Facility Retrofit: Visibility Into Energy Consumption

To improve insight into energy use, California tech firm Nimble Storage installed an energy management analytics platform.

Nimble Storage in North San Jose, CA wanted to pinpoint energy usage patterns at its headquarters facilities to improve efficiency.

energy consumptionThe tech company, a provider of predictive flash storage products, implemented an energy management analytics platform to track consumption. Founded in 2008, Nimble Storage operates 23 offices around the world, in addition to its main campus facility.

Dan Hoffman, senior director of global real estate and facilities, discusses the implementation and results.

By Facility Executive Staff
From the November/December 2016 Issue

Please describe the facilities involved in the scope of this project.

When Nimble Storage was looking for a new headquarters in 2013, North San Jose was quickly becoming a hotbed for Silicon Valley tech innovation, and established industry players as well as up-and-coming startups were flocking to the area for office and research space. We selected The River Oaks Parkway complex, which is a three building, 165,000 square foot campus that had been recently renovated to include modern exterior and interior design features and a large, outdoor common area. The campus comprises both office space and data center space, so all three buildings are fairly high energy use facilities. In aggregate, the Nimble headquarters hosts over 500 employees daily.

Please describe this energy management project.

Each of the three buildings at our corporate headquarters has been independently metered by our utility partners since late 2013. MACH Energy, our provider of cloud-based energy management software and services (EMS) since September 2015, grabs the interval data from these meters and equips us with a variety of granular analytics and actionable initiatives that allow us to streamline our energy consumption. This interval data is collected every 15 minutes, demonstrating the aggregated energy load of each building that comes from a variety of mechanical operations.

energy consumptionFor us, there are two primary benefits to using MACH’s EMS platform: 1) operational reporting and 2) budgeting and forecasting. In terms of the former, the EMS sends us daily operational reports, which compares our actual energy use with our expected energy use to determine if there are any abnormal energy expenditures in any of the campus buildings. Not only does this identify for us if anything looks unusual, it proposes initiatives that we can implement to enhance building operations, such as equipment adjustments and stop/start times for our facilities. Put simply, it allows us to look at the operational use of the building compared to what it should be and, then, recommends actions to optimize this operational use.

energy consumption
Nimble Storage operates its 165,000-square- foot headquarters campus in North San Jose, CA. Located there since 2013, the tech firm employs energy management analytics to keep tabs on energy use. (Photos: Nimble Storage)

Secondly, we find EMS-enabled budgeting and forecasting to be extremely valuable. By aggregating historical data, weather information, and occupancy inputs (i.e., the head count in our office space and the number of server racks in our data centers), the budgeting and forecasting tool enables us to predict energy use and costs, so that we can produce accurate financial budgets efficiently. It also provides all the variance reporting and helps us to provide accruals to our accounting department.

Aside from our headquarters, we have a second research and development site in Durham, NC, and we’re in the process of implementing MACH’s EMS platform there as well, after experiencing the success we had with it in San Jose.

What were the motivating factors to pursue this energy management project?

We were looking for a tool that communicated to our management that we were proactively examining our energy usage and making sure we were operating our buildings at maximum efficiency. Further, we wanted to improve operational performance without incurring any high capital costs or undergoing any invasive installations. So, EMS seemed like a logical and cost-effective way to optimize our existing building systems.

How did you research the options available in the market? And how did you arrive at the final decision to implement this EMS platform?

When I first came to Nimble Storage, there was not an EMS analytics platform in place, but the company wanted a tool to identify any operational inefficiencies and to scale back energy costs. We looked at other companies similar to MACH and did a comparison based on three key factors: the usefulness of the data, the accuracy of forecasting, and the GUI (Graphical User Interface). While other EMS platforms were newer, MACH has had years to refine its energy management software across these criteria, so we decided to implement it at our San Jose campus and have been greatly satisfied by the service ever since. Nimble actually offers a comparable predictive analytics product—known as InfoSight, so we were happy to find an energy analytics provider that values data science in the same way that we do.

How has the system impacted how you and your staff do your work? For instance, did certain facility procedures or policies need to be updated?

Overall, using MACH’s EMS has allowed us to tighten up energy usage and operational expenses across the headquarters facility. We’re growing in these buildings too, so having an analytics tool that helps us predict energy consumption and costs as we grow is critically important. Additionally, for our North Carolina R&D facility, this EMS technology will allow us to adapt our operations accordingly during the hot, humid summers and cold winters at that location. Indeed, being able to know and predict these weather changes on a week-by-week and day-by-day basis is indispensable for optimal building performance.

What have the results been?

After comparing accumulated data from January-August 2014 (before we implemented EMS) and data from January-August 2016 (when EMS was in place), we saw a significant improvement in overall energy consumption and a corresponding reduction in energy costs. Based on this “before and after” comparison of building performance during the period of January-August 2014 and during the period of January-August 2016, we determined that our facilities have reduced energy expenditures by about 277,000 kWh, which amounts to a 28.1% reduction rate. In terms of environmental impact, this equates to about 170.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions eliminated—a number that we hope to increase in the years to come.

But facility managers always have budgetary concerns on their minds, and there’s an enormous economic benefit to using EMS as well; based on the same comparison of building performance during the period of January-August 2014 and during the period of January-August 2016, we saw that we saved over $25,500 after implementing EMS, which is about a 15.3% reduction in overall energy costs. More than this, we identified a utility billing error that resulted in approximately $80,000 in savings. For Nimble, the numbers don’t lie: EMS simply makes our facilities run more efficiently, cost-effectively, and eco-consciously.

To learn more, visit the Nimble Storage website. Find out more about MACH Energy at www.machenergy.com.

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