A New England Ski Resort Installs SENSEI

As a participant in a utility-sponsored strategic energy management (SEM) cohort in New England, a local ski resort has taken on the ambitious goal of achieving a 15% reduction in energy use. One of the biggest energy hogs at the resort involves snow making. SENSEI will help create a Snow Making Energy Index to assist the resort in managing their electricity costs.

  • Includes 50+ data points from total energy consumption down to individual pump and air compressor operation
  • Points include kW, amps, water flow (GPM), water pressure (PSI), air flow (SCFM), air pressure (PSI), ambient temperature (WB°F), and snow gun operation

The resort is also focused on reducing electrical and propane consumption at their lodging facilities and the athletic center which includes tennis courts, pool, spa, and fitness center. To make their efforts at reducing consumption more effective, each building at the resort will have a regression model uploaded to SENSEI.

Currently the resort has 132 projects listed in SENSEI, including a compressed air leak detection audit on the over 75 miles of pipe buried throughout the mountain.

Cascade Energy is supplying hardware, integration and SENSEI software to support the effort.

We the People … Can Save Energy





When we started thinking about building an energy management information system (EMIS) it wasn’t the act of building a software product that spurred our interest, it was the people using it.

We believe that, at its heart, industrial energy management is about people. And that a great EMIS should be built around supporting people with information, education, and motivation.

When we built SENSEI we had in mind that it would function as an information hub that would give people:

  • The ability to manage performance and cost
  • The opportunity to track progress with cause and effect visibility
  • A place to record or upload all manner of program or project documentation

We wanted SENSEI to be a place of collaboration, where people can learn by:

  • Recording or resourcing ideas and drawing inspiration
  • Tracking action item lists
  • Offering suggestions or help

And then we wanted our platform to be a place for motivation that would offer:

  • Benchmarking capability for a single facility, or between multiple sites across an enterprise
  • Potential for inspiring friendly competition between facilities or DSM program cohorts
  • Clear links between actions taken and savings achieved

Operators, engineers, managers, energy champions, CEOs—everyone, at every level of a company, needs to have the right information and tools to effectively manage energy.

People want to know where to go for information; they want to understand what’s expected of them and to be able to connect actions to energy savings. When people can see positive results derived from their actions, then there’s a much better chance of engagement, and alignment across a single team and the entire company.

Energy Efficiency Isn’t Always Easy for Industrial Companies



Even though energy is one of the biggest expenses for industrial companies, pursuing energy efficiency projects to drive consumption and cost down isn’t necessarily a top priority. Stephen Lacey from greentechmedia recently sat down with Cascade CEO, Marcus Wilcox to explore the complexity behind the key factors that make industrial energy efficiency a challenging proposition. Read Lacey’s article to get a clear picture of Why Efficiency Is So Much Harder in Industrial Facilities Than in Commercial Buildings.

Top Industrial Energy Drivers: Which Ones Impact Your Facility?



Click to enlarge infographic.

Industrial Energy Drivers

When it comes to energy efficiency in an industrial setting, it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of accomplishment with an unexpectedly lower-than-usual utility bill. A temporary reduction in costs might have you thinking, “I must have done something right last month.” In reality, you could be mistaken. In fact, you could be headed in the opposite direction.

Getting at a facility’s true energy performance—or its energy intensity—doesn’t have to be a mystery. The first step involves being able to identify your facility’s energy drivers.

What Are Energy Drivers?

Energy drivers are factors that can cause energy use to vary. They generally fall into two camps: Those you can and should manipulate and others you usually can’t or wouldn’t want to. For instance, you can’t control the weather and you likely wouldn’t slow production simply to save energy. But you can (and definitely would want to) determine the efficiency of the equipment you purchase, or recognize the positive influence of operations and maintenance (O&M) actions on the energy efficiency of the systems at your facility.

The point of identifying energy drivers is to remove the ones you typically can’t or wouldn’t want to control from your facility’s overall energy-use equation. In the grand scheme of things, this group of energy drivers blurs the true picture of energy consumption at your facility. All of the other drivers that you can and should control constitute the purview of energy efficiency.

Factoring out this first group of energy drivers from your facility’s energy data is done through sophisticated statistical regression analysis. Don’t worry; we’re not about to get stat crazy. Our objective for the remainder of the post is to help you understand which of the drivers you can’t control, are in play at your facility. As you identify them, you’ll be more prepared to pinpoint your facility’s true energy performance with the help of statistical modeling (and the data geeks that do the analysis). Gaining insight into your facility’s energy drivers won’t make you an expert in screening every potential variable, but an increased familiarity could help you save time and money in building a viable statistical model that accounts for them.

Common Industrial Energy Drivers

Rather than examine an extensive list of all possible hard-to-control energy drivers, we’ll focus on four we find most frequently in an industrial context: weather, production, schedule, and the quality of raw goods.

1. Weather:

Does your energy use vary seasonally (over the course of the year)?

You might guess that thermal systems work harder to heat in the winter, while refrigeration systems use more energy to keep product cool during the summer. If your facility’s industrial process requires maintaining the temperature of a space, product, process, or tool, then weather will play a hand in how much energy the facility consumes. In fact, the same driver is in play for human-occupied spaces when an HVAC system keeps office temperatures comfortable, in spite of the scorching summer sun.

Temperature plus humidity play a role in energy used for drying processes. Before a lumber mill finalizes its production of dimensional lumber, roughly cut wet timber is kiln-dried then run through a planer to achieve its final dimension. Colder, wet weather affects how much energy is required to dry the lumber.

And, wouldn’t you know it—inclement weather (read: rain and snow) in some climates even determines how much energy is used to process wastewater. Precipitation, snow accumulation, storm events, and saturated ground conditions can increase influent flow substantially during non-summer months or a monsoon season. The extra water in the system means more energy is required throughout the collection and treatment processes.

Ask Yourself: Is Weather an Energy Driver?

  • Check your utility bill history for a pattern of seasonal peaks and valleys—a strong indication that weather is an energy driver at your facility.


2. Production:

Does energy use vary based on long-term production volume? Does your facility have high re-work or scrap-work rates?

For all industrials, energy is simply a means to an end. You’ve got a product to make, and you need energy to do it. Your business is about converting raw materials into something that meets customer needs. Though every facility would love to slow the rate at which their meter spins, you certainly wouldn’t turn down orders for finished goods to do it.

But production as an energy driver isn’t just about volume or the rate at which product is moving down the a conveyor belt. Energy use per product will jump if the product doesn’t meet customer specifications after the initial run and must be reprocessed. In extreme cases, you can double the amount of energy that goes into a product by processing it again. More likely, you might have to repeat a portion of the process again. For example, food processors of seasonal frozen products are often at the mercy of the harvest. As a result, a facility could be up to its eyeballs in raw goods all at once. The pressure to process more quickly creates the potential for inadequately frozen products that need to be reprocessed. From an energy-per-finished-product standpoint, maintaining a proven production process is a more efficient approach.

Ask Yourself: Is Production an Energy Driver?

  • Do you have equipment that operates intermittently, with significant idle time? For example, do you ever have to fire up additional equipment at a certain capacity, or use a different process for a given product line? If the answer is “yes,” it will be easy to identify how your production process influences your energy data.
  • If your operation runs 24-7 with infrequent variance in production levels, it might be hard to detect a production influence. You may need to look at energy data over a much longer time horizon and compare a 12-month rolling average of production with energy use in order to determine any long-term trends.
  • Bonus Energy Tip: Re-work or scrap work is the bane of efficiency (based on the amount of energy used to produce one unit of finished goods). If your “do over” rates seem high or erratic, consider having staff or third-party experts take a second look at your facility’s process. You could save not only energy, but also time and money.


3. Schedule:

Does your energy use vary throughout the week?

Schedule has to do with the normal daily and weekly patterns of production activity at a facility. Because operators run equipment, the amount of energy consumed is typically tied to the number of employees on the floor. Whether you realize it or not, employees make energy efficiency decisions every day by powering up and keeping equipment running, or turning it off when it’s not needed.

If you have an office located within a facility that is closed while the facility operates over the weekend, you might notice that the energy per unit produced (energy intensity) decreases. Since no one occupies the office on Saturdays and Sundays, overall energy use at the facility drops. This doesn’t mean that firing your accounting staff will make you more energy efficient. (Try explaining the overdue power bills to your utility!) It does mean, however, that an energy model created for your facility may need to account for the missing personnel on the weekend.

Ask Yourself: Is Schedule an Energy Driver?

  • If you have access to energy data, compare your energy use during week days with weekends or compare shifts with more personnel on the clock to lighter shifts. If major differences exist, schedule could be an energy driver at your facility.
  • Bonus Energy Tip: It’s important to examine energy use when a facility is idle. This is the “base metabolism” of the facility. If your facility shuts down on weekends and holidays, comparing energy data from the two could be beneficial. Suppose your facility uses 25 percent less energy on average over the weekends than on weekdays. Now, what if holiday use is 50 percent less than your average weekday use? Since you don’t manufacture on either weekends or holidays, comparing your shut-down procedures on weekends to your procedure before holidays could help you save more energy.


4. The Nature or Quality of Raw Goods:

What factors constrain your processing time and/or the amount of saleable output? Is the same amount of energy used for operating systems regardless of the rate of manufacture?

Raw goods entering a facility aren’t always of uniform quality, which may cause your production process to slow down. Since most facilities have multiple fixed loads that are on when producing, a slowdown in the process increases the amount of energy cost per unit of finished goods. At a lumber mill, for example, when the head rig handles logs that are comparatively small in diameter, the process slows and energy intensity climbs. In the food industry, cold storage facilities often blast freeze their product. If the temperature of incoming food products is higher than normal, the process may take longer and require more energy to get product down to final temperature.

In some cases, the same amount of energy is expended with diminishing returns. For example, in solution mining an underground cave is flooded with water to dissolve water-soluble mineral deposits, so they can be pumped out for more processing. Over time, the concentration of soluble minerals decreases and the mine realizes less saleable product for the same amount of energy.

Ask Yourself: Is the Nature or Quality of Raw Goods an Energy Driver?

  • Pay attention when product yields fluctuate despite the same per unit input of raw goods or despite employing the same process. If you don’t have an indication that this is a driver already, chances are personnel close to production know which characteristics of raw goods influence output levels. Ask them.


Disentangle Your Drivers

Looking at your utility bill history to get a read on your facility’s energy efficiency is kind of like sorting through a crowded power strip to locate the cord belonging to a particular device. It’s messy, the cords are interwoven and indistinguishable, and you might unplug something important before finding the right cord. Energy drivers are like the jumbled tangle of cords. By taking the time to tease them out, you can get a much better sense for your facility’s overall energy picture. Better still, by accounting for your energy drivers in order to track your facility’s true energy performance, you can then turn your attention to lowering energy intensity knowing that you now have an accurate measure of progress. And when you see the resulting cost savings on your utility bill (or the avoided cost from your energy model), then you’ll really have cause for celebration.

Check out and save our energy driver infographic (above) to use as a quick reference. Share it with colleagues whom you think would find it useful, too.

Energy Software: Do You know What You Need?


One thing became quite clear from my tour of the tradeshow floor at the 2012 World Energy Engineering Conference in Atlanta: There is a sea of energy monitoring software and systems out there. I don’t envy those of you fishing for the right one.

I’ve been in your shoes. At Cascade, we’ve used a few different systems over the past seven years, and evaluated many more. It’s been a real challenge figuring out which system would fulfill our needs and our clients’ requirements. Part of the problem is that even after looking at feature lists and grilling the software folks about capabilities, the truth is, you pretty much have to use it to know how it works and determine if it’s the right fit. That’s even truer when you’re considering how it works from a client perspective. It’s not easy to change to a different platform once you decide that what you have isn’t up to the task. So, how do you settle on the best energy management software for your organization right out of the gate? I think, the best way to start hinges on answering one key question: What do you want to use it for?

Pretty Basic, Right?

If your answer is, “I want to use it to monitor energy use,” then your field is wide open. There are dozens of software packages, such as eSight and Northwrite, which can help you track interval data and provide basic reports.

If your answer is, “To track Scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon emissions for my enterprise,” then there are a few packages we know of that do that quite well. Hara’s software platform is one example of an enterprise system designed to track carbon and energy based on utility bills and other monthly data sources. You might also look at C3‘s solutions that also help clients manage their greenhouse gas emissions.

If your answer is, “Lower my energy costs,” then I think, (and yes, I am biased) Cascade’s new platform, SENSEI, is worth a look.

Born from Energy Efficiency, Raised by Code-hounds

Cascade has been in the business of saving companies money through energy efficiency for almost 20 year. Whether you’re a corporate client or a utility, we’re great at achieving 10-30 percent in energy savings. We’ve helped our clients save hundreds of millions of dollars over the years. When we set out to build SENSEI, we focused on a design and feature-set that would meet our customers’ end goals, to save energy and money. And we made sure SENSEI would be something an energy engineer would appreciate using every day out on the floor by:

  • Providing access to energy information in a few clicks
  • Offering the functionality to save favorite views
  • Allowing you to view the information you want, the way you want

Connecting the Dots

Visit energySENSEI.com and you’ll see that by “connection” I’m talking about people getting down to the business of saving energy—together. The SENSEI platform supports that process by giving you the ability to interact around real-time events, to assign tasks, troubleshoot problems, and document actions taken.

We wanted to create a tool that provided corrective actions, because we believe that connecting actions to energy performance provides invaluable intelligence. And connecting people around a common efficiency goal ensures the job gets done.

We’ve only just begun

Yeah, I know it’s the title of that Carpenters’ hit song (hey, I grew up on 70’s folk/rock) but, it’s also a battle cry of sorts. Cascade is committed to giving SENSEI the resources to expand and improve at a rapid pace. We have a great roadmap brimming with ideas based on our years of experience. And we’d love to hear from you and get feedback about what you need to be successful.

If you’re trying to locate that “just right” platform that will help you lower your energy costs, SENSEI just might be your answer. Check it out!

Tackle Industrial Energy Management Projects with Ease


low cost no cost maintenance

Operations and maintenance (O&M) activities don’t have to be a drain on an industrial energy manager or facility operator’s time when energy monitoring software, connecting data to action, is in place.

If you’re a plant energy manager, you know your facility operators have To-Do lists a mile long. When operators are charged with keeping a large facility running strong and maintaining the machines that drive productivity and profit, they may have little time left to spend on mastering energy consumption. Yet, from an energy manager’s perspective O&M is a very important activity.

Sometimes not everyone has a clear picture as to just how much O&M affects energy efficiency. In many cases facility maintenance staff either may not know what measures to take to increase energy efficiency, or maybe they do know, but see too many barriers to accomplishing O&M improvements. The bottom line is that everyone needs to get involved in supporting an O&M effort.

Driving Success for O&M Efforts

So how does an energy manager promote O&M activity to drive energy efficiency, so that all of a facility’s energy stakeholders understand the benefits and agree it’s a priority?

First, it’s important that everyone recognize the benefits of O&M actions as low-cost, no-cost ways of achieving significant savings on a facility’s energy bills.

Second, in addition to energy and resource savings, everyone should understand that a well-run O&M program can:

  • Increase plant safety
  • Ensure that the life expectancy of machines and equipment is achieved
  • Facilitate compliance with local and federal energy management legislation

Third, you need to figure out how to gain traction on those O&M efforts without compromising productivity. A big part of that answer lies in the tools your company uses to monitor and analyze energy consumption. With the right tools—tools that get you the exactly the information you need, and that facilitate a collaborative approach—O&M projects don’t have to be a drag on anyone’s day. In an ideal situation your energy monitoring program should provide your team with clear information, leading to specific actions and reasonable deadlines that are delegated to team members. That way everyone knows what the plan is, who’s doing what, and when tasks are due to be completed.

O&M may sometimes be seen as a distraction, but when your team is “all-in” and you have the right tools in place, your O&M accomplishments will feel like a big win for everybody in your company. In fact, your plant may become the model that the rest of the enterprise looks to for best practices in meeting industrial energy efficiency goals.

For More Information …

If you’re in the process of selecting energy monitoring software, check out our blog post on Energy Tracking Software: Do You Know What You Need?

For detailed O&M information, including a chapter on O&M for specific equipment types from boilers, chillers, and cooling towers to fans, pumps, and motors, download the U.S. Department of Energy’s Operations & Maintenance Best Practices guide: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/femp/pdfs/omguide_complete.pdf

Understanding Energy Data: More Points for Metering Not Always Better


fries napkins ketchup

It’s a truism that you can never get enough of a good thing. Think of the extra stuff you grabbed during your last fast food run: Fistful of napkins? Thirteen packets of ketchup?–Check, check.

Not so surprisingly, many industrial facility managers look at taking a similar approach with metering energy use: The more points, the better. Despite—or maybe because of—the richness of available data, extracting and then maximizing its value can be difficult. Some customers have had many points installed with “wires still dangling,” meaning collected data never feeds into a system. Just as frequently, these points are tied into a system but views, dashboards, and reports don’t communicate beneficial information.

Why? Call it a case of data overload. The complexity of working with and understanding energy data—especially high-volume interval data—increases with the number of points. Yes, you can always aggregate metered data for reporting, but it is often not worth the expense to add several sub-meters, for example, when a single meter upstream can capture the same data and a predictive energy model can be used to make the most of that data.

So how many points are optimal for monitoring? Or what should even be metered? There may not be any hard and fast rules, but a minimalist approach could have value and save you some headaches.

Here are three helpful tips to consider as you build (or reconfigure) your next energy information system (EIS):

1) Meter Only What You Plan to Monitor

It makes little sense to have streams of data you don’t ever look at, or can’t make sense of when you do. Some questions you should be able to answer:

  • What data streams do you set some realistic alarms on?
  • Who will respond to those alarms?
  • What will they do when alarms occur?
  • Is the data granular enough to determine the problem, or do you have to talk to system operators to figure out what changed?

2) Meter Only What You Can Effectively Improve

Forget metering the “Steady Eddies,” the systems that always have the same run times or output. Because people drive energy usage, pay special attention to systems that can backslide from previous efficiency gains (like savings acquired from improvements to operations and maintenance [O&M]) or those with fluctuating usage schedules. Some questions you should be able to answer:

  • If energy use of a given sub-system is up, can you assess why?
  • Are you able to allocate sub-system energy to the production lines or processes driving that use?
  • Could we get by with less monitoring and an effective whole-facility or key sub-system model factoring in key energy drivers to effectively show when we are getting better or worse?

3) Meter Only What Works within Your Budget

It comes as little surprise that adding several sub-meters to an EIS can add considerable cost to the project —not only hardware, but a lot of personnel time as well. What you might not realize is that it can also intensify the pressure to drive more savings to justify the higher costs. If you’re working too hard to justify the expense to management, you may want to reconsider the scale of your monitoring system. An incremental approach can prove the effectiveness of monitoring one step at a time, and may be the only way to get funding for your monitoring project in the first place.

If you’d like to discuss the right scope for your monitoring project, give us a call. We’ll work with you to find a solution that fits within your budget while maximizing your return on the effort.

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Energy Tracking Software For Continuous Energy Improvement


Orchestrating a strategic energy management (SEM) or a continuous energy improvement (CEI) program is an ambitious endeavor. CEOs, managers, and facility operators all have to understand the impact of factors such as production and weather on their facility’s energy consumption. Systems need to be developed to identify and manage energy saving opportunities. And then, a facility-wide energy team should be established to implement projects and quantify the results.

Given the constant changes in product lines, shipping schedules, weather patterns, and personnel, industrial energy management demands a tool that offers maximum flexibility for viewing data while helping to drive operations and maintenance projects to completion.  

Continuous Energy Improvement

Earlier this year, Cascade launched the SENSEI™ energy efficiency platform. Based on Cascade’s nearly 20 years in the industrial energy management business, SENSEI was designed by energy engineers to not only monitor energy usage but to also drive and track continuous energy savings at the largest and most complex industrial sites.

SENSEI is a multifaceted platform that can help support any CEI program. With “Explore” users can visualize energy performance quickly and easily without getting bogged down by multiple, customized spreadsheets. “Act” organizes technical and operational opportunities for systematic implementation giving team members a central location from which to coordinate tasks and ensure timely completion.

One of SENSEI’s most powerful aspects is the ability to tag changes in normalized energy performance to specific activities. This allows energy teams to easily visualize energy performance, manage their activities accordingly, and quantify savings so that management can quickly see the value of their investment.

For utility account managers, SENSEI matches program offerings to customer needs at exactly the right time—leading to greater customer satisfaction and integration across program portfolios.

SENSEI can be the energy tracking software that makes the difference to your CEI program by reducing the administrative, analytical, and organizational hurdles involved. SENSEI makes CEI work for utilities and corporate customers alike.

For more information, or to schedule a demonstration call 866-321-4573.

Energy Enlightenment in 3 Steps

  1. Establish Performance

    Creating a baseline for true performance helps you learn where you consume energy and what factors drive consumption. SENSEI service offerings help you build an energy profile and information system, so you get accurate, up-to-the-minute energy info controlled for seasonality, production levels, facility activities, and more.

  2. Drive Action

    Encouraging staff to stay engaged in energy efficiency ensures you can maximize return on equipment investments and continuously add savings to the bottom line. SENSEI connects actions to energy performance to help your staff know which measures work and which don’t—so you can focus time and money on the right projects.

  3. Track Savings

    Gauging the real-time effectiveness of your energy efficiency efforts provides not only flexibility but also a way to financially justify additional measures and quantify your progress toward cost-reduction goals. With SENSEI, you can manage your energy efficiency program and see the impact of specific measures with point-in-time accuracy.