Tesla Motors

We found hidden returns within a state-of-the-art facility

Tesla Motors, founded in 2003, is a world leader in the electric car industry with a mission to move the world towards sustainable transport.

Tesla engaged with Carbon Lighthouse to achieve their goals of reducing energy use in their facilities while generating a high-yield investment Tesla partnered with Carbon Lighthouse to work on Tesla’s headquarters, a 350,000 square foot mixed use office, industrial, and R&D facility in Palo Alto, California. The facility houses Tesla’s main engineering group, the Dyna Lab for power-train testing, and the battery testing lab.

350,000 sq ft

Zero Project Investment

$1,716,300 Lifetime Savings

Find out how much ROI we can produce.


The project resulted in lifetime savings of $1,716,300, and was cash-accretive to Tesla immediately. Carbon Lighthouse is delivering the energy savings through a 6-year services contract; Tesla bears $0 in out-of-pocket costs and achieved positive cash flow from the project in the very first year. Our engineers delivered savings above original expectations, reducing utility costs by $90,800 per year – the equivalent sales from 30 Tesla Powerwall battery packs. The energy reduction will reduce carbon emissions at the facility by 106 tons per year, helping Tesla achieve its sustainability goals.

Our Team in Action

Tesla’s in-house engineering team faces the demanding job of ensuring all mission critical manufacturing and research facilities operate flawlessly. They are committed to maintaining a facility that is 100% reliable to support a high-performing staff and the production of innovative products.

Before engaging with Carbon Lighthouse, Tesla’s onsite team had brought in utility and consulting engineering firms to reduce energy use. They also work regularly with quality equipment manufacturers and service providers like Trane for ongoing maintenance support. Given these previous and ongoing relationships, the Tesla team expected there would be few savings leftover for Carbon Lighthouse to capture.

Carbon Lighthouse engineers love a challenge that puts our experience, infrastructure, and processes to the test. The first step to tackling any project is to spend time on site learning about the building’s unique operations from the facilities team, the people who know the building best. The operational information from the facilities team was a necessary complement to the data gathered from the building management system (BMS). Our engineers have found that even the most sophisticated BMS will miss important measurements that reveal hidden savings opportunities. In order to capture this data, our engineers deployed our own data acquisition equipment around the facility, taking thermodynamic, electrical, physical, and behavioral measurements for six weeks.

Cooling Towers

When our engineers examined the two cooling towers in the facility, they found that both had the same VFD capability and similar capacities. The BMS indicated that the operations of each cooling tower were near identical and the facility was following best practices of alternating cooling tower use each week to extend equipment life.

BMS data shoes Cooling Tower 7 (yellow) has near identical operations to Cooling Tower 2 (green)

After reviewing the millions of data points collected, our engineers’ found that Tesla’s two cooling towers were not, in fact, identical. They were physically different and also operating differently. One is a single cell cooling tower with a 40 HP fan motor and one is a two-cell with two 40 HP fan motors. The building load did not require these towers be run together.

The cooling tower data revealed that at Tesla it was more efficient to run the single cell tower at full than to run the two cell tower at half, even with VFD’s on all three fans.

Carbon Lighthouse data showing discrepancy in performance.

This is a substantial departure from usual best practices – which say to run two VFDs at half speed instead of one at full speed whenever possible – and an example of how Carbon Lighthouse’s data driven process unlocks savings. In Tesla’s case, typical best practices created an energy penalty and BMS data alone was not enough to uncover the problem. Carbon Lighthouse had deployed hundreds of sensors to collect millions of data points in order to capture the level of detail necessary for our engineers to find these types of hidden savings.

Then Carbon Lighthouse programmed a new system for operation which significantly reduced energy use at the cooling towers. To preserve the lifetime and reliability of the equipment the two-cell tower needs to be run for a few days each month and change over at particular times of day so as not to disrupt plant operations. To accomplish this, Carbon Lighthouse created a custom sequence with a runtime counter. This type of sequencing involved careful coordination with building schedules and teams so that the equipment swaps at the right time so as not to disrupt Tesla’s operations.

The priority of the facility team is to protect the overall smooth operations of the facility, and with mission critical activities occurring in the Dyna Lab and battery temperature testing lab there was no room for taking chances. As part of our standard practice, the Carbon Lighthouse team continued measuring plant operations after the building management system was reprogrammed to ensure the upgrades were performing as predicted. The data revealed a number of logic errors that were not visible on the BMS. Carbon Lighthouse continued to resolve errors until the cooling tower operations were as designed, generating the savings calculated.


During implementation of the project, our engineers detected the amperage displayed in the BMS was different from the amperage displayed internally in the chiller’s current transducer (CT). This data-mismatch threatened to jeopardize $30,000 per year in energy savings.

Working closely with Trane, the original manufacturer of the chillers, our engineers used data including kW/ ton curves measured in the field to troubleshoot the equipment issues. The data after calibration showed significantly different performance curves than design or factory testing indicated. Carbon Lighthouse used its data and analysis to inform careful PIO loop tuning which brought field performance of the underperforming chiller back in line with the design.

Our engineers dug into the issue and found that the errors were caused by a BMS CT being placed on the wrong side of the VFD as well as improper calibration. To resolve these discrepancies, our engineers collected a set of clean and reliable data for an additional six weeks during implementation. With this new baseline data, our team could confidently take action on how to resolve these issues.

In addition to cutting energy use at the chillers and at the cooling towers, Carbon Lighthouse optimized the interactions between the two. First, the cooling tower operation was optimized by adjusting flow and set point:

Optimizing tradeoff between pump and condenser water set point. Higher pump speed penalizes pumps but benefits fans. Higher Condenser temp penalizes chiller but benefits the fans. The system was optimized as a whole.

Optimizing tradeoff between cooling tower and condenser water set point. The optimal condenser water supply set point minimizes total chiller and cooling tower energy.

By looking at the plant holistically, in addition to carefully considering the operations of the cooling towers and chillers separately, Carbon Lighthouse delivered significant additional energy savings. Our team achieved this by optimizing the pumping energy use against chiller use and cooling tower fan use, using additional data not available to the BMS to accept penalties in cooling tower energy in exchange for efficiencies in the chiller, and both balanced against pumping energy.

Engineering Infrastructure & Capabilities

Having worked in over 400 assets Carbon Lighthouse’s engineering modeling is well-tuned to actual building operations. A challenge like the one faced at Tesla, however, prompted our engineers to build even more, customized infrastructure to look at the data in the most detailed way possible. New versions of our chiller and cooling tower thermodynamic models were developed in addition to a new statistical model to determine wholebuilding load. These models are now part of our platform and will benefit future clients. It is part of our standard practice to take what we’ve learned from each project and use it to continuously improve our platform.

At Tesla, as with all of our projects, our engineers gathered data before, during, and after the project to verify assumptions and to take corrective actions to ensure savings accrued as expected. This was an especially important step at Tesla since the building occupancy was in flux: during the project, 300 new people moved into the building. Running the process during and after implementation allowed our engineers to accommodate the substantial changes in building use and deliver savings that outperformed original predictions.


As part of our whole-building approach, our engineering team also found a great lighting retrofit opportunity, despite the already efficient existing lighting system. The new system was highly configurable to ensure occupant happiness. Our team made adjustments to the lighting system until everyone was satisfied and comfortable working in the space.

During the lighting implementation, our engineers discovered the emergency circuit batteries did not support LED fixtures. Carbon Lighthouse replaced the emergency circuit batteries at no charge to the client. Additionally, all lighting contractors worked through the night to minimize disruption to the Tesla team, leaving clean workspaces every morning. The impact was so minimal Tesla’s facility team actually called us to ask how we were doing it. It is of utmost importance that our projects realize 100% of the possible savings for our clients, without impacting facility use.


The project at Tesla’s headquarters put our engineering methodologies to the test with an outcome that surpassed even our own expectations of the project. Our team not only delivered a project that exceeded predicted savings and an exceptional return on investment, but also one that improved building visibility and operations with minimum disruption.

Projects like the one completed at Tesla present an exciting challenge for our engineers. Our goal is to provide projects that deliver an exciting IRR for our clients. At Tesla, we accomplished this and then some. This type of project demonstrates how Carbon Lighthouse’s sensors and process allow us to uncover savings that other companies and building management systems are not equipped to find, and how we take action utilizing that data to cut energy use, deliver great financial returns, and improve buildings.

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