The Long Road to Efficiency - Reducing Electricity and Water Consumption in Schools
- By: Ken Nunes
As previously reported, Suntricity attended the SAPA Conference 2015, held at the Broadwalk Convention Centre in PE between the 25th and 28th September and one of the most common questions asked was: Why is Suntricity focused on monitoring electricity and water consumption, when the name of the company suggest Solar Electricity? It's an interesting question and one which needs to be understood...
Truth is, Suntricity's end game is to install solar panels in all schools!!! However, in order to get there, we need information and we need data. Our positioning is therefore more like a marathon than a sprint!!!
Let's face it, no one will run a marathon without first understand the challenges of running 42.195 kilometres (26.21875 miles, or 26 miles and 385 yards). We will never wake up one morning and say: Today, i'm going to run a marathon...
It's a daunting task and one which requires preparation: physical, mental, health, diet, equipment, understand conditions of the track, and so much more...
In the same way, we will never wake up one morning and say: Today, I will reduce my school's consumption of electricity and water to a minimum. It's just not possible to do this in a day.
And this is where we feel Suntricity's outline strategy brings value. We are very aware that in order to be efficient and reduce consumption and cost to a minimum, elimminate waste and introduce a strategy of sustainability, we first need DATA. The old addage: Information is Power stands firm and is very relevent in this instance.
The kind of data we need is to understand the status quo...(to understand our starting point), from which we will be able to develop a strategy of where we want to go and how to get there...as well as the overall objectives we wish to achieve.
We need to put together a Team that will help us get there (in the case of school, this will include the Principal, SGB, Teachers, Learners and some selected Consultants, etc)...and we need to clearly understand this will take time.
Suntricity has developed the outlines of this strategy (see image The Long Road to Efficiency), which each school will be able to adapt to their individual needs.
- FIRST LOOK: This is where we start. We need to understand the present consumptions and costs. Suntricity has developed First Look™ to identify some of the challenges, at each individual school. First Look is a powerful online database which analyses Municipal invoices for a period of 3-years and provides clear Key Performance Indicators (KPI's), establishes benchmarks, which then compare and categorises schools of similar characteristics into an organised framework of consumption and costs. It's the starting point in understanding the status quo, from which schools are able to develop strategic outlines and guidelines to meet their individual needs and financial availability.
- REAL-TIME MONITORING: Once we have understood the status quo, it is very probable Real-Time monitoring data will be needed. This captures data in "real-time" every 15 minutes, which is sent via the internet to Suntricity's online Platform, for a period of at least 12-months. Real-time data will provide 96 readings each day, for 365 days, detailing consumption and providing precise data sets, from which we are able to understand exactly when consumption occurs. This is particularly valuable, as most schools are surprised to learn the vast quantities of electricity and water being consumed OUTSIDE of school hours, holidays and weekends.
The data provided by First Look and through Real-Time Monitoring are clearly essential. Your marathon will be established on informed data and you will be able to move forward with confidence to face each challenge.
This strategy does not mean we need to wait 12-months to see results...in fact, as soon as data becomes available, we can begin to take action. We will understand each step of the way and move forward with purpose.
We focus on short-term gains, which will affect long-term objectives. We focus on no-cost and low-cost interventions and only contemplate high cost investments (e.g. the installation of a Solar System), after maximum efficiency has been achieved.
There is a time and a place to every purpose...
...and we encourage each school to begin their marathon as soon as possible.