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IoT tech enables big savings on Kanata retrofit

Don Wall
IoT tech enables big savings on Kanata retrofit
ECOGRID — A smart lighting installation at a steel fabrication shop involved replacing 400-watt metal halide lights with LED lights with capacity generally set at 50 per cent and only dialled up when production staff requires it.

The president of Toronto’s EcoGrid Technologies is crediting fine-tuned internet of things lighting controls and smart use of provincial and federal rebates with enabling a client to achieve an immediate full return on investment on a recent lighting retrofit job.

EcoGrid partnered with RPM Commercial Energy Solutions on the Smart LED conversion project for AstenJohnson’s 350,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Kanata, Ont. Ninety-four-per-cent savings were achieved on the facility lighting-energy spend, with over 240 kilowatts in peak demand savings and reduced consumption by over 2,128,951 kilowatt-hours — figures verified by Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) — plus there was a 42-per-cent increase in overall plant illuminance.

“Payback in one day, I have been around a long time, I haven’t seen it,” said EcoGrid boss George Filtsos. “But that’s not to say it won’t happen more often now. The control prices are coming down, economies of scale, I think you will see it more often.”

The internet of things (IoT) controls used by EcoGrid employ either Bluetooth or Zigbee meshing protocols — in the case of the AstenJohnson job, it was Bluetooth. The timing of the control logic for the new lighting was fine-tuned for maximum efficiency, said Filtsos, with, for example, 70 per cent lighting capacity used at work stations where there is lots of quality control required and 55 per cent in warehouse spaces where less is needed.

The digital infrastructure is installed in the ceiling.

“We are taking down the old technology and fitting up new and that technology has a wireless component to it, and they can tap into it for future technology, for example asset tracking, material management, wayfinding. All this stuff is all Bluetooth mesh technology,” Filtsos explained.

There are two streams of rebates available from the IESO, he explained, a custom track and a prescriptive track. The latter offers a flat fee rebate for replacing older-technology fixtures with newer ones, while with the custom track there is a baseline audit and the installer prepares a custom-engineered solution that gives reductions from the baseline and rebates based on savings per kilowatt-hour.

The IESO is quite rigorous ensuring validation of the custom track, Filtsos said.

“We need to validate all numbers for the custom track, before and after the installation,” he said.

“It requires diligence on both ends. In this particular case, there were two or three rounds of calculations and they came in for the last round of calculations themselves to validate it.”

The custom track can offer a rebate of up to 50 per cent of the project cost, he said, while the prescription track typically never gets that high.

EcoGrid employs electricians with specially adapted skills to undertake the computer work required to synch the new lighting with the IoT controls, Filtsos said. This work seems best suited for younger electricians or apprentices who tend to take more naturally to the IoT installations, he said.

“Those apprentices who have computer skills tend to be in the younger demographic,” said Filtsos.

“When I tell them, here’s a phone, here’s the Bluetooth software, here’s how you program the lights, they pick it up like it’s nothing. Whereas an older worker in the 35-to-45 demographic, they are not going to be as warm to it. So, the apprentices have been doing a lot of my programming.”

The same goes for other systems, he said — the HVAC, for example, can also be linked into the IoT controls.

The final piece of the savings puzzle, in addition to the IESO rebate and the energy savings, is the federal tax rebate, the Capital Cost Allowance Accelerated Investment Incentive, introduced by the Liberal government in November 2018. That allows claims for depreciation of an entire project in the first year, giving a sizeable rebate, Filtsos explained.

“With a capital project you have to replace the old equipment with the new equipment which has the technology connected with it, you can go and write it off as a capital expense,” he said.

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