Solar farm generates heat, lights, knowledge

Schneider Electric invests $6.25 million in Tennessee site to advance solar power research.

08/11/2011


The sun was the guest of honor at the grand opening of Schneider Electric’s new solar farm at the company’s Smyrna, Tenn. manufacturing plant. It showed up early and stayed all day.

The bright sunshine over the hills of middle Tennessee on Monday greeted company and civic dignitaries from the region and state to officially open the six-acre solar farm, which will deliver a variety of energy benefits for the plant and the region while giving Schneider Electric a test lab for its solar inverter technology.

It also provides an important validation for the Smyrna workers, who have seen their operation expand over the past 30 years into an important global hub for medium-voltage switchgear. The installation of the solar farm is another important foothold for the workers in the community, and also provides energy that will be put back on the regional grid. The 2,500 solar panels at Smyrna are expected to generate 1.3 million kWh of electricity annually.

There are benefits for Schneider Electric as well. The $6.25 million project is eligible for a 30% tax credit from the federal government. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Generation Partners program pays a premium for solar power generated and sold back to the TVA. Perhaps its biggest advantage is that the Smyrna plant now becomes a test lab for solar inverter technology, which converts the 600V or 1,000 V dc power to ac current for use in the plant and on the grid. The testing of new solar inverter technology at Smyrna eliminates the need to find beta sites in partner companies to use as test sites.

From an operational standpoint, the solar farm generates 25% of the Smyrna plant’s energy, which reduces overall energy costs. “It has two big benefits,” said Ed Wilhite, facility manager at Smyrna. “The cash incentives and payback is one. We know the incentives we get from the TVA. It’s also a test lab for our own technology.”

Part of that testing will include visual panels throughout the plant that will show how much energy the solar farm is generating. “Working from an operational and Lean perspective, you can easily see how it fits,” said plant manager Michael DiNapoli. “You can see what is in front of you. It’s a visual piece of information for our operators. You want to put the information in front of the people who can help make a difference.”

The solar farm is far from the first energy management effort at Smyrna. In fact, one reason to site the plant at Smyrna is the plant’s exceptional record over the last seven years in energy management. “We’ve done a lot here to reduce energy usage,” Wilhite said. “We’ve reduced our energy usage 28% since 2004. A lot of that is external to the building. This is the first time the public will be able to drive by and see what the company is doing with electricity. They can see it as a practical application.”

That is part of Schneider Electric’s evolving philosophy as a global energy management company. “We’ve got to know how to deliver renewable power to customers,” said Jeff Drees, North American president of Schneider Electric, at Monday’s ceremony. “In the last five years, we as a company have saved $18 million and cut our energy expenses 20%. If you’re going to talk about renewable energy, you ought to east your own food.”

Also read about a prior 60.5 kW solar installation at the Schneider Electric Palatine, IL, headquarters, with photos and diagrams and solar project implementation tips.



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
The true cost of lubrication: Three keys to consider when evaluating oils; Plant Engineering Lubrication Guide; 11 ways to protect bearing assets; Is lubrication part of your KPIs?
Contract maintenance: 5 ways to keep things humming while keeping an eye on costs; Pneumatic systems; Energy monitoring; The sixth 'S' is safety
Transport your data: Supply chain information critical to operational excellence; High-voltage faults; Portable cooling; Safety automation isn't automatic
Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Plant Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.

Maintaining low data center PUE; Using eco mode in UPS systems; Commissioning electrical and power systems; Exploring dc power distribution alternatives
Synchronizing industrial Ethernet networks; Selecting protocol conversion gateways; Integrating HMIs with PLCs and PACs
Why manufacturers need to see energy in a different light: Current approaches to energy management yield quick savings, but leave plant managers searching for ways of improving on those early gains.

Annual Salary Survey

Participate in the 2013 Salary Survey

In a year when manufacturing continued to lead the economic rebound, it makes sense that plant manager bonuses rebounded. Plant Engineering’s annual Salary Survey shows both wages and bonuses rose in 2012 after a retreat the year before.

Average salary across all job titles for plant floor management rose 3.5% to $95,446, and bonus compensation jumped to $15,162, a 4.2% increase from the 2010 level and double the 2011 total, which showed a sharp drop in bonus.

2012 Salary Survey Analysis

2012 Salary Survey Results

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.