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Volume XXVIII, Number 5918
Thursday, Aug 08, 2013

Sustainable Parks Corner

5-Boro Sustainability Intern, Sammi Leroy, shares her insight to Parks’ recent and successful Energy Conservation Contest, and to the value of historical energy data as it relates to energy management at Parks. Sammi works with the 5-Boro Energy and Sustainability Team on Randall’s Island and is working on projects that will benefit Parks in energy efficiency and sustainability.

Energy Management: Energy Data Analysis is Management's Secret Weapon

Earlier this year, more than 40 Recreation and Nature Centers participated in an Energy Conservation Contest. Facility managers and heads worked hard to educate their staff and patrons in behaviors that would conserve energy and ultimately save the building money on their energy bills. The contest was a huge success, involving people of all ages and roles in the Parks recreation system. This approach to energy management is bottom-up; the contest represented something like a grassroots movement to save energy and increase awareness on the importance of sustainable behavior.

More recently, Parks' 5-Boro Energy and Sustainability Team has focused on a different, more technical approach. As opposed to doing a walk-through of each Recreation Center and observing where excess energy is being used unnecessarily (as many of the recreation staff members did during the contest), the Team is making such observations through a different medium: each facility's utility bills.

Prior to 2008, minimal records were kept on the agency's utility bills, and those that were kept were not clearly organized or maintained. This made the process of energy analysis similar to that of removing your kid from the carousel in Central Park: close to impossible. However, since 2008, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) has collected and organized Parks' utility bill information, including total cost of electricity at a facility, as well as electricity usage and demand in any given month or year. As we have just entered the fiscal year, we have almost five full years of utility bill data at our fingertips. This database is the 5-Boro Energy and Sustainability Team's treasure trove. It allows the Team to survey Parks' energy usage and expenditures daily, with just a click of a button. It also gives the Team the ability to compare the energy usage of the facilities and pinpoint where Parks can save money and conserve energy.

This is not to say that doing on-site visits is not important in assessing a building's energy usage. However, irregularities in the data of certain facilities (for example, an irregular spike in electricity usage) can call attention to those facilities, and force us to ask: “Why is that spike present in the data?” A logical next step to take would be to visit that facility and investigate what might have caused the spike.

This is also not to say that such an approach to energy management is perfect; at times, the utility bill data can be ridden with errors. Additionally, the database is not updated often; at any given time, the data displayed can be up to three months behind. The 5-Boro Energy and Sustainability Team is looking to begin utilizing tools that will provide the most accurate and up-to-date data as possible. One such tool, for example, is a utility bill provided by Con Edison, which is generally only a month behind.

The most effective way to obtain accurate data fast, however, is through interval metering. Interval meters record energy usage and demand every 15 minutes, and the data can be collected at the end of each day through Con Edison's website. Parks has already installed eight of these meters at some of its largest facilities. However, installing these meters is time-consuming and expensive, as is setting up a database to pull the information from a meter into a computer. Nonetheless, Con Ed and Parks have made the special effort on large facilities with demand that meets or exceeds 500kW. Parks will continue to evaluate the feasibility of installing interval meters at as many facilities as possible, as this would expedite the process of monitoring energy usage, as well as prioritizing and implementing energy conservation measures throughout the agency.

Have an energy saving idea for gas, electric or steam? Contact Matt Brown, Parks Energy Manager, Matt.Brown@Parks.NYC.Gov, or Bill Vilkelis, Parks Energy Liaison, William.Vilkelis@Parks.NYC.Gov.


“What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least expected generally happens.”

Benjamin Disraeli
(1804 - 1881)
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