Below is the article published by Trade Management Magazine in its January 2020 issue (p. 36)


By Robert Johnston, President and CEO, Hawaii Pacific Solar

Disruptive models over the past decade or so have flourished — Uber changed transportation, Netflix killed video stores, the contest between digital information and print is ongoing and so much more. Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to disrupt even more industries, including the energy industry, but the changes may be welcome for building owners.

Although in its early stages of implementation, AI is poised to revolutionize the way we produce, transmit and consume energy. AI will increasingly automate operations over the next several years in the solar and wind industries and boost efficiencies across the renewable energy sector.

Currently, building managers oversee their operations through hardware/software management systems that control the HVAC, pool pumps, temperature control and other common area elements, with individual tenants controlling energy usage within their leased space.  In the future, AI will better enable building managers and owners to forecast demand for electricity usage.

Management already has the capability of tracking the energy produced from various resources such as solar carports, roof tops and power storage systems. AI would manage all these elements without requiring human input.

The renewables industry is a data rich environment. Solar generation systems have benefited from technologies that have been commercially developed and had sensor technology installed from the beginning. As a result, most of the advances supported by AI have been in resource forecasting, control and predictive maintenance.

This technology also makes it possible for a building to be automatically placed off grid at times when a utility needs to reduce load to match generation. Sophisticated software systems, combined with onsite generation and/or storage, allow the utility to cut the energy supply to certain sites. Commonly referred to as “Grid Services,” this will be an important element in Hawaii’s efforts to reach 100 percent renewable power.

Businesses can also benefit from AI advances which enable control of energy use in buildings, making the most of low-demand, cheaper periods of electricity supply. As a result the use of AI enables the building manager to have foresight over their energy profile.

With the installation of more sensors, the increase in easier-to-use machine learning tools, and the continuous expansion of data monitoring, processing and analytics capabilities, AI is poised to create new operating efficiencies and disruptive business models.