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sts.components.contact.mr.placeholder Sebastian Webel
Mr. Sebastian Webel

Editor-in-Chief

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Fax: +49 89 636-35292

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Pictures of the Future
The Magazine for Research and Innovation
 

The Future of Energy

Chains with Brains

Siemens’ Site Controls Energy Management System (EMS) has been installed in around 1,500 stores. Thanks to the system, ALDI USA has reduced its annual CO2 emissions by approximately 29,000 tons.

Supermarket chains, department stores, and fast food restaurants are examples of retail businesses that can have hundreds or even thousands of outlets. Since all of the outlets in such a chain generally have the same energy needs, they can benefit significantly from chain-wide automated energy management systems (EMS). A case in point is a Siemens EMS system that harvests data and continuously refines operations in some 1,500 ALDI supermarkets in the U.S. – with impressive results.

Energy efficiency is at the top of everyone’s agenda – not least because the cleanest energy is the energy that isn’t needed. There is a huge potential for energy conservation, especially in buildings, industry and transportation.  

Examples of Siemens’ focus on energy efficiency abound. They range from research projects designed to optimize the movements – and thus the energy use – of automotive industry robots, to the radical reduction of the environmental footprint of major buildings, as exemplified by the company’s new headquarters.

Pinpointing Energy Waste

On average, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 30 percent of the energy used in commercial buildings in the United States is wasted. Typically, three quarters of this waste is generated in just two areas: climate control – meaning heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) – and lighting. The reason for this high level of inefficiency is simple. Most buildings were built before anyone was even thinking about sustainability.

What to do? Although energy savings are bound to improve by just replacing old equipment with newer systems, such retrofits are not only costly in terms of materials and downtime, but do little or nothing to address issues associated with a building’s total energy efficiency over time, how to measure this, or how to compare the performance of hundreds of similar buildings in a chain.

With Site Controls technology, energy-relevant systems are equipped with sensors that continuously monitor their performance.

Distilling Data

The Austin, Texas-based Retail & Commercial Systems (RCS) group at Siemens’ Building Technologies Division offers Site Controls EMS, an energy management system that addresses all of these questions. “Giving a chain of buildings an EMS is like outfitting it with a nervous system,” explains RCS General Manager Marcus Boerkei. “Sensors designed to continuously monitor equipment performance are installed in energy-related systems from HVAC and lighting, to photovoltaic systems, signage, walk-in refrigerators, and trash compactors.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 30 percent of the energy used in commercial buildings in the United States is wasted.

In addition, with Siemens’ EMS concept, customer areas are outfitted with CO2 sensors as a proxy for occupancy detection — a key parameter in determining how much outside air is needed to maintain air quality on a real-time basis. The system also connects thermostats and lighting controls to a control box with its own Linux-based computer and embedded Web server. Each store’s control box queries its sensors every 60 seconds and delivers a condition report to the chain operator’s headquarters every two hours.

Such a system generates an extraordinary amount of data. According to a Siemens white paper: “In the course of monitoring and controlling a medium-sized building (3,000 square meters), an efficient EMS will gather around 40,000 time-stamped data points each day. For an enterprise with 1,000 retail locations, this yields over 10 billion data points per year.” To help retailers turn EMS data into intelligence, the system refines this flood into a few dozen intelligent observations whose patterns can be analyzed and distilled into actionable insights.

Shopping for Energy Savings

Siemens’ Site Controls EMS has been installed at nearly 1,500 ALDI retail locations throughout the United States. The majority of the installations were retrofits at existing stores, while the remaining systems were installed in newly built stores.

Complementing the huge amount of information now being generated by EMS systems in ALDI’s stores is the Site Controls Enterprise Portal, a cloud-based data analytics platform that provides the grocer with enterprise-level dashboards, KPIs and outlier reporting to quickly pinpoint and resolve issues that would otherwise drive excessive energy consumption or negatively impact customer comfort. The system is also set to help ALDI lower maintenance costs by streamlining identification of problems and by intelligently dispatching and remotely validating work performed by HVAC service technicians.

Thanks to cloud-based data management and continuous data harvesting, EMS software is now helping ALDI to, for instance, identify which cooling systems work best in which climates, and which ones have the best service and efficiency records. “All of this information helps to optimize functions in existing facilities, and supports the planning of new facilities,” says Boerkei. “It also allows ALDI to look at a store’s portfolio, compare it year over year, and even compare how its portfolio  is doing compared to the industry average in real time.”

With Siemens' EMS, customer areas are outfitted with CO2 sensors as a proxy for occupancy detection — a key parameter in determining how much outside air is needed to maintain air quality on a real-time basis.

Four Thousand Homes

ALDI selected Siemens after an initial 16-site pilot in 2012 validated the Site Controls system’s ability to reduce energy consumption at its stores, and a 180-site rollout in 2013 demonstrated that results could be replicated across an entire region. By working together, ALDI and Siemens were able to successfully install the remaining sites in less than 10 months. The renowned US magazine Environmental Leader named this innovation the Top Project of the Year 2016. ALDI also plans to install the Site Controls system in new stores as it continues to expand across the U.S.

ALDI estimates that its stores made up a significant portion of its total carbon emissions. With the Site Controls EMS now installed, ALDI anticipates reducing carbon emissions by 29,000 metric tons per year—the annual equivalent of removing 6,100 cars from the road or of providing electricity for 4,000 homes. Furthermore, the energy cost savings associated with the project have exceeded ALDI’s capital investment criteria, providing a favorable return on investment (ROI).

Arthur F. Pease
Picture credits: from top: 1. ALDI Inc., 4. picture alliance / ZUMAPRESS.com