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Incorporating Sustainable Solutions for Facilities

Jul 1, 2024 | Public | 0 comments

As the electric grid gets more taxed, more facilities are implementing on-site solar technologies not just to help reduce the load but also to increase their sustainability. Meanwhile, some facilities need adequate battery storage during power outages and enough capacity to handle electric vehicle (EV) chargers.

These issues and more were discussed during a panel entitled “Deepening the Journey—On-Site Solutions: Solar, Storage, and Charging” as part of the CityAge digital event “Decarbonizing America’s Urban Hubs,” which took place May 22.

Speakers in the session included Salim Morsy, Head of E-Mobility Market Development for Shell; Luke Getto, Director of Technical Market Development at VoltServer; and Chris Kaiser, Director of Solution Sales at Shell Energy. The session was moderated by John Hall, President and CEO of the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC).

How to Make Buildings Sustainable

Facilities managers who are building new facilities or renovating existing ones often wonder how they can incorporate sustainability features.

Getto suggested looking at current energy consumption.

“If you’re just going to replace your energy source from alternating current (AC) power from the grid to solar energy, you’re going to have conversions that make your building less efficient, which requires you to put in a larger solar facility,” he advised.

Facilities managers need to determine how they’re going to use that energy so technology can be used to make the facility more sustainable, efficient, and safe, he added.

He also noted that electricians and low-voltage contractors can install these systems.

A Very Sustainable Hotel

Getto cited the 165-room signature Hilton he worked on in New Haven, Connecticut, called “Hotel Marcel,” which opened in 2022 in a former office building.

He explained it’s the “first net zero and passive house certified hotel in the country,” adding that it uses a 1-megawatt (MW) solar facility.

He added that the hotel is “net positive” because it puts more energy back onto the electric grid than it uses.

Government Funding

So, how can companies pay for these sustainability upgrades? Hall explained that “the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is providing significant funding to spur onsite solar development across the country.”

“In Texas, for example, working with a group of coalition partners, local governments, and community-based organizations, we just received $250 million from the federal government.”

Importance of Backup Power

While some facilities managers may decide it isn’t feasible or they don’t have the money to replace AC power with solar power, they still need a plan for when they have a power outage.

According to Getto, facilities managers should determine what portions of their facility are critical and need 24/7 access to backup power.

Morsy believes more facilities will be looking into backup power as the costs of battery cell technology keep decreasing.

Microgrid Solutions

One type of energy storage technology facilities managers should consider is microgrids. Kaiser explained that Shell has installed a large microgrid system in San Diego, with eight sites, ranging from fire stations to community centers.

“It’s a really good example of how that technology can work in an urban area with some of the space constraints,” Kaiser said, adding that it showed San Diego’s resiliency and sustainability.

Additionally, he noted that Shell installed microgrids in more rural areas, like the Treasury Wine Estate, a global winemaker in Northern California.

“Although these technologies can feel complex and overwhelming, they can fit into very different environments and provide the benefit back to the customers or back to the community,” he said.

EV Charging Station Needs

With the added capacity solar or microgrid solutions provide, it might be tempting for facilities managers to install EV charging stations, but they need to make sure their property’s electrical system can handle this capacity.

For example, Tesla superchargers use about a quarter of a megawatt of electricity, Getto said.

Morsy added that “the grid in the U.S. is overwhelmingly congested because energy demand is going up. And the wires and poles and generation assets needed to support that demand have been slower to get off the ground. And what we are seeing in the industry right now is that the lead times to electrify high-power sites, let’s say two megawatts and above, are quite long.”

Specifically, it could take 12 to 24 months to upgrade electrical transformers because of the COVID backlog.

Conclusion

Whether managing an office complex, a hospital, or a shopping mall, facilities managers must meet with their companies to make appropriate decisions on sustainability, backup power solutions, and EV charging solutions.

The post Incorporating Sustainable Solutions for Facilities appeared first on Facilities Management Advisor.

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