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Visualizing Your Agricultural Energy Profile with Excel

Farm Energy Intensity Visualization - Seasonal & Daily

Utility bills are often one of the top two or three expenses for California’s agricultural operations. Here is one quick and dirty visualization tool to help you understand your load profiles and get your next energy decision right within minutes.

Why does this matter and How is this useful?

Why does this matter? Because utility companies like PG&E and SCE charge you in up to ten different ways (such as kWh’s, demand, time of use, seasonally adjusted, etc) and you need to know how to avoid as many of these costs as possible.

Some examples of how this analysis can benefit you:

  • Visualizing your harvest operations data (on the left) you see the steady demand seasonally. Recognizing this base load need around the clock from June to October, you decide that cogeneration such as a fuel cell or generator could be a good option for saving on utility bills, but only for those few months.
  • Seeing the red streaks (on the left chart), you notice those high demands only happen on occasion and always in the evening. Thinking back you remember when packing operations went haywire and now see that as the reason for your high energy bills this summer.
  • Looking at your data (on the right) which shows pretty consistent middle-of-the day energy use, it is clear that any proposal for cheap off-peak power would be useless to me. You also notice that since you have long yellow tails off to the right in the summer that people must be leaving equipment or lights on – we need to take care of that. Possibly consider lighting controls? It might also be a good idea to consider solar power as it would match up pretty nicely with your usage, though it should be optimized for those afternoon streaks of dark red (point solar toward the Southwest).

Steps:

  1. Download 12 months of account data
    1. If you have an account over $5,000/month, you probably have an account rep. Call them up and ask them to help you get this data. If you do not have an account rep, you will need to log into your energy provider’s customer portal and download the data:
      1. PG&E Business Login
    2. Make sure to get 15-minute interval data for all hours in .xls or csv format
  2. Import / Open the data in Excel
  3. Add a grey row at the beginning of each year (if you have more than 12 months of data)
    1. Agricultural Energy Use Visualization in Excel - Grey out years
  4. Select all of the data values. Do not select the dates or headers.
    1. Agricultural Energy Use Visualization in Excel - Select all Data Screenshot
  5. In Excel 2007 or 2010, go to the Home Tab > Conditional Formatting > Color Scales. Then select the one with Red at the top and Green at the bottom.
    1. Agricultural Energy Use Visualization in Excel - Conditional Color Scales Screenshot
    2. Agricultural Energy Use Visualization in Excel - Conditional Colored Data Screenshot
  6. Finally, zoom out as far as you possibly can.
    1. Agricultural Energy Use Visualization in Excel - Zoom Out Screenshot

Tip: It may help to resize the cells a little smaller so that
you can see all of the data at once.

What now?

The end result give you data which can be easily visualized and quickly analyzed to:

  • Look at demand intensity throughout the year and for every hour of the day,
  • Understand changes in electricity usage by time of year,
  • Directly relate energy costs to operations (often by operations by managers), and
  • Determine opportunities to change operations to reduce / even out demand.

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