We're all about uncovering new methods for improving performance

Energy efficiency needs to be seen from new perspectives like asset management and as an investment tool to continue to make strides. Link to related Industrial Energy Management articles.

04/22/2014


If you've ever been charged with bringing fundamental change to an organization, you know that one of two scenarios typically play out in the early stages of the transformation:

  • The people you're working with resist change, and you have to work extra hard to show them the benefits of doing things differently, or
  • You have a group that's hungry for change and your efforts produce a quick payback.

Even if you're lucky enough to encounter the second scenario, it's only a matter of time before your organizational makeover hits a wall. That's when you discover that even when positive results come quickly, it's difficult to sustain that momentum over time.

Many people responsible for improving the energy efficiency of manufacturing organizations have reached that stage. To move forward, they must see energy in a different light.

This supplement to Control Engineering magazine highlights individuals and organizations doing just that.

Asset management as energy saver

It starts with the cover story that explains how intelligent use of control technology can do more than keep production equipment running smoothly. It also can maximize a plant's energy efficiency by, among other things, making sure equipment runs only when it's needed to support plant operations.

This article contains a prime example of how out-of-the-box thinking can yield performance gains. It details what would happen if a plant manager chose to install five 200 cfm air compressors and have a computer-based controller monitor those compressors as if they were a single system.

When compared with a single 1,000 cfm compressor, the five-unit system would consume considerably less energy. It also would boost reliability by providing backup if one or more compressors fails or requires maintenance.

Our second article explores advances in remote machine management, specifically emerging off-the-shelf solutions that are easy to install. These solutions ease asset management by offering near-immediate problem diagnosis without human intervention.

Once remote diagnosis is performed, field service time is reduced because the technician knows exactly what tools and spare parts to take to the site in order to solve the problem. Remote machine management also aids the quest to practice proactive asset management by alerting personnel to the first signs of equipment wear or other conditions that could lead to a machine breakdown.

Ultimately, this type of maintenance prevents machines, and their associated parts, from deteriorating to the point that just continuing to work causes them to consume extra energy.

Taking solar power to Wall Street

Finally, we look at a new financing method that promises to accelerate the pace at which solar power becomes a mainstream source of electricity. The idea is to bundle groups of solar power purchase agreements into financial instruments that can be sold to investors, much like corporate bonds.

Solar power developers like the idea because there currently is a dearth of sources for financing solar projects. For the new financing method-known as solar securitization-to work, however, investors must have a way of objectively judging the risk associated with investing in solar bonds.

Our article includes an interview with the chairman of the SunSpec Alliance, which has become the primary developer of technical standards for the solar industry, and is now working to create standards for the solar securitization market.

The SunSpec-developed process has been used in one deal that involved packaging $54 million worth of power purchase agreements into bonds that were sold on the open market. The company offering those securities, Solar City, is paying investors 4.5% interest on its notes, which is roughly two percentage points less than it normally paid to borrow capital.

That two percentage point rate reduction is expected to cut roughly 50 cent per Watt off the cost of producing solar energy. That should, in turn, result in a lower cost of power to the end consumer.

Each of these articles illustrates how seeing energy in a different light uncovers new possibilities for improvement.

- Sidney Hill, Jr., is a CFE Media contributing content specialist. Send comments to controleng@cfemedia.comEdited for the CFE Media Industrial Energy Management section in April as a Digital Edition Exclusive. 

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