Building Energy Efficiency: Building Performance via Energy Harvesting

If you’re a facility manager who’s concerned about building performance, you would do well to consider energy harvesting.

iStock_000032652964SmallEarly last year, the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies listed wireless power (aka energy-harvested power) in its top 10 technologies that would have the “greatest impact on the state of the world in 2012,” according to an article in Facilitiesnet.

Whether that statement is true or not has yet to be shown, but the value of energy harvesting can’t be ignored.

Energy harvesting pulls from available resources. We’ve seen this concept used in past years with windmills, water wheels and other systems.

But what’s new on the forefront is micro-electromechanical technologies, or micro-size energy harvesters, which harvest energy on a smaller scale. In turn the harvested energy is used to power sensors and other devices.

As with other similar energy-harvesting technology systems, the energy is used immediately or stored in batteries or capacitors for when it’s needed. No outside power source is required in this system and energy that would have been wasted is not.

Not easily convinced about the benefits of energy harvesting?

In her article, Energy Harvesting Increasingly Key for Smart Building Rollouts, ZDNet columnist Heather Clancy highlights some of the emerging technologies.

For example, she notes that the company EnOcean, which has been around since 1990, has launched battery-less wireless modules that are powered by heat generated from such things as machinery parts, radiators and the human body.

EnOcean’s co-founder and vice president of product management, Armin Anders, explains where heat is generated and why it’s useful. “You find differences of temperature in diverse environments: in manufacturing, in heated and air-conditioned premises, through solar radiation, on motors and engines and even on human themselves,” he says. “That makes heat an ideal extra energy source for our self-powered wireless modules.”

One drawback, though, might be cost. The wireless sensors can cost more than the sensors with batteries, according to Clancy’s article. But the installation cost may be lower since an electrician doesn’t need to pull wires. In the end, then, the costs of the wireless sensors and the costs of the battery-operated sensors are probably about the same.

Are you convinced this small technology has larger implications that you shouldn’t overlook?

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