Case Studies

Energy Control Inc.

Smarter Energy Usage

There is no doubt that energy is a topic of continuous, sometimes contentious debate in the United States. Oil prices rise ever higher, fracking gives the future of natural gas pause, coal sparks conversation on pollution, and the recent tsunami in Japan highlights potential issues with nuclear power.

There is one company in the U.S., however, that is at the forefront of a movement within the industry to make the nation’s energy consumption more efficient, and therefore put less stress on fossil fuels. That company is Energy Control Inc. (ECI), headquartered in Rio Rancho, N.M., with a branch office in Las Cruces.

ECI was founded in 1976, and under the leadership of President Jack McGowan the company has been providing energy engineering and building control services since its inception. In the past three-plus decades the company has become a premiere, comprehensive integrator of environmental comfort, security/access control, microgrid and intelligent building technology. It provides its clients with technology-driven design-build solutions for commercial buildings, educational institutions and government and industrial projects. The company specializes in the management and integration of building automation systems.

In 2010 ECI became a part of the Denver, Colo.-based OpTerra Energy Group, which uses its combined regional resources to provide clean energy conservation options to key markets. OpTerra’s best practices fall in line with what has always been a core focus of ECI, acquired because the company is already a market leader.

“We’ve created a business model around energy-related projects. We design-build our projects and we work with third-party financing to make those projects a reality,” explains McGowan. “Our vision going forward is that the energy element in the commercial building industry is in a significant state of change. We are at the forefront of implementing smart-grid activities.”

Doing Laundry While You Sleep

A smart grid, for those that aren’t familiar with the term, is an intelligent monitoring system that analyzes and keeps track of the electricity demands flowing between energy generators and consumers. It has the capability to efficiently and intelligently integrate renewable electricity, like wind or solar, as well. Using information gathered on the times and amounts of system behavior, administrators can automate multi-building facilities to shut down non-essential machinery during peak hours, among many other functions.

For example, in a university residential complex washing machines could be set to only operate during off-peak hours. This results in a reduced economic and environmental impact, as well as an improvement in system reliability, quality and security. McGowan acts as Chairman Emeritus of the Department of the Energy GridWise Architecture Council, a committer of industry leaders whose goal is to bring technology standards and national attention to the smart grid, which McGowan believes to be a major facet of the energy industry’s future.

“John Chambers, the CEO of Cisco [a $40 billion company] said he thinks that smart grids are going to be even bigger than the Internet. The key to a smart grid is that you have to understand buildings. We do basic types of energy-efficiency projects, like changing overhead lighting to LED [Light-Emitting Diodes] and high-efficiency HVAC systems, but we want to bundle that all together so the building operates more efficiently as a whole,” reveals McGowan.

ECI’s overriding business philosophy is to develop long-term relationships through offering organizational effectiveness that reduces energy costs for clients. This is done by taking into account how entire facilities can be managed through LAN and Ethernet connections, allowing everything from security and and alarm to lighting and HVAC to be more efficient solutions to the problem of how to optimize building performance and minimize carbon footprint. Designing and deploying Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)-minded technologies for safe and comfortable environments, ECI is a driving force that can increase efficiency across an entire campus.

ECI’s commitment to redefining how energy is managed in this country has drawn the company praise from like-minded companies. For example, Ashcraft Mechanical Inc. worked with ECI on a ground-source heat pump system during construction of the Amy Biehl school in Santa Fe, N.M., and Ashcraft’s Tim Gormley applauds ECI’s efforts to lead new technology adoption. “They’re redefining the market … being at the forefront of design considerations, and taking that through the practical applications,” he says. “They’re active at a regional and national level, participating in forums at an international level and putting concepts into action. As they get acceptability of the systems they are recommending, we are evolving our technical abilities to be able to implement those concepts.”

Award-winning Project

ECI has worked on projects from coast to coast, but a recent project the company completed at the University of New Mexico (UNM) in Albuquerque, N.M., has been generating a lot of press. The university is one of Public Service Co. of New Mexico’s (PNM) largest consumers of energy, so the university, PNM and ECI collaborated on a project that would tie all of UNM’s 200-plus buildings onto a smart grid.

“UNM provided us with an ideal smart-grid test case, because it already had so much smart technology in place, and it has some solar systems and natural gas generators that can produce more than six megawatts of electricity on campus,” McGowan was quoted as saying. ECI helped UNM assess and upgrade smart technology on campus and helped build the web portal that integrated the monitoring system with PNM’s computers.

The design-build project leveraged the existing technologies with new technology and the Internet-based monitoring. An “energy business intelligence tool” from Hunt Energy IQ, called GEMS (Global Energy Management and Sustainability), provides full information for over 100 buildings on campus and is reported in real-time. Energy data from 84 other buildings is reported in 20-minute intervals and can report current energy consumption or cost-per-square foot.

“This system provides an intuitive management tool for building owners to understand the impact of energy and to provide for real-time management of building performance,” McGowan told a local journal. “The system also integrates multiple BACnet [Building and Automation Control network] and legacy automation systems to provide seamless interface to building operations. This smart campus can use this tool to manage energy use, energy cost, and its carbon footprint.”

This project, which was awarded Contracting Business Journal’s 2009 Project of the Year Award, stands as a notable example of ECI’s fundamental approach toward funding projects. “After the markets melted down, funding became a very big issue for us and everyone else in the industry,” explains McGowan. “We went back to our core, which is finding a third party to provide the financing. The UNM project was funded by the Department of Energy and PNM. Our goal on every project is to have a self-funded project with no money upfront and we provide our customers with a revenue stream from the energy savings.”

McGowan, a renowned author published regularly in industry magazines and websites such as ASHRAE and, continues to lead ECI in its initiatives to implement and bring attention to smart energy practices. Focusing on projects that deliver quality performance and high-efficiency systems functionality, resulting in a sound investment for all clients, Energy Control Inc. continues to lead the way in combining current technologies to alleviate the impact of buildings on the energy crisis.

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Spring 2018



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