Consolidating Multiple Automation Systems
A large university transitions automation systems to a single power management system, and encounters challenges in user interface design and navigation along the way.
The University of Virginia (UVA) is a public research university. Its energy plants produce steam, hot water, chilled water, and distribute purchased electricity from the local utility.
The university’s metering team measures and collects energy management data and maintains the 1,000+ meters throughout both the campus and university medical center. Meter data is used to allocate costs, verify sustainability efforts, and identify problems with building systems resulting in excessive energy costs.
Electric, steam, water, and thermal energy (Btu) meters were originally integrated into several of the campus building automation systems (Johnson Controls and Automated Logic), power management system, or stand alone. The hospital has its own SCADA system that integrated meters throughout its electrical distribution system.
The greatest thing about the Schneider Electric PME system Affinity Energy customized for us, is it allows my group to easily access real-time and historical energy data from hundreds of different meters across academic and medical campuses.
Now we have one easy-to-use data acquisition system with re-usable meter templates forming the backbone of our M&V data collection, and our team can focus more time on supporting energy sustainability initiatives.
Justin Huddleston, Metering Supervisor, UVA
As the campus continued to expand, the facilities department realized troubleshooting meter problems across multiple automation systems was increasingly problematic. There was also a need to modernize the hospital SCADA system.
As a result, the facilities department decided to use their Schneider Electric Power Monitoring Expert (PME) system as their primary meter integration tool. This meant moving forward, all new meters to the extent possible, would be added to this system and existing meters not needed for control would be migrated as time and opportunity would allow. This also meant the hospital SCADA would need to be migrated into PME as well.
In addition to the challenge of finding a partner to consolidate multiple automation systems into one, the university did not have an easy way to get the several hundreds of buildings and associated meters on a single HMI screen. Part of the challenge was user interface limitations of PME software. PMEs greatest strength is its ability to quickly build a cost-effective system. The trade-off? It requires significantly more time to customize which, in the case of UVA, was necessary to make the system more user friendly.
As the expansion of the PME system took place, it became more difficult to work with the default navigation framework. Each piece of meter data required a counterintuitive click spiral into seemingly never-ending navigation silos. The first page had buildings grouped together, which led to a second page of buildings, which led to a single building, which led to all meters in the building, which led to a single meter’s data. According to Justin Huddleston, metering supervisor at UVA, “it was taking way too many clicks to get to meter details.”
UVA needed a partner to help migrate meters and existing SCADA systems into PME, and a solution to make PME’s navigation nightmare a little more user friendly.
As a long-time integration partner of UVA and as a Schneider Electric EcoXpert, Affinity Energy was the obvious integrator of choice to tackle these problems.
Affinity Energy began working with the university to integrate the hospital’s SCADA system into the PME system. This scope was extensive, since it involved significant changes to the network and device addressing to allow equipment within the hospital to communicate across the campus to the Schneider Electric PME system.
As the university started expanding the PME system, Affinity Energy also assisted with the development of templates for generators, automatic transfer switches, protection devices, and a multitude of different meters.
Affinity Energy met with all UVA system users to understand the different ways the system was being interacted with. After just a few hours and discussions with university staff, engineers came away with a navigation architecture that made PME system interaction more intuitive for all users and significantly reduced the number of clicks. The homepage now houses access to all 200 campus buildings. To make navigation even easier, Affinity Energy also created a custom HTML page that allows operators to search for meters by name.
At the University of Virginia, the transition towards a more consolidated and reliable data collection system provides various users with the information they need to ensure energy sustainability objectives are measured and verified, and efficiency is maintained.
Affinity Energy attacked the work and things progressed quickly. They worked with us on standardizing and personalizing PME. The new navigation works very well and Affinity Energy worked with our staff to ensure they know how to integrate the meters they added into the new navigation.
–Scott Martin, Systems Integration & Development Manager, UVA