Continued: Can HVACR technology cost-effectively boost supermarket energy efficiency in the future?

Recent advances in HVACR technologies have produced significant improvements in energy efficiency — but what about supermarkets?

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In a previous post, we considered the incremental efficiency improvements possible for supermarkets through existing technologies. However, even bigger energy savings can occur when technologies and services make connections outside the store. In fact, managing multiple stores across the enterprise multiplies the energy savings.

 

Option 2: Efficiency improvements through connectivity

To get actionable, real-time data, supermarket staff responsible for energy management need technology that can collect from connected devices a wide range of data points encompassing refrigeration, food safety, HVAC operation and energy management.

That may sound extremely complex. That’s because the technology must be able to interface with every major energy-consuming device in a store, then aggregate all the data from every store to get a complete picture of what’s going on.

Fortunately, making those connections can be accomplished relatively easily and cost-effectively.

Of course, many supermarket operators already use a central management controller that connects multiple cooling cases, compressors, lighting, etc. However, using sensors, software and connectivity devices embedded with an “internet-of-things” (IoT) level of intelligence can deliver a higher level of energy savings. Smart, connected technology can collect and exchange data over the internet remotely at all hours. Consequently, it can communicate with applications and services in the “cloud” to enable data-driven decisions.

Using a cloud-based service delivery platform, supermarket energy staff can get powerful insights into individual and collective store performance, including:

  • Conventional alarm reporting and 24×365 alarm notifications in a graphic dashboard for fast diagnostics via web browser or mobile device
  • Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) reporting to verify temperatures meet regulatory food safety standards
  • Temperature Quality Index (TQI) graphical summary of display case, cold room and HVAC temperature performance
  • Energy performance and modeling with baselines and benchmark reports for refrigerant and HVAC equipment to compare current and past performance
  • Inter-store benchmarking to compare store rank and spotlight areas to improve efficiency, and also verify setpoints and compare alerts to reveal trending issues and opportunities

Looking at the big picture, enterprise-level services deliver real-time device-, system- and building-level information that enables a “big data” approach to analyzing store performance. Such services empower facility personnel, store owners and management to make fast decisions to maximize energy efficiencies and cost savings, optimize food safety, and reduce the store’s environmental footprint. It can also improve the shopper experience by creating a more pleasant environment with optimum lighting, humidity control and ventilation.

 

Connectivity enables utility program participation

There are even more rewarding ways to save energy beyond optimizing the energy performance of multiple stores in the enterprise. Substantial energy cost reductions can be achieved by leveraging the intelligence inside “smart store” technologies to connect with demand-response and load-shedding programs offered by utilities.

In recent years, many utilities have offered programs to incentivize customers to cut electric consumption when power demand is high. During those periods, utilities want to avoid buying power from competitive utilities or firing up inefficient generating equipment. When utilities can avoid these expenses, they pass on the prospective savings to participating customers in two ways:

1. Demand Response (DR) Payments are paid by curtailment service providers (CSPs) to supermarkets who agree to reduce electricity use (load) in response to a particular, temporary event. Customers get paid in cash or credits for participating in the program and for responding to events—for example, turning off lighting and non-critical equipment during a DR event. With proper controls and safeguards, it’s also possible for 20-40% of cooling capacity to be reduced for up to 20 minutes to allow compressor load shedding in response to specific grid requests.

2. Peak-Shaving Incentives often take the form of lower time-of-use rates for supermarkets that shift some of their electric load away from peak periods. The cost savings from peak shaving can double what a supermarket receives in DR payments. Tactics can include load shifting and load displacement.

Participating in these programs requires a store to have the flexibility to curtail or shift power demand. “Smart store” infrastructure easily implements these programs by tapping the intelligence and connectivity built into system managers—without requiring hardware or software retrofits. Plus, the infrastructure is scalable across large, multi-location food retail chains.

Connectivity opens other possibilities for energy savings

Using smart devices that connect to energy management services and demand-response programs are cost-effective ways to cut energy costs now, and also offer the possibility of connecting to the “smart energy grid” of the future.

The smart energy grid also encompasses thermal grid services and uses dedicated thermal storage devices. In many malls or cities, it is possible to connect the thermal networks of the buildings to share heating or cooling capacities. Most HVACR systems are dimensioned to cover extreme peak load situations often utilizing below 50% of the installed capacity. That available capacity can be utilized to store cold or heat when electricity prices are low. While merging electricity and thermal management in shared grids seem futuristic, they are piloting in several areas in Europe. The basic disciplines becoming mainstream include district heating and cooling (DHC) and DHC with heat recovery.

Conclusion

The key to boosting supermarket energy efficiency is unlocking the potential of cost-effective HVACR technology that has intelligence and connectivity embedded at all levels of the store. Smart HVACR devices and local controllers boost efficiencies in equipment and systems. At a higher level, system managers optimize the performance of all appliances and lighting. But, substantial energy savings really start to add up when “smart store” intelligence connects with enterprise management and utility programs. At the highest level, maximum savings — even new revenue streams — can be obtained by connecting with DR programs and DHC systems.

At every level, boosting energy efficiency involves more sophisticated control technologies. Embedded intelligence and cloud connectivity facilitate system optimization, store operations and energy strategies that really pay off. However, it takes early consultation and expert guidance in the planning process to identify cost-effective solutions that can provide rewarding energy savings today — plus, a realistic ROI that will keep supermarkets competitive in the future.

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