Government Technology

Wireless Sensors Manage Solar Power for "First Net Zero Electric" Commercial Building in US

October 30, 2007 By

Today, New Jersey's Governor Jon S. Corzine and New Jersey U.S. Senator Robert Menendez plan to attend an awards ceremony honoring the "First Net Zero Electric" commercial building in the U.S.: the headquarters of Ferreira Construction in Branchburg, NJ. The officials are joining to acknowledge Ferreira's "green" accomplishments and award the company the NJ Clean Energy Award for its leadership in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Ferreira has partnered with government and industry (Live Data Systems and Sensicast Systems) to accomplish the goal of building a 42,000 square foot "Smart" building (employing 100 people) that generates more electricity from a renewable energy source than it consumes. While there are prior examples of Net Zero Electric residences, this is the first commercial building of its kind in the entire U.S. This building actually produces surplus electricity that is pushed out to the grid to share with other businesses across the state.

Essential to the building's "green" nature is its renewable energy source -- a 223-kwh Photovoltaic solar energy system that covers virtually the entire roof with solar panels. Ferreira's solar hot water system produces all of the building's hot water needs. The system is so efficient that during last summer's 100-degree heat wave, Ferreira's offices enjoyed indoor temperatures of 72 to 74 degrees while still selling surplus power back to the regional electricity grid each day.

The efficiency, condition and power production of this large PV solar system is monitored by a wireless sensor networking system from Sensicast Systems (Needham, MA). For details on Sensicast's SensiNet Green Solutions for sustainable enterprises and renewable energy visit

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) estimates that the building sector is responsible for 65% of total electricity consumption for almost half of all greenhouse-gas emissions in the U.S.

"As more Green buildings such as the Ferreira facility are built and managed with SensiNet energy monitoring solutions, there can be a dramatic reduction in the levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, this deployment is proof positive that SensiNet can help Green-minded corporations to run sustainable operations while simultaneously helping their bottom line," said Gary Ambrosino, CEO of Sensicast.

"We're excited to be on the leading edge of the PV solar wave. Sensicast is the first wireless sensor company to implement string and panel level monitoring for PV systems that ensures maximum efficiency and low maintenance costs -- both of which are fundamental to generating a high rate of return on long duration Power Purchase Agreements," said Ambrosino.

In a recent (October 2007) article, the U.S. Department of Energy referred to Sensicast's "exciting new wireless sensors (that) are proving to be highly effective in monitoring and controlling industrial equipment and processes."

Sensicast is supporting Ferreira's educational program with the Newark Public Schools (Newark, NJ) and Liberty Science Center (Jersey City, NJ) to teach children about renewable energy, and inspire global stewardship and interest in working in sustainable industries. This program may be extended nationally, with talks underway in Maryland, California, and with the U.S. Dept. of Energy.

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