New Operations Center To Help New York State Save 5 Percent On Energy

New York State faces a challenge as it ramps up energy efficiency and renewable energy use in its 3,000-plus state buildings. To get the most bang for its buck, the state needs to make sure the systems are working right, ideally in real time, so it can correct problems as they arise, not a month later when the energy bill comes.

That’s where the NY Energy Manager, the state’s brand-new energy management network operations center, located upstate, at the State University of New York’s Polytechnic Institute, will prove invaluable. It will help New York save money, use energy smarter, prevent pollution, and lead by example. More than 3,000 state buildings are currently served by the NY Energy Manager, with more to be added in the future.

As the operations center brings more and more of the state’s buildings online—the whole process will likely take between three and five years—the big-data system will enable the state to monitor its energy use “at a pretty granular level, in real-time,” explains Lloyd Kass, director of the New York Power Authority’s BuildSmart NY program. (NYPA is the nation’s largest state public power provider, and BuildSmart NY designs and administers the state’s efforts to cut its energy use by 20 percent by 2020.) The operations center’s energy analytics will not only report on buildings’ energy use, but, in individual buildings, it will “get the lighting load separated from the chilling load, separated from the data center,” Kass explains. If someone leaves all the lights on at a New York State office building overnight, the folks at the operations center will know right away and be able to dispatch someone to shut the unnecessary ones off.

Today’s enhanced communications infrastructure enables all this and more. “There are new analytic tools out now that can do virtual retro-commissioning and virtual energy auditing, too,” Kass says. Translation: These tools can fine-tune energy use in systems like lighting, HVAC, and elevators, and evaluate a building’s energy use without some of the bulkier, more complicated, hands-on tools energy auditors usually use.  

The operations center is likely the largest of its kind in the nation. “I hate to say we’re the biggest and the best, because everyone does that,” Kass demurs. Still, it’s bigger than state systems in Massachusetts and Missouri, and even more complex (in a good way) than a system operated by the General Services Administration, which runs the 9,600 buildings the federal government owns and operates.

Once NYPA has brought all of New York’s buildings online, the operations center system is predicted to each year save the state 5 percent on its $500 million energy bill—$25 million a year, in other words—and prevent 130,000 tons of global-warming pollution. That’s the equivalent of taking almost 25,000 cars off the road. “We’re doing a lot of energy retrofits in state buildings,” Kass explains. “This is an insurance policy to make sure those investments deliver.”

That isn’t the only reason the state is putting the operations center in place, though. “The whole point of BuildSmart NY is to lead by example,” says Kass, who imagines that the center’s successes will convince counties, local governments, school districts and private industries to get in on the energy management game. “We’re trying to demonstrate the value proposition,” he says.

For us New York taxpayers and all of us dependent on a stable climate, the return on investment is already becoming clear. Maybe soon, following New York State’s  example, our kids will even remember to shut the windows when the air conditioning’s running, too.