With offices in California and Cambridge MA, ZOME Energy Networks is one of our 10 Best Green Tech Companies, recognized for the introduction of their new product line for Apartment Buildings.
ZOME’s starter kit, ZOMEKIT, which includes wireless hardware for the building like networked thermostats and hot water heater adapters, allows a traditional apartment building to very affordably be upgraded for energy management savings for tenants and landlords and provides “tech” and “green” marketing angles for the apartment building or complex owner. Maybe more importantly ZOMEKIT offers a profitable business model for these upgrades and, ultimately, environmental improvements. In certain areas where energy wholesale markets allow, ZOMEKIT can automatically “bid” the energy curtailment (the coordinated energy reduction, on demand) into energy wholesale markets for payment…generating “negawatt” revenue (cash) from energy savings.
The first step in ZOMEKIT installation is a spot for a wall-mounted gateway near a power jack which then provides a wireless mesh network (no new wires for anything!) as the new energy control network for the building. And once this is installed, the building owners are on the first step to upgrading the entire building into a “smart building” and then into a functioning “micro grid” building. The micro-grid comes later, after getting started with HVAC and hot water heating control, and includes adding rooftop solar, EV Charging, and electric batteries, all which can be added to the Apartment complex and integrated and optimized by ZOMEKIT.
Also with ZOMEKIT, in certain areas and when it makes sense, the building owner can become a peer-to-peer energy trading participant, including (optionally) using cryptocurrency. With the energy bill being the second largest expense (after property tax) for an apartment building owner, transforming the energy profile and capabilities of an apartment building hits on the profit motive.
Let’s take a step back to understand why energy costs are high and why energy savings and energy curtailment through coordinated on-demand energy reduction is meaningful and why it is worth money in the first place.
Traditional energy generation based on coal, nuclear, and gas provides a stable, predictable supply of energy with the non-stop operation of power plants. Renewable energy resources, while pollution-free and inexpensive, only output power when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. As renewable energy generation investment grows, and traditional energy slows, the supply of energy becomes less predictable. Less predictable supply and demand create a significant challenge for energy providers as energy supply needs to match energy demand. Too much supply and resources are wasted; too much demand for the available supply and the result is blackouts and equipment failure. In both cases of mismatched supply and demand of energy, penalties can ensue when not meeting the contractual obligations set-up originally. Having building energy use coordinated in real-time with the energy providers thus has value to them, to the system, and therefore can provide additional savings and even revenue generation for the building owner.
At the same time, energy innovation is coming into the market, and often through apartment renters. Distributed energy resources such as solar panels, electricity batteries, and IoT enabled devices (thermostats, appliances and electric car chargers) have become more than just a curiosity and in some markets quite common.
A building with energy resources such as solar and storage can be “off-the-grid” and can produce and store its excess energy if a connected electricity battery is also involved. The ability to be off the grid and independent, to provide on the spot energy sources to the very local energy demand needs, is known to some as a micro-grid.
A micro-grid can dramatically decrease energy costs for home-owners, occupants of apartments, commercial building owners, and industrial operations. In the best case, a micro-grid generates more energy than it needs and can sell off that excess supply back into the electrical grid thus becoming a revenue-generating decentralized mini-power plant. But even getting started with the first pieces of a building micro-grid, building owners need software and services to manage it all.
Energy providers can leverage micro-grids to balance areas of the energy grid by asking micro-grids to conserve energy during peak demand times or redirecting excess supply from micro-grids to other parts of the grid that need it most. These micro-grid interconnections are mostly in trials or limited areas right now, but they are coming.
Furthermore, micro-grids can be aggregated together to create a substantial decentralized energy source that can operate independently of the grid altogether. ZOME is working on products to facilitate this transformational opportunity for building owners using a multi-step, practical approach to Smart City development.
Important aspects of today’s Smart Cities and all the plans and proposals for Smart Cities include energy independence, optimized energy usage and cost containment, and carbon neutrality. ZOME‘s Green Tech solutions are meant to be a practical, business-cased approach to convert conventional buildings into a communicating and energy sharing smart city.
ZOMEKIT for Apartments was launched in 2018 and was named winner of the 2019 Consumer Electronics Association’s, “CES Best of Innovation” in the category of Smart Cities, based on the notion that a product kit like ZOMEKIT provides for a practical and viable path to a smart city, at least around energy. The story line that captured the attention of the judges was the fact thatZOMEKIT allows a viable business case around smart energy management for Apartment Building owners, while also encouraging linking and aggregating energy use, energy saved (curtailed), and energy sharable. Also recognized in the award was the mobile app offered to tenants to control the devices under control for convenience and remote operation, and that the landlord has a dashboard of aggregate views and real-time measurements of loads of the tenants and detailed views of the common area devices under control.
Building owners that own multiple properties can aggregate all their micro-grids using ZOMECLOUD for more energy independence, energy purchasing leverage and, trade excess supply into the energy market. ZOME’s longer term goals are to provide abilities for building owners to market clean energy through the smart technology being deployed today.