main challenges to implementing these technologies?
The main challenge comes in building the business case to support the implementation of the technology.

It’s not enough to know that a particular project will save energy, you must also know with accuracy how energy will be saved and how one project’s projected savings compares with other projects competing for time, attention, and slice of the budget.

In building the business case to support a particular technology, there are many questions that must be answered. What was the average energy saved over all the projects using this technology? What was the average cost? What model or method of prediction was used to determine energy savings before undertaking the project? How can I implement this method of prediction to determine an estimate of energy savings for a newly proposed project? All this work is necessary to allow a project manager to effectively decide which energy saving projects to pursue first. Many new technologies don’t have an abundance of historical data to confidently make that case that investment in them will give the highest return. Because of this, the scaled deployment of these technologies may be hindered. Without the proper real world testing and analysis the SPEED program provides, these new technologies could be left out, and some of them could be true game changers in the long run. 

Q: What technologies do you believe should SPEED focus on in the coming year?
Demand control kitchen ventilation has proven to be a sure bet when it comes to energy savings and will be the focus of our business case development efforts. Also, RTU optimization retrofit products that utilize VFD’s and advanced controls will be demonstrated. 

Q: Where would you like to see the program headed in the future?
Our main goal is to show large scale deployments of energy efficient technologies, and this will continue to be our main push, but in order to make this goal a reality it takes a constant, steady positive stream of data that we can only get from doing more demonstrations and analysis. I would like to see us continue to push for more demonstrations and continue effort to build the solid basis of data and analysis that will make the unmistakable case for system-wide deployment of the most promising and proven technologies. The next part is to create more real world business case studies that more accurately represent real world savings that will result from implementing these technologies. This will give energy managers the necessary tools to accurately estimate their expected savings and ultimately, perpetuate the adoption of these technologies.