Industrial energy management is not a one-size-fits-all proposition

Energy management technology vendors are building solutions that can be customized to fit almost any manufacturing setting. Link to three Industrial Energy Management articles.

08/15/2013


It would seem that cutting energy bills in an industrial facility wouldn’t be much more complex than performing the same trick in your home.

Sure, the occupants of a manufacturing plant consume a lot more energy than those of the average residence, but the concept of reducing energy use—and the corresponding costs—is the same. Flip off the lights, heating or air conditioning when a room is empty.  Shut down any machinery that’s not being used. Seal windows or other potential gaps through which energy can escape.

Such measures have proven effective as first steps in an industrial energy management program, with some studies showing manufacturers posting double-digit reductions in energy consumption through these methods alone. Problems arise, however, when companies want to sustain, or even improve upon, those early gains.

It’s hard to keep cutting energy costs in the face of constantly rising energy prices. It has become harder still with the advent of things like peak-demand pricing programs, under which utilities attach a higher price to energy used at certain times of the day.

The logical response would be to not use energy during those peak charge times. But manufacturers, whose first priority is always filling customer orders, can’t always halt production for the sole reason of cutting energy costs.

Finding the right tradeoffs

Tradeoffs have to be made, and finding the right tradeoffs is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Just as every business is different, so will the right solution for optimal management of energy costs.

Technology vendors, recognizing that manufacturers have varied energy management needs, are developing a myriad of solutions to help manufacturers realize the twin goals of reducing energy bills and lowering carbon emissions.

In essence, technology is starting to allow manufacturers to practice custom energy management, applying solutions to fit their specific business. This industrial energy management supplement presents several examples of technology that can be used in this fashion.

The supplement opens with an article on demand-management software, a class of technology that supports multiple approaches for taming energy costs without sacrificing production efficiency. Demand-management software is proving especially effective at reducing energy costs in metal foundries, which are among the biggest users of energy within the manufacturing space.

Demand-management software can be equally effective in other industrial sectors, though it would have to be configured in a different fashion.

Fuel cells use VFDs

Next, you can read how fuel cell technology is driving a new generation of power plants. Fuel-cell plants offer a number of potential advantages over the current generation of power plants.

Fuel cells produce much cleaner, more efficient, and more reliable energy from the same fossil-based fuels as the current generation of plants. In addition, because fuel cell plants have a much smaller footprint, they don’t raise the same environmental concerns that typically accompany the construction of a new power plant.

Technology vendors are developing a myriad of solutions to help manufacturers realize the twin goals of reducing energy bills and lowering carbon emissions. 

The fuel cell plants we’ve written about here have an even smaller footprint, thanks to their use of variable frequency drive technology.

Finally, we have piece detailing how supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) technology can give manufacturers confidence that a solar PV system will provide the necessary energy to keep an industrial facility churning. The key is monitoring the performance of that system in real time, which SCADA systems have a long history of doing in industrial settings.

Find links for all three at the bottom of this article.

After reading this entire package, we think you’ll agree that energy management technology vendors are building solutions that can be customized to fit almost any manufacturing setting.

We’ll be covering many more of these solutions in the months to come. If you stay with us, you’re sure to eventually come across one that will work perfectly in your business.

- Edited by Sidney Hill, Jr., a CFE Media contributing content specialist, sidhilljr@gmail.com. This article is part of the Industrial Energy Management supplement for CFE Media publications.

Technology vendors are developing a myriad of solutions to help manufacturers realize the twin goals of reducing energy bills and lowering carbon emissions. 



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