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BofA, West Marine Launch Programs to Slash Energy Use

Bank of America and West Marine have embarked on major programs to manage energy consumption using sophisticated monitoring and control systems.

BofA announced yesterday that it made a minority ownership equity investment in Field Diagnostic Services Inc. (FDSI) of Pennsylvania in an arrangement that will bring FDSI's energy management technology to 3,300 banks. The network of monitored sites will enable BofA to cut energy costs by 50 percent and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 14,000 C02 tons a year, according to the nascent technology partners.

West Marine based in Watsonville, the world's largest retailer of supplies for boaters and their vessels, is teaming up with Site Controls of Austin, Texas, in a pilot project at selected shops in Southern California.  The program began last August, went live at the participating retail shops in April and is already yielding "significant energy savings” on monthly basis as a result of the monitoring and automated solutions provided by Site Controls, company spokeswomen said yesterday.

The systems used in each of the highly customized programs include monitoring of heating, ventilation and cooling systems, data collection, assessment and analysis, easily accessible real-time reporting and automated solutions that grow out of an enterprise approach to resource management.  

The multilayered project that pairs Bank of America with FDSI began in January and is expected to take three years to complete. Neither BofA nor FDSI would discuss how much the banking firm invested, but said that BofA will have representation on the FDSI board. BofA said its investment is part of the company's $20 billion, 10-year commitment to promote green business operations within the firm and among its products and services.

"Bank of America is actively making strategic investments that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while helping spark the new environmentally sustainable economy, and our partnership with FDSI is an excellent example of this strategy," Richard Cohen, who heads environmental investments for BofA's Strategic Investments Group, said in a statement.

At the core of the BofA project is a new centralized energy management system, which is being installed and layered with specially designed products and services from FDSI. The result will be a more intelligent monitoring and control system that is not only very powerful, but also has a number of subtle features, FDSI President Todd Rossi told GreenBiz.

For example, Rossi said, there will be individual optimization algorithms for each of 3,300 BofA sites hooked up to the monitoring and control network. With the data culled and analyzed from the sites, the system will be able to chart and address energy management, performance, consumption and external factors — like weather — across the network and at specific locations. In doing so, the system can help the bank anticipate demand, costs and other impacts in order to modify use as needed systemwide, in a region or at an individual site.

The Site Controls-West Marine project involves an undisclosed number of the retailer's 400 stores. Heating, cooling, lighting and signage are among the functions being monitored, and the energy management system makes sure that consumption does not exceed pre-set levels.

"We are very pleased to be working with West Marine, a retailer well-known for its leadership in environmental sustainability issues," Site Controls CEO Dan Sharplin said in a statement. "West Marine has already seen significant results with the pilot stores, and we look forward to expanding our partnership with the company in the years to come."   

Spokeswomen described outcomes thus far in positive terms, but declined to discuss specific results, savings and costs. In general, they said, Site Controls systems consistently reduce energy consumption by at least 15 percent and often more than 25 percent. In most cases, the spokeswomen said, system payback based on energy savings is achieved in less than two years.  In many cases, the spokeswomen said, the system pays for itself in 12 months or less.  

In conjunction with pilot program, West Marine participates in a demand-response program with San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) that is facilitated by Site Controls' Intelligent Load Management (ILM) technology.  The demand response process is automated using an electronic signaling capability managed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Site Controls said. 

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