Batteries Not Required: How Harvested Energy Can Power Green Buildings

When it comes to energy consumption, buildings are responsible for around 40 percent of our total energy requirements. The world’s energy needs continues to increase, fueled in part by ongoing development in countries like China, India and Africa. A combination of better policies, a stronger renewable portfolio and an earnest effort to improve efficiency in the built environment, will be key to combating our unsustainable energy demand. Fortunately, building technologies continue to advance, offering owners, facility managers, architects, engineers, system integrators and electrical contractors the opportunity to incorporate innovative, energy saving, wireless solutions into building retrofits, as well as new construction projects. One growing consortium of member companies, who have come together to form the EnOcean Alliance, are taking wireless technology to the next level by utilizing energy harvesting.

In January of this year, I joined EnOcean Alliance as their Business Development Director for North America. I became involved with the EnOcean Alliance while working as the Executive Director of GreenLink and am now supporting their efforts where I believe their technology is needed most. A recent article about future wireless communication networks provides a strong overview of the technology, discussing how EnOcean-enabled solutions harness the energy that is created from slight changes in motion, pressure, light, temperature and vibration.

In essence, these wireless devices, including products like occupancy sensors, light switches and window sensors, are harnessing power from sources all around us that are already emitting natural forms of energy. They are able to operate in this capacity because of advanced sensory as well as EnOcean’s patented energy harvesting and radio-frequency technologies.

EnOcean Alliance, under the guidance of Chairman Graham Martin, serves to ensure that all the devices manufactured utilizing this patented technology are able to “communicate” with each other, so as to seamlessly monitor and control a variety of different things in a buildings habitat. These devices can control heating and air-conditioning units, lighting, and can tell the HVAC unit when a window is opened, until it is closed again. Motion detectors can automatically switch off lights and reduce heating or air-conditioning when there is no-one left in a room.

Additionally, these devices can be utilized in a variety of building types, including hotels, hospitals, residential buildings, office buildings, industrial settings, schools, retail buildings and also historical buildings. Graham Martin, Chairman of EnOcean Alliance, has witnessed the energy efficiency movement first hand across Europe and is excited about the possibilities that exist here in North America for wireless, battery-less technology. “Through the simplicity of the technology and the interoperability of products from multiple manufacturers, the potential for energy savings in buildings is now within reach of virtually every building, offering attractive ROIs, without huge investments”, Graham says.

There are significant benefits for businesses and building owners that use wireless, battery-less solutions from EnOcean Alliance members. In new construction, utilizing wireless switches and sensors can save miles of costly wire cabling, that is likely to someday end up in a landfill. In both retrofits and in new construction, wireless offers increased flexibility since these devices can be placed almost anywhere in a room. Furthermore, wireless enhances occupant comfort and saves on energy costs.

So why go battery-less? Well, batteries don’t last forever, in fact, most batteries used in wireless devices have to be changed out every 3 to 5 years and there are maintenance costs associated with their replacement. Furthermore, batteries have special disposable requirements and are really not “green”. Utilizing the energy already around us to power devices is much more environmentally friendly.

About the EnOcean Alliance

EnOcean Alliance, a consortium of currently 170 international corporations, shares the common goal of standardizing wireless control systems for sustainable building applications. The goal of the EnOcean Alliance is to standardize and internationalize EnOcean wireless technology through the creation of true interoperability between all products produced by the Alliance’s OEM partners. EnOcean Alliance is a California non-profit corporation headquartered in San Ramon, CA. If you were interested in becoming a member, visit our website. For partnership opportunities, please contact cory.vanderpool@enocean-alliance.org

Cory Vanderpool joined EnOcean Alliance as the Business Development Director for North America. Prior to this role, she was Executive Director of GreenLink Alliance, a non profit organization dedicated to promoting energy conservation in buildings and tax incentives for building owners. Before establishing GreenLink, Cory worked in business development supporting a government contracting firm focused on civilian and defense markets. In addition to her work at EnOcean, Cory is also pursuing her PhD in Environmental Policy at George Mason University and is a part-time contributing writer at Triple Pundit.