HVAC Thermostat

Thermostats May Soon Be A Thing Of The Past

HVAC Thermostat

One of the most exciting jobs of what we do involves keeping a careful eye on what comes next. Science and technology are offering creative new ways to improve energy efficiency, and preparing now for what’s next is the best way to stay ahead of the curve, even in mundane controls like thermostats. 

With more of us spending time indoors than ever, HVAC is emerging as a crucial way to save energy and improve what we do with the power we already use. Not only are experts studying how air conditioning and heating airflow could be spreading the coronavirus, but we’re also learning that these systems offer a tremendous opportunity to do more for us without our having to even think of it. 

Lighting systems have offering automatic zone controls for years; by using movement to monitor the use of a room or space, they adjust lighting levels or turn on and off without any manual input. Those are critical systems in all sorts of applications, including warehouses, schools, and hospitals. Now, researchers at the University of Michigan are working to bring the same idea to HVAC. Called HEAT (Human Embodied Autonomous Thermostat), it could change the way we stay comfortable year-round. 

The idea focuses on using thermal cameras to scan the faces of anyone in a given space. The system automatically adjusts the room temperature to keep the occupant comfortable. If there’s more than one person in the room, the system calculates the most efficient temperature to keep the majority of the occupants comfortable. It’s essentially personalized automated climate control that can also adapt as quickly when people leave a room. 

Right now, that’s more important than ever. While we may be home more than ever, many office buildings and other facilities are seeing seismic shifts in use. Staggered or reduced workforces, more employees working from home, and a new need to use larger spaces to gather, rather than cramped offices. That means buildings need to cool or heat more precise spaces and change their energy use once workers leave. 

What’s even more exciting is that this process only gets more efficient with time. The system learns individual preferences and changes in body temperature throughout the day, meaning it will be able to anticipate needs more accurately over time. 

Finally, the information gathered by the system can connect to the Internet of Things, which could help influence how other facility structures operate, including lighting and even machinery by adjusting energy use based on occupancy. 

While the technology is still new, it’s already available for licensing, and it’s something you’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more about soon. 

Interested in what else we’re watching? Let us know with an email!

cannabis energy electrical

Energy Remains Key To Cannabis Industry

With new regulations that could further support the booming cannabis industry, plus even more states loosening regulations in the 2020 election cycle, cannabis is ready to explode. However, it’s still the inescapable price of production that could make or break just how profitable companies will be. 

Energy is absolutely critical for a crop that’s extremely reliant on light and perfect growing conditions to meet demand. And that demand is high; cannabis was worth roughly $10 billion in 2019. That number is expected to rise consistently over the next few years, and it could come with a sizeable carbon footprint. The best data we have dates back to 2017, when the United States produced 16.4 million pounds of cannabis. That produced a staggering 1.8 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere. By 2020, the industry is putting out roughly 2.4 million tons of carbon, and that’s something that may see more taxes and penalties in the years ahead. 

That inefficiency has a big impact on the bottom line, too. Electrical demand is a large component of day-to-day expenses for most growers. Behind labor, it’s the biggest operating cost for growers. Much of that is due to the plant’s sensitive need for light. Marijuana often requires stretches of twelve hours of lighting at a time, plus the right humidity and water to grow. 

On average, indoor growers spend 262 kilowatts per hour per square foot. One gram of flowering plant can produce a pound of carbon emissions and cost roughly 24 cents to produce, strictly in energy expenses. Outdoor growers see numbers half of indoor, but it’s still a big dent in the company budget. 

That big footprint can have an impact on the communities growers live and work in. To fight an oversized draw on the grid, some municipalities are putting caps on the number of electricity growers can use, typically around 36 kWh per square foot. Cities in Massachusetts, Illinois, and part of Canada already have this type of legislation on the books, and as the industry grows into new regions and states, those same rules may find traction at the state or even federal level to create an even playing field and protect the environment. 

At present, just 6% of the electricity used in cannabis production can be traced to sustainable energy sources like wind and solar. The vast majority use coal and natural gas, especially in North America. Individual growers are looking at ways to include renewable technologies, more efficient lighting fixtures, and energy storage to lower costs and increase margins as they grow. 

If you’re ready to take a closer look at how you can improve your energy environment and save the planet in the process, we’re one of the most experienced companies in improving efficiency for cannabis growers. Learn more and contact us today!

Spain

Renewable Energy Growing In Heart Of Oil Country

There is a lot of uncertainty on when and how the United States will get back to its feet. With record unemployment, a huge dent in consumer confidence, and the on-going threat of a pandemic that shows few signs of being under control, it’s important to look ahead. 

For businesses and communities asking questions about what comes next in the world of energy, it’s hard to look past the future of oil. Fossil fuels, in general, saw a reprise of sorts over the past decade thanks to new but inefficient fracking methods in the US. Not only did the practice contaminate the groundwater of millions of Americans, it wasn’t cost-effective. As the OPEC+ in-fighting demonstrated, few of these domestic producers offered a long-term solution to our energy needs. Hundreds have gone out of business in the past three months, and many more are not expected to survive the recession. 

The bright spot, then, is solar. And not just solar, either. As we’ve said many times, at residential, commercial, and even grid-scale, it will take a number of renewable energy sources and an efficient energy storage system to keep America running through the transition away from fossil fuels. If anyone still needs proof that this move is inevitable, look for further than Egypt. 

While not as productive or reliant on oil as other North African or the Middle East, oil does have a strong presence in the Egyptian economy. Rather than rely on domestic supply supported by foreign imports, Egypt is turning its eye to the sky and investing heavily in solar power. The solar field of Aswan, for instance, is the nation’s largest solar array and produces 1.5 GW of power per year, enough juice to power 1.5 million homes in the region. 

All of the Middle East has been built on oil, with just 3% of its current energy needs met by sustainable needs. But that’s changing, and fast. Over the past ten years, its renewable capacity has doubled, and it’s expected to double yet again in just the next four years. Originally, it was non-oil producing countries like Morocco that made the move, but now even OPEC titans like are getting in the game, including offering one of the lowest tariff bids just last year.

While the scale of production is growing quickly, it’s dwarfed by another important factor in the move to renewable energy, and that’s investment. Production is actually behind the cash influx; in the past ten years, the Middle East has grown from just 91 megawatts of renewable energy production to 9 GW; in that same time, investment in green energy has increased by more than twelve times the 2008 level. 

For US businesses, it’s a sign that the move to efficiency, sustainability, and responsible energy production reflects a growing demand in the public and in the energy sector itself. On a firm-level scale, it’s a time to invest in the energy efficiency measures that will allow a business to make the most of low oil prices now and be ready to make the transition to renewables before it’s an arms race. Take ownership of your energy environment for a brighter future.

cannabis energy electrical

1,250%: The Key Number Cannabis Companies Need To Know

cannabis energy electrical

We’ve made the pun plenty of times, but the reality is simply too strong to ignore. Cannabis is a growing industry, and companies across the United States are learning that their energy news isn’t just substantial, but often prohibitive. 

As big as cannabis is right now, we’re only scratching the surface of its true potential. Experts predict it to be a $47 billion industry by 2025. At the start of 2020, recreational marijuana use is legal in 11 states, while 33 states have medical marijuana laws firmly on the books. Recent local and state elections, too, indicate that more legalization is on the way, and the support of politicians at the federal level points to nation-wide legalization sooner rather than later. 

That astronomical growth comes in spite of many hurdles placed in front of young businesses. From inconsistent and changing regulations from county-to-county and state-to-state to variable access to investment, to supply chain and distribution issues, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for many growers. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges is energy. 

The electrical impact of marijuana cultivation is massive. Producing one pound of cannabis produces requires roughly 2,000 kWh, which is the equivalent of two and a half months of energy consumption by a normal household. That’s big. Multiply that to industrial-levels of production in facilities that can fill thousands of square feet and you can begin to see just how much strain cannabis could put on the grid. In fact, marijuana caused seven blackouts in California alone back in 2015. 

The demand is high now, but it’s only expected to grow. Canada, for example, expects cannabis power consumption to increase by 1,250% between 2020 and 2024. That would make cannabis production alone a total of 1% of the country’s entire energy market. 

Not only is it massive, but the source of that huge energy draw is also primarily fossil fuels. With a rise in demand will come a rise in pollution just as the world looks to drastically reduce its carbon footprint to fight climate change. By waiting for governments to shift grid-scale electrical production to renewable sources, the world might be putting a nail in its own coffin. 

Instead, growers are investing in themselves to incorporate renewable energy created from wind and solar, as well as integrated energy storage systems to offer flexibility. Retrofitting isn’t a viable option; many growers say the expense of trying to work with older lighting and irrigation systems isn’t cost-effective, and replacing the whole set-up makes more financial sense. 

Lighting is a huge element to both a healthy crop and to energy efficiency. With the switch flipped on between 18 and 20 hours a day, light fixtures account for approximately 70% of electricity consumption. We’ve been working with growers to create smart, dynamic systems that use the most efficient materials and intelligent automation to control climate. If over two-thirds of consumption comes from a single source, it’s where we can make the biggest difference. 

We’re working with growers across the state and around the country to implement the sort of systems that will keep companies competitive, sustainable, and comfortably within the patchwork of local guidelines. Getting started? Start with a call to Keen Technical Solutions.

solar

Solar Project Scale: The (New) Biggest Solar Installation in the US?

We like to aim high and go big. So how big is the largest solar project in the United States? Find out how much power one plant in California creates! 

Late in 2019, the federal government gave its stamp of approval to the Gemini solar project. Located in Las Vegas, Nevada, the proposed site would span over 7,000 acres and generate nearly 700 mW. It would also tap into the emerging efficiency of energy storage capacity by holding onto a minimum of 380 mW on-site. At $1 billion, Gemini would become the biggest solar facility in the United States. 

In the competitive world of energy, the current record holder for power generation would almost certainly like to add an asterisk. The storage capacity of Gemini would push it into the lead. At the Solar Star solar project in California, its 579 mW of generation does not include storage capacity. When Solar Star came online in 2015, it was the world’s largest solar energy generation site. It was surpassed four years later by a plant in India, which uses 13,000 acres to produce over 2,000 mW. 

Current plans for Gemini would have it operational by 2023 and work with two other solar power facilities that are already in service. The project is a vital part of Nevada’s commitment to zero carbon emissions by 2050. Along the way, the state has committed to getting at least 50% of its electricity by renewable sources by 2030. 

It’s going to take big ideas, big investments, and a lot of hard work to successfully tackle the immense challenges in climate change and energy consumption. But not every project needs to set a record in order to contribute; from a more efficient light bulb to the biggest solar project in the United States, every step forward gets us closer to sustainability.

Start Smart, Grow Smart: Investing In Your Cannabis Facility

What’s the most expensive and wasteful investment to make? One you have to make twice. For marijuana growers, starting their sustainability and energy efficiency efforts the right way from the start is a key component to being competitive in an ever-tightening industry. 

The basic laws of supply and demand have played out in textbook fashion in the still young legal marijuana business. As more states enact legislation to legalize cannabis, supply us skyrocketed, causing prices to drop. And drop. And drop. The well-cushioned margins of Day One were nice, but enjoyed only by those firms already up and running. Today, many of those companies are feeling the pinch, and it’s not just from outside competition. These companies’ biggest battle comes from inside their facilities, where inefficient lighting and HVAC systems have kept production costs high and prices have slipped. 

Those firms are quickly implementing new, more efficient systems to battle the problems arising from lower prices. In an industry that sees so many factors and influences outside of their control, like legislation, banking restrictions, and limited licensing opportunities, production costs are often the one area firms can address head-on. 

As the old guard upgrade, newer producers have learned those same lessons and taken them to heart. Growers in the past 12-18 months quickly realized that the only smart way to address margin concerns over the long run is by making smart investments in fixtures and equipment right now. There are many lessons to learn for utilities, too. For instance, 4% of Denver’s energy demand comes from marijuana growers. With demand expected to more than double by 2023, both consumers and producers need to implement new ideas, new sources, and new standards to handle the load. 

We’re working with growers to make their facilities as energy efficient as possible, plugging in innovative techniques to make the most out of heat byproducts, recycle humidity, and make each light fixture do more with less. Technology learns and adapts, empowering business owners to take data in real-time and make better decisions in their energy usage and get the most out of each crop. 

Ready to grow? Let’s get after it!

Michigan Renewable Energy Projects Up 57%

Renewable energy is up across the county. In our home state of Michigan, that’s no different. Renewables are playing a leading role in reducing emissions and increasing efficiency like never before. 

An end-of-year study confirmed what we’ve long known to be true. Sustainable, responsible energy is on the rise, and it’s offering an exciting glimpse at what’s possible. Renewable energy is up by a whopping 57% over the previous calendar year, and in 2020, that number could rise even further. That report, conducted by the Michigan Public Service Commission, confirmed that these innovative energy production avenues have increased every year since 2006. Renewables now account for nearly 45,000 kWh in the state, up 46% since 2017. 

Of those alternative energy sources, solar energy remains the top producer in the state of Michigan by some margin. It’s responsible for 94% of renewable energy sources, with wind power a very, very distant second place. It might also be worth noting that just two companies, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, account for a massive 88% of all alternative energy production. There are renewable energy projects in every single Michigan county, except one. Only Luce County in the Upper Peninsula lacks a  renewable energy project as of the time of this study’s publication. 

The state has a long road ahead to eliminate fossil fuels. According to the state’s annual report, 10% of energy came from renewable sources in 2015. Only about 1% of the state’s energy needs are met by solar, while the state is offering up some encouraging results from wind. Michigan ranks 14th in wind power potential, which currently accounts for 93% of our current alternative energy capacity. 

We’re proud to be playing a part in bringing Michigan communities and companies into a more sustainable way of life. By improving energy use today, we’re preparing companies from across industries to plug into the new technologies and opportunities that are right around the corner. Keen can help companies save tens of thousands of dollars per year right now, and that’s only the tip of what technology and innovation will offer tomorrow.

Want an expert look at how your facility can save money and increase efficiency? Schedule a comprehensive energy audit today. 

The Energy Storage Solution That Might Be Parked In Your Garage

It’s easy to see energy storage as a massive challenge, and it’s also one that doesn’t get a lot of attention. In spite of the tremendous potential and impact of comprehensive energy storage, it’s not the eye-catching topic that garners headlines or an appropriate level of investment. What does? The secret to energy storage; electric vehicles.  Continue reading “The Energy Storage Solution That Might Be Parked In Your Garage”