Churches Can Lower Electric Bills with Energy Demand Management and Solar

How much money per year do churches spend on electricity? If you Google this, some internet sources report spending can be as high as $1.30 per sq ft! With today’s inflation rates seeing the largest annual increases since 1981, this makes todays current electricity cost for churches even more burdensome. Electricity is a significant cost for churches and merits a closer look at different strategies that can be adopted to lower the amount of usage. Energy Sentry, a division of Brayden Automation, provides Energy Demand Management services and products. We took a look at how churches can successfully decrease high demand charges and increase overall energy efficiency in this inflated economy through a combination of solar applications, Time-of-Use,  and peak demand controllers.

In our opinion, churches happen to be one of the best applications for solar and demand management. In most cases its energy use is low (relatively speaking), but it is compressed into short periods of time creating very predictable peaks, which is ideal for energy demand management.

But first, what is energy demand management? Energy demand management involves regulating the rate of energy use so energy is used in a more efficient way. Often times we see a higher quantity of energy is used at a specific time during the day. This is referred to as a “peak demand” in energy use. If you were to graph your energy use there would be peaks and valleys throughout the day. The goal of energy demand management is to level off the peaks and fill in the valleys, thus using energy more efficiently and consistently.

setting a demand limit graphs

It is important to note, that Demand Management Systems do not affect comfort or convenience. A church is still able to use whichever appliances it wants at any given time. The system will compensate by managing controlled loads while uncontrolled loads are operating.

Energy Sentry has worked with numerous churches over the years and we’ve come across many types of energy demand management scenarios. Since no church is identical and needs vary from church to church, Energy Sentry is able to look at the individual needs and come up with a combination of strategies, such as Solar and Time-of-Use to achieve better demand management practices.

Common high-energy use loads for Churches
•             Electric Heating units
•             Air Conditioning units
•             Electric Hot Water Heaters
•             Baptismal Heaters

Demand Management and Solar applications actually complement each other quite well. In fact, if a church were looking into using solar “on the grid” and wanted to “sell” the solar produced kWhs to the utility, it would ideally want to be on what is known as a straight kWh “energy-only rate”. Most straight kWh rates sell each kWh at a much higher price than they do on a demand rate. For example, Xcel Energy in Colorado buys kWhs on the C Rate (kWh rate) at around 8¢ per kWh versus 3¢ on the SG Rate (demand rate). Preferably, a church would want to be on the C Rate to maximize the return on the kWhs and its investment in a solar PV system. Second, the demand charge can offset most of the savings that a solar PV system can generate due to the fact that the sun doesn’t always shine. For a church, getting on an energy-only rate (non-demand) is important to making the economics of solar work.

There are two main types of demand management scenarios that might apply to churches. First, for many churches, the goal is to get on and stay on small commercial rate, meaning they need to keep their demand under a certain kW threshold. While the second scenario we see often is for larger churches, the objective is simply to reduce every kW of demand possible to limit their monthly peak demand charge. Normally, this second scenario is for larger churches that have no chance of getting on a lower rate category. Keep in mind that it only takes one demand interval (generally 15 minutes) to set the energy peak demand for that month. So, keeping the peak demand low at all times is crucial for keeping costs down.

Energy Sentry has several customers successfully apply the strategy of pairing one of our demand controllers with a solar unit to maximize savings and efficiency. For example, if a cloudy day arises, the Energy Sentry demand controller will step in and manage non-critical loads to ensure the facility does not go over the specified threshold. Abundant Grace Church is a customer who use our demand controllers in conjunction with a Solar System and has had a huge success remaining on Xcel Energy’s “C” commercial rate (non-demand rate). Two of our more recent clients who use both solar and Energy Sentry demand controllers, Church of God Seventh Day (Thornton, CO) and Lookout Ridge Farm (Longmont, CO) have also had this same success on Xcel Energy’s C-Rate.

For churches that have too high of a peak demand to get below the threshold, lowering their peak demand is the ultimate goal. We’ve had customers who have offset most of their kWh charges with Solar Power generation, but are left with peak demand charges on their electric bill. By installing an Energy Sentry demand controller, they have minimized their peak demand costs. A great example of this is Mountain View Methodist Church (MVMC) in Boulder, Colorado. By utilizing solar generation and a peak demand control system, MVMC reduced their yearly electric bill from $10,633 to an astonishing $168. MVMC is an ideal example of an organization fully capitalizing on the combination of solar and demand control to maximize their cost savings as well as their returns.

Energy Sentry’s 9388C and 9388M are specifically tailored for commercial use. These demand controllers contain advanced software that calculate the rate at which electric use is approaching the demand limit, and sheds electric loads accordingly to prevent going over the set limit.  The controlled loads are those which can be deferred for a brief period with little or no effect on comfort, convenience, or interruption of a process. These advanced demand controllers make it possible to reduce yearly electric bills as dramatically as MVMC has done.

In today’s market, our recommendation is for churches to explore the combination of solar power, time-of-use, and energy demand management to lower electric bills. A demand control system is the key element that is needed to help minimize or eliminate the impact of peak demand charges, which can make a noticeable impact on monthly expenses. Churches are great candidates because they have very identifiable peak usage periods that can be leveled out with our energy demand management systems. We have worked with numerous churches over the past 30+ years to save them extensive amounts on their electric bills. On average, Energy Sentry can help save 10-40% on electric bills per year.

How much would your church save? If you are interested in learning more about Energy Sentry demand management systems and how they can be used with Solar applications, please call us today at (888) 272-9336.



Want to know more about Demand? Contact the experts at Brayden Automation Corp.

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