A Step Ahead of Regulations
Manufacturing facilities, like most other large enterprises, require large amounts of power to maintain operations. These types of facilities are among the heaviest energy consumers and are now increasingly finding themselves needing to respond to the complex issues brought about by rapidly rising fuel costs.
Manufacturing facilities, like most other large enterprises, require large amounts of power to maintain operations. These types of facilities are among the heaviest energy consumers and are now increasingly finding themselves needing to respond to the complex issues brought about by rapidly rising fuel costs. At the same time, manufacturers are also seeking strategies to meet the requirements of new energy curtailment, recycling, and other sustainability-related initiatives mandated by many state and federal regulatory agencies. (Indeed, in results from a recent survey of manufacturers conducted by EFT Research, 65% of respondents reported that they were investing in recycling and reuse programs, while 50% were pursuing energy management initiatives.)
Opto 22's manufacturing facility drastically improved its reclamation and recycling programs and improved its RoHS (lead-free) compliance. This is a batch of boards for Opto 22's digital output modules that uses lead-free solder.
The state of Oregon, as well as many others, are now offering tax credits and low interest loans to manufacturers and other industrial customers that invest in energy conservation, produce energy from renewable resources, or use recycled materials to create products.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority works with ConEdison and other in-state power companies to offer rebates and other incentives to large energy consumers who put their standby generators online so that, on occasions of excessive power usage, the power company will be able to take these customers off the grid by remotely starting their backup generators and switching their power supplies over. And in Michigan, Detroit Edison offers special interruptible rates to commercial and industrial customers, discounting electricity in exchange for interruptibility in times of system need or very high wholesale prices.
Tax breaks and other such incentives aside, manufacturers are also facing scenarios where they are not just being encouraged to participate in energy management and sustainability programs; they are being required to. Compliance with these regulatory standards has become necessary in order to avoid fines and penalties, qualify for tax breaks, and steer clear of bad press, which is becoming more and more of a major environmental and political concern.
Finally, many large businesses have created their own sustainability goals that, in some cases, are as aggressive as those that are state or federally mandated.
For most organizations, the first step toward sustainability and more efficient energy management is to gather all data relating to energy consumption. Capture and delivery of this data for the purposes of reporting, trending, and similar study ultimately leads to significant costs savings through development of better fuel purchasing and conservation strategies, and the ability to negotiate best pricing from power companies.
In many cases, this type of reporting is no longer optional, but is in fact required by various regulatory agencies. In other cases, companies are recognizing the handwriting on the wall and are becoming proactive by gathering their energy usage data and bringing it to the table as they begin to plot load shedding and curtailment policies.
Internal & External: Transferring the lessons
Southern California Edison (SCE), which serves millions of customers in Riverside and 10 other counties in the state of California, was empowered by the state to classify many large manufacturing companies as “TOU-8”— a large-sized commercial and industrial customer that registers very high power demands. These types of customers are subject to peak pricing, meaning that on any given day, if the company exceeds an established threshold even briefly, it’s charged a peak usage rate for the entire day. Opto 22, a manufacturer of control, monitoring, and data acquisition hardware, fell into this TOU-8 category and quickly took steps to remove itself from this peak-pricing schedule.
To achieve this, the company undertook a large-scale sustainability project that, among other things, adjusted its sprinkler system to reduce overall water usage, and also maximized use of natural sunlight instead of electric lighting. Most significantly, the company utilized its own hardware to better monitor its HVAC and lighting system to determine better ways to control and self-regulate its energy consumption. Opto 22 management surmised that this could potentially help keep SCE from stepping in and implementing its own strict requirements, while also reducing instances where the company’s manufacturing processes might be affected by the rolling blackouts that many SCE customers are subject to. Ultimately, Opto 22’s efforts resulted in a 29% reduction in the company’s overall power consumption.
The Opto 22 manufacturing facility also drastically improved its reclamation and recycling programs. The company has overwhelmingly moved away from the alcohol-based flux used in its machine soldering processes (99% of such processes no longer use this). For cleaning and maintenance of its production machinery, all petroleum-based epoxy cleaners were replaced with a soy-based substitute that is 100% recyclable. The company sends this out for reclamation where it’s blended and used for fuel incineration of other material. Also, through new (proprietary) soldering processes that have been implemented, Opto 22 has reduced its solder waste from 175 to 50 pounds per week.
The next steps for Opto 22 were to take what it had learned and help other manufacturers meet their own sustainability initiatives. Opto 22 has already done this with PepsiAmericas.
PepsiAmericas bottling plants in Oshkosh, WI; Chicago; and Fargo, ND, use Opto 22 systems to monitor electric, gas, and water meters. Usage data is then aggregated and sent to Microsoft SQL Server databases for reporting and analysis. The company can log performance data from its equipment to better track overall power factor for the purposes of optimizing individual system performance and establishing better maintenance schedules. The Opto system also plays a critical role in PepsiAmericas regulatory compliance, specifically, its ammonia detection activities—something that the Environmental Protection Agency requires all bottling plants to report on.
Arun Sinha is a project engineer at Opto 22. More information on the company is at