Thermal and electric energy is vital for modern humans. For some, it is enough that they can get electricity out from the plug and enjoy a warm and nice indoor temperature no matter the weather. However, energy’s journey to the plug and to be used for indoor heating is quite long. It must be first produced somewhere, then distributed from production site to the final site, where it must be delivered reliably to the end-user.
Energy can be produced in various ways. There are large centralized energy and heating plants, as well as smaller distributed energy production units. Energy can be produced from a variety of sources such as burning fossil or bio-based materials, from biogas, solar energy, wind power, hydropower, heat pump solutions or nuclear power. These are common examples of energy production methods. The energy produced can be distributed through pipes as gas, hot water or through wires as electricity.
However, the existence of energy solely doesn’t guarantee conditions in line with the preferences of modern human. The energy should be utilized smartly, by minimizing the amount of wasted energy and costs generated by production along the entire path, from the production site to the place of usage. But what is smart energy management?
Smart Energy Management
Smart energy management is based on utilizing measurable parameters and a large amount of data. The transition to smart energy solutions affects countries, cities, municipalities and individual properties everywhere. The changes brought by digitalization make transforming energy systems to smarter entities possible for each sector.
Smart energy management aims to optimize the cost of acquiring energy and the emissions they cause without compromising the conditions. The transformation of energy systems affects production, transmission, usage and storage of energy. In the end, the path will also lead to ordinary buildings changing into an increasingly smart direction. In addition to data transfer, smart buildings are sometimes able to control electrical loads centrally and versatilely depending on the situation. Smart solutions aim to control the property’s heat and electrical energy consumption, self-production and possible storing in the most optimal way possible.
Smart real estate is a long-term process. New construction projects can consider smart solutions already in the early phases of the planning. The behaviour of the property can be studied through energy simulation before it is even built. Increasing the smartness of existing buildings is a slightly more challenging process, but by no means impossible.
When simulating, energy systems are turned into computer models to better analyze their properties. The model is built based on a designed or an existing building. The simulation also considers the geographical location of the building and the external heat loads that apply to it, such as the effects of the sun on the indoor climate. This offers a way to optimize the technical system and equipment without unnecessary energy usage in the premises. The model can be used to analyze the most cost-effective structural and technical solutions before making an actual investment decision. This prevents unnecessary construction costs and helps to make sustainable decisions through energy-efficient and functional technical systems.
The cornerstone of a smart building is its technology and the automation system that controls it. The functionality of the building automation system determines whether the property works efficiently or wastes energy. With the development of automation systems, properties can be controlled also on a short term, and the conditions of buildings can be managed remotely and locally almost in real-time.
By utilizing the continuous learning of artificial intelligence, the building automation system recognizes the characteristics of its property and how it behaves in different situations. Ideally, automation is able to control heating, electricity use, ventilation and lighting as efficient as possible, while ensuring that safe and healthy indoor conditions are maintained for both structures and users.
The heating of the property should be controlled so that the most energy-efficient heating systems are used as primary heat generators and direct electric heating only utilized when necessary. The system should also understand how to prevent the simultaneous operation of heating and cooling of the property, which often causes unnecessary energy consumption. If the property has self-production of energy or energy storage solutions, the system should also be able to optimize their use. If the potential self-production exceeds the basic needs of the property, it would be directed to the energy storage facility, from where it will be commissioned when necessary.
Traditionally, energy has been stored in hot water heaters, which is a familiar sight for almost every property owner. Storing electricity, on the other hand, has been a much more difficult process to implement cost-effectively, especially in larger solutions. Everyone is familiar with batteries in phones and cars, but not so much with larger battery solutions. Over the past few decades, battery technology has evolved in leaps and industrial-sized and property-specific battery solutions have appeared on the market. Although technology has evolved and battery prices have come down, they are still quite expensive investments for sites that don’t require secured maintenance.
In the future, energy might be stored as electrically produced hydrogen. Once there is a demand for electricity again, hydrogen would be turned back into electricity through a fuel cell. This would allow long-term seasonal storing of energy, which is a problem to be solved in terms of fully utilizing weather-dependent energy sources such as wind and solar energy. Once the problem of energy storage can be solved, the last missing piece of the puzzle for enabling fully self-sufficient energy management has been found.
When you are seeking to save energy or create smarter building automation to an existing property, you need to know the energy consumption of the property and how it is used thoroughly. If you don’t know how much or what type of energy the property consumes, it is almost impossible to look for possibilities to save. By taking different kinds of measurements and studying the data, it’s possible to determine how the consumption is divided and take action accordingly.
The building and providing essential services often consumes unnecessary heat, electricity and water. Various things that can be difficult to find with your own eyes can easily lead to excessive consumption of energy. Improvements can be applied based on studies and energy audits carried out by third-party service providers. Opportunities for saving can be found for example in structures, outdated equipment or non-functioning building automation systems. We also shouldn’t forget the role of the property users in saving energy. Incorrect use can lead to unnecessary energy consumption and changing this type of behaviour can achieve considerable benefits.
Saving energy also means saving in costs, which is a good motivator for moving towards a more energy-efficient and cleaner future. One of the most important points during this journey is to replace old fossil-based resources with renewable energy.
Utilisation of renewable energies
There is a growing interest in both the public and private side to utilize renewable energy and make emission cuts. Switching from oil to renewable energy sources is an objective also sponsored by the state. Alternatives may include different heat pump solutions or hydronic heating systems that utilise bioenergy. The use of locally produced wood chips or pellets to heat private properties supports both the regional economy and the principles of the circular economy.
Small-scale distributed energy production with solar panels has also reared its head in Northern Finland over the years. Depending on the application (houses, cottages, off-grid cameras, e-bike charging stations, etc.) the systems can have quite different requirements, so you should pay close attention when purchasing equipment. In addition to generating electricity for the off-grid area, it is important to consider different battery solutions to ensure the functionality of the systems also in challenging conditions.
Whether it is to save costs, get rid of fossil energy sources or improve self-sufficiency, renewable energies offer a wide range of solutions. Heat pumps, solar power and wood-based fuels can offer good opportunities for saving energy. At the same time the climate thanks!
We have years of experience from different kinds of projects and studies. Our objective is to remain on top of development with the means of continuous learning and research. Contact us and let’s see what kind of energy solutions we can offer you.