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Monitoring Energy in LEED Platinum Building

21 O’Fallon Street in St. Louis, circa 2007

The William A Kerr Foundation’s office in downtown St. Louis was one of the first LEED-Platinum Certified buildings in St. Louis. The facility, which is approximately a mile north of the Gateway Arch, was purchased in 2004 in a largely abandoned industrial area, and received a $2M renovation earning 5/5 points for its Innovation and Design Process, and 58/69 points in total. The building, originally built in 1894 as a private bath house and health spa, is now available for use by nonprofit organizations for meetings or events.

Solar tube light on rooftop

The original features of the building renovation include a metal roof with laminated solar PV strips and a large skylight at the peak of the roof, flooding the main conference space with generous natural light. In addition, the main floor of the conference space has a clear acrylic panel in the floor, allowing natural light into the basement. The flat roof over the warehouse space has a deck area and a green roof, and includes solar tube lights that “pipe” light from the roof into the main warehouse area, with additional tube lights that take light all the way down to the basement.

The original building renovation included a 3.7 kW thin-film solar array and a 1.8 kW SkyStream wind turbine, with an Outback battery backup system to power critical loads in the event of a utility outage. An additional 3.2 kW solar awning system with Lumos Solar modules was added in 2012, along with an Urban Green Energy 1 kW vertical wind turbine, bringing the total renewable energy capacity to 9.7 kW.

In 2017, the City of St. Louis passed a resolution requiring all buildings 50,000 sq. ft. or larger to benchmark their building’s energy use using Energy STAR Portfolio Manager. Part of the process required the documentation of energy from the grid vs. renewables. The renewable energy from the original solar and wind were monitored using an old platform called Fat Spaniel, which was acquired by an inverter manufacturer and ultimately unsupported. When the supplementary solar and wind energy systems were installed in 2012, the monitoring system was replaced with Deck Monitoring, which was later acquired by Also Energy and phased out. So that left John Sweet, co-executive director of the WAK Foundation, in need of support to compile usage and production information, and he reached out to EnerGuidance for guidance.

The first step was to port the data from the defunct Deck Monitoring system to Also Energy’s flagship monitoring platform, PowerTrack. The data loggers for each system needed to be configured in the system to recognize each of the renewable energy sources and organize and label meters with intuitive labeling. What complicated matters was that the Outback battery backup happened to be both a consumer and producer of renewable energy, storing clean energy from the Uni-Solar thin film system for use in a grid outage. Regrettably this took months to iron out the kinks, with a significant investment in data analysis and time back and forth with the vendor to correct anomalies.

While the process was long, frustrating and relatively arduous, it was satisfying in the end to prove out that, when functioning properly, the renewable energy generation equipment produced over half (53%) of the loads of the building in 2020. The Energy Utilization Index (EUI) of 34.7 is 68% lower than the median, but because the building usage is categorized as “Social/Meeting Hall” the property was not eligible to apply for Energy STAR certification.

Update 3/1/24: Phil Judd of ACME Information  Technology is updating the monitoring hardware to use with eGauge monitoring platform, which stores all data onsite and requires no subscription or ongoing maintenance. This additional hardware investment is a smart move for the client, as it will be simpler to manage and will replace technologically outdated hardware with a well-supported platform.

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