DERs Decoded: Fueling Property Management Success     

A screenshot of "Table 2. Summary of Cost and Performance Parameters for Distributed Generation Technologies". There are 8 columns that include "Technology", "Size Range (kW)", "Installed Cost ($/kW)", "Heat Rate (Btu/kWhe)", "Approx. Efficiency (%)", "Variable O&M ($/kWh)", and "Emissions" with two separate columns, one for "NOx" and one for "CO2". Technologies described include: "Diesel Engine", "Natural Gas Engine", "Natural Gas Engine with CHP", "Dual-Fuel Engine", "Microturbine", "Microturbine w/CHP", "Combustion Turbine", "Combustion Turbine w/CHP", "Fuel Cell", "Photovoltaics", "Wind Turbine", "Battery", "Flywheel", "SMES", and "Hybrid Systems".

Distributed Energy Resources (DER) are small technologies that generate and/or store energy. DERs can connect to the power grid or stand alone.

For property managers, DERs may offer the following:

  • Energy Management and Reliability. DER systems can augment current energy sources. This helps manage energy costs and ensures a reliable power supply.
  • Energy Independence. Buildings can run independently from the electric power grid using DER systems.
  • Economic Benefits. High energy and fuel costs and incentives can greatly lower the life-cycle costs of DER.
  • Emergency Preparedness. DER systems offer energy security when they power critical loads during power outages. This is good for the building and the community.

For property managers who want to make use of DERs, but don’t know where to start, we propose the “Distributed Energy Resources, A How-To Guide for Federal Facility Managers”. Even though this is geared towards federal managers, it supplies practical steps that anyone can use to assess, act on, and benefit from DER projects.

Step 1: Analyze Your Facility’s Energy Needs

A building’s energy needs vary and may depend on the building, the utility that serves it, and even the buildings around it. This section suggests potential problems and solutions and highlights the benefits for several DER applications. These include standby power, low-cost energy, stand-alone systems, peak shaving, improved power quality, and “green” power. “Table 1 DER Technology Applications Matrix” makes it easy to find out which DERs can solve which problems.

Step 2: Select a DER Technology

Making up a third of this fact sheet, this section is a rich, yet concise summary of DERs currently on the market. Considerations for cost, environmental conditions, and permitting are offered for each DER explored. This section offers a more detailed dive into the problems mentioned in Step 1. “Table 2 Summary of Cost and Performance Parameters for Distributed Generation Technologies” is an especially helpful tool. Property managers can easily see the size range, installed cost, heat rate, efficiency, variable operations and maintenance costs, and estimated emissions of NOx (nitrogen oxides) and CO2 (two regulated pollutants).

Step 3: Screen the Technologies

This section warns against getting too far into the weeds before taking a close look at life cycle costs. Some DERs that may seem expensive on the surface could be some of the best options over time. For this purpose, the DOE (Department of Energy) offers the Building Life Cycle Cost (BLCC) economic analysis software tool.

Step 4: Acquire Resources

This can be summed up as “get experts and funding” and almost all of the guidance here is specific to federally owned properties.

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Step 5: Develop a Project Plan

Perform a feasibility study. If preliminary results are positive, go on to consider financing, permitting, and utility connections and rates in more detail. Don’t forget that a “new DER system can change your facility’s energy demand and thus your rate structure.”

Step 6: Address Potential Barriers

Technical barriers are mostly related to permitting, as DERs should not harm the power grid. Fuel availability and storage, space limitations; power quality impacts, fire safety, zoning and operations and maintenance are all mentioned. Most of this section wisely de-mystifies the permitting schedule and process. While permitting smaller systems may be easier, many permits are fixed-fee. This means that they will be a much larger percent of a smaller project’s cost than a larger project.

Step 7: Install and Operate Your DER!

While operations and maintenance is the longest and most expensive phase of any DER, this section is a single paragraph. Refer to the manufacturer’s operations and maintenance guidance for your DER.

In Conclusion

For property managers hoping to harness the potential of DERs, the “Distributed Energy Resources, A How-To Guide for Federal Facility Managers” serves as a great resource. By following these steps, property managers can make informed decisions that keep tenants happy and help the bottom line.


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