Optimizing HVAC for a Smarter Planet
Chris Dittmer 27000033P6 firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  smarter-planet smart-buildings smart-data-center
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I spend a fair amount of my time talking with IBM customers or speaking at conferences, and most of my conversations center around the IBM Smarter Planet initiative and how IBM solutions can help clients to be more energy and environmentally efficient. The mantra of Smarter Planet is "instrumentation, interconnectedness, and intelligence", and I really enjoy sharing with clients how IBM delivers on that vision. With the release of Maximo for Energy Optimization 7.1.1 in September, I was excited to be able to start sharing a new "Smarter" capability that we were able to bring to market from IBM Research.
The new solution I'm referring to is a solution that helps to optimize the efficiency of air conditioning systems. The first step in this optimization is the "instrument" phase - all air conditioning assets must first be instrumented so that our software can sense the real-time operational metrics associated with them - how much cool air is it producing, how fast the fans are running, the delta between the incoming and outgoing temperatures, etc. This is typically accomplished by tying into existing management systems, but can also be done with external sensors. The "interconnected" phase of the solution focuses on tying this operational data together with other information that we know about the assets, such as the location of these assets on a map. The "intelligence" aspect of Smarter Planet takes this information and analyzes it to illuminate areas of efficiency or inefficiency in the system.
In the attached screenshot, you can see how this analytic helps us to find these inefficiencies. Each of the sections of the room that you can see outlined in black are tied to a single air conditioning unit. The Maximo for Energy Optimization software is able to determine which parts of the room are affected by which air conditioning units. The areas called out in red are areas where the air conditioning unit that is cooling that area is grossly underutilized (less than 30% of its potential). By contrast, the areas in green represent air conditioning units that are being utilized in an efficient range (more like 70-80% of capacity). As it turns out, it is very inefficient to have these air conditioners on, but running at very low utilization.
Recently, IBM was able to utilize this tool in a room with 12 air conditioning units running, and identified that 7 of the units were in "red" in terms of utilization, and the other 5 were "yellow", meaning that they were somewhat underutilized. The 7 inefficient units were turned off, and when the tool was run again to analyze the system, the 5 remaining units were running "green" with the other 7 turned completely off. The energy savings associated with this change were nearly 50%.
It is also fairly common for us to run into situations where air conditioning units are running, but are actually counterproductive, because the air coming into the units is already so cold that it can't be cooled any further. Perhaps the epitome of a "dumb" planet is one where we have air conditioners running that are actually putting out warmer air than they are taking in! Or where heating units and air conditioning units are both running in the same place at the same time... that's not as uncommon as you would think either.
There are all kinds of ways that IBM can help you deliver on the promise of a Smarter Planet - and I think this solution is a perfect example of how we're applying our unique capabilities to realize that vision. For more information on Smarter Planet, visit http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet and for more information on Tivoli energy management capabilities, visit http://www-01.ibm.com/software/tivoli/solutions/green/