By Alan Hickman, Managing Director of Carlo Gavazzi
The ability of metering and monitoring solutions to eliminate the unnecessary use of energy in buildings is not only widely accepted but also well documented and as a result the installation of these solutions is now widespread. But while the collection of energy consumption data is becoming the norm, it is the ability to collect this data in a manner which allows the user flexibility to manage the information according to their own needs which is essential.
So if you are responsible for the operation of a single site it is imperative that you are able to monitor all of the equipment and ensure that each piece of plant is operating in the most efficient manner possible. However if you are responsible for multiple sites and installations you need to be able to integrate the data from all of the sites to ensure efficiency.
This is perhaps one of the main drivers for many of the systems which are now on the market and the fast pace at which technology has continued to evolve in this field has proved to be a real benefit for the end user.
The introduction of our VMU-C EM energy platform is a case in point. A modular solution, the VMU-C EM allows you to gather data from up to 32 energy meters, power analysers and VMU Series I/O modules on a single installation and view this information on any PC.
For a single site this integrated web server unit provides the necessary data to be used as a standalone solution which allows the user to monitor and manage their energy consumption and ensure that their plant is running efficiently. But perhaps the real benefit of this system is the ability of the VMU-C EM to act as a gateway which gives the user complete flexibility in the way in which the information is handled.
VMU-C EM sits at the core of a distributed architecture providing data from a central source and its M2M functionality allows it to automatically transfer this data via FTP, HTTP or MODBUS/TCP to a remote server where a Scada or Building Management System (BMS) is running. For example, if a building is controlled via a BMS the VMU-C EM pushes data to the BMS which uses the information to take relevant actions such as making alterations to the operation of the plant in order to optimise efficiency.
The ability to interface with a BMS or a cloud based service provider in this manner allows for the management of multi-site installations and provides a high level of flexibility for the user. But at the same time interfacing with external service providers in this manner can incur ongoing hosting costs and for many companies this ongoing cost can prove to be prohibitive
However one of the main benefits of VMU-C EM is that it also acts as a gateway to other self-contained solutions which have gained in popularity as a result of the fact that many companies find it easier, and financially more viable to commit to a single capital expenditure rather than to ongoing hosting costs
The VMU-Y EM is one such solution because it provides all of the benefits of a multi-site solution without the ongoing costs. It embeds in a compact 2-DIN module and allows the user to aggregate information from up to 10 VMU-C EM units within a single centralised interface. This effectively allows you to monitor up to 320 meters and access the information from any PC using a standard web browser.
The evolution of cloud based technology in recent years has also introduced a greater degree of flexibility in the way that data is gathered and monitored remotely. It is this technology which lies at the heart of our EM²-Server which still uses the VMU-C EM as a gateway but to provide a cloud solution for the management of multi-site applications.
The EM²-Server is a virtual machine software solution which is hosted either in the customer’s own facility as a self-contained solution, or in a hosting farm. It enables the user to scale up the size of existing VMU-C EM based installations and as a result allows for flexible monitoring and data aggregation from up to 3200 meters located in up to 100 installations sites within a single central database.
For many organisations the key to successful energy monitoring is flexibility and as such a solution which provides the ability to monitor a single site or multiple sites and installations via a gateway is essential. But the ability for this solution to be scalable is also a major benefit for companies large and small because it enables their energy management system to evolve with the company.
What is clear is that in order to gain a comprehensive picture of energy usage the user requires a solution which combines all of this whilst allowing them determine how to manage the information which is gathered – and only then will the best results be achieved.
This feature was published in the March 2015 issue of Energy Manager. If you would like to commission a similar feature please contact Karen Fletcher.