Santa Clara’s Energy Innovators
Originally published October 1, 2012
Each year, the Santa Clara energy innovators are presented their awards at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s annual Energy Summit. This year, SVP Director John Roukema (third from left) presented awards to Jay DiMaggio of CoreSite, Steve Horwath of Intel, Ryan Benech of Roos Instruments Inc., Graciela Marques-Hahn of Neighborhood Christian Center and Mike Fisher of Agilent Technologies. Photo courtesy of Silicon Valley Power
Silicon Valley Power knew that its commercial and industrial customers—large and small—were finding ways to use energy wisely and sustainably. And it wanted to recognize them for their efforts. So in 2008, the Santa Clara, Calif., utility launched its Energy Innovator awards program.
“It was a way to honor their support of energy efficiency and renewable energy,” said Mary Medeiros McEnroe, public benefit program manager at the municipal utility.
To cast the widest net, SVP created three award categories: Environmental Innovator, Energy Efficiency Partner and Green Power Champion.
The Environmental Innovator award recognizes an organization’s all-around efforts to support energy efficiency and renewable energy. The Energy Efficiency Partner award rewards an organization for outstanding implementation of energy efficiency programs and the application of SVP’s rebate programs. The Green Power Champion award recognizes an organization’s innovative and successful green power purchases for the implementation of other renewable energy programs.
Two awards are presented in each category, one for businesses with demand of 200 kW or greater, and one for those with demand below 200 kW.
SVP provides an application form on its website, and organizations may apply—or be nominated—for one or more award categories.
“We usually have five to seven companies applying in each category,” said McEnroe. She noted that some 200 commercial and industrial (C&I) customers are buying green power from the utility. In addition, between 100 and 120 C&I customers have energy efficiency projects in place. “So each year, we have an applicant pool of roughly 300 customers.”
An independent panel of three judges reviews all the applications. “We looked for people with knowledge in the award category areas,” McEnroe said. SVP stays out of the review process, she noted. “We don’t want to influence the judges.”
Each judge rates the applicants on a five-point scale, and then the three judges discuss their scores. Finally, the three scores for each applicant are averaged to give a final score.
Each year, the awards are presented at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s annual Energy Summit. “The audience consists of people in facility management and corporate policy,” said McEnroe. “Our customers receive the award—and the recognition—in front of their peers. We hope that others will follow in their tracks.”
Roos Instruments won last year’s Environmental Innovator Award in the small business category. The company, which tests wireless chips for semiconductors, reduced its electricity use in 2010 by 6 percent. What’s more, it relies on renewable energy for all of its power.
The test system’s architecture—designed by Roos Instruments—uses low-power components, said Cathy Rossi-Roos, the company’s chief operating officer. “By simplifying the measurement process, we reduced our energy use.” The company’s tester uses 400 watts, while the tester of a competitor uses 4,000.
“Our industry is price-sensitive, and operating costs loom large,” said Rossi-Roos.
Silicon Valley Power evaluated the company’s lighting density as part of an energy audit. The suggested changes—motion sensors for room lights, upgraded fluorescent lights—helped save energy. The auditor also recommended aligning thermostat settings with times when rooms are occupied.
To reduce its electricity use even further, Roos Instruments plans to use a laptop-type computer to control its test process, rather than the desktop model it now runs.
By purchasing only renewable energy, the company hopes to set an example for its customers and suppliers. “We believe it is important to protect our environment, and using green power is a way for our company to act on that belief,” Rossi-Roos said.
She said the company is pleased to be recognized for its “all-in” effort to build a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program that works for a small business. And, she added, the program influences the company’s vendor preferences. “We prefer vendors who have good CSR to those who do not.”
CoreSite won the Environmental Innovator award in the large business category. In early 2010, it opened a new high-density data center in Santa Clara. The building, a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) gold-certified facility, enabled
CoreSite to reduce its annual electricity use by nearly 6 million kWh.
The data center employs energy-saving techniques like cold aisle containment and prudent management of supply air temperatures. As a result, it has reduced reliance on cooling systems, saving more energy. “We bought the most efficient air handler units on the market,” said Jay DiMaggio, senior project manager and director of site development. “It cost us more, but we saw a payback, primarily in the building’s automated control system and commissioning system.
“SVP was great to work with,” said DiMaggio. “The utility helped us get the project moving, it helped us every step of the way.”
The result was a power utilization efficiency (PUE) rating of 1.2. “That’s excellent,” said DiMaggio. “The design PUE was 1.4 to 1.5, which means the building performed even better than designed.”
DiMaggio said the company’s competitors were curious about what CoreSite had done. “Our efficiency was driven by the fact that we were financially aggressive. We invested more now to gain down the road.” But, he added, the company didn’t make the investment just because of the payback. “It was the right thing to do.”
The award was a “big feather” in CoreSite’s cap, said DiMaggio. That may be one reason the company has submitted an application for the 2011 awards, based on a second data center it built in Santa Clara.
Agilent Technologies won the Energy Efficiency Partner award in the large business category. The company provides equipment for life sciences and chemical analysis and electronic test and measurement equipment.
In 2009, Agilent began retro-commissioning its Santa Clara campus, which included offices, labs and manufacturing facilities, many dating from the 1960s. “This is our headquarters, and we wanted to shine,” said Mike Fisher, project manager for southwestern U.S. workplace services. “But the HVAC systems weren’t tuned to current energy standards.”
The company had invested in upgrades over the years, but older systems were still in operation. Fisher said the aim of the retro-commissioning, which was conducted in two phases over two years, wasn’t major capital investment. “Instead, we asked: What can we do with the existing systems?” In many cases, the answer was: apply control technologies to those systems.
“We worked closely with SVP, figuring out where we could wring the most savings from older equipment and where to fine-tune newer equipment,” said Fisher.
As a result, the company reduced its electricity consumption in 2010 by 10 percent—approximately 3.8 million kWh—compared with the previous year. And it received $108,000 in heating and cooling system rebates from SVP.
Agilent also wanted to do something for the environment, said Fisher. “It’s a legitimate business factor in all our decisions.” So the company took a look at unused space on its rooftops and decided to install 3,600 solar panels on three of its buildings. The arrays are gravity-mounted, and sited where space is available. “That’s the innovative feature,” said Fisher.
As with the retro-commission, Agilent worked closely with SVP on the solar project. Fisher likes the smaller-town feel of the utility. “SVP has an advantage over the big guys,” he said. “It can develop more personal relationships with its customers.”
Intel Corp. won the Green Power Champion award in the large business category. The international computer chip giant submitted an application for all three awards, said Marty Sedler, the company’s director of global utilities and infrastructure. “We’re doing energy efficiency and renewables.”
Intel bought 1.43 billion kWh of renewable energy credits, covering roughly 50 percent of the company’s nationwide electricity usage, in 2010. It has been named the nation’s number one voluntary purchaser of green energy by the Environmental Protection Agency every year since 2008.
“Sustainability is one of our key strategies in managing energy,” said Sedler. “What we’re doing helps us, but it also helps drive others to participate. We’re trying to show leadership in green power.” Although Intel does not buy green power from SVP, the company is talking with the utility about doing so.
“We believe in a portfolio approach to energy management,” Sedler added. “That helps us bring together sustainability, efficiency and economic opportunity.”
While Intel receives a number of awards, Sedler said, “the SVP award is a public award, presented in a public place. And we share the honor with the 90,000 employees throughout our company.”
Intel also uses the award to exert a bit of peer pressure among employees at sites around the world, challenging them to do what the Santa Clara site has done, said Sedler. “We use it to raise the bar and drive competitiveness.”
Ultimately, he said, it’s not about the award itself. “It’s about the road we traveled to get there—and where we’re going next.” But, said Sedler, by recognizing the efforts of its customers, SVP is encouraging them to do even more.
Template for success—SVP’s McEnroe is surprised that a program offering such potential rewards is so easy to run. “We review the applications to make sure each one qualifies. But most of the work falls to the panel of judges.” McEnroe estimated that she spends just 10 to 15 hours a year on the program. “And when you’ve done it once, you have a template,” she said.
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