Plant professionals who seek ways to improve the bottom line by making continuous improvements in the building envelope, utility consumption, asset reliability and supporting infrastructure such as lighting and power quality have many available options. Unfortunately, the way most organizations are structured, one person can’t do it alone. These efforts necessarily involve others and the trick is getting them to buy into what should seem intuitive to even the most casual observer. Sometimes, though, common sense isn’t all that common and continuous improvement efforts somehow get bogged down.
Regardless, if we’re going to make the world a better place, one must persevere in doing the right thing. Here at magazine central, we’re trying to support you in making the right moves and giving you as many options as possible. You never know what mix of ideas and approaches will do the trick. This month, we focus loosely on energy conservation and related uncommon ideas, some of which might be combined with other resources at your disposal. So, with that in mind, I’d like to invite you on another dip into the digital morass we call the Web in search of practical, zero-cost, noncommercial, registration-free resources that might help you cut through the corporate politics that can prevent good things from flowering fully. Remember, we search the Web so you don't have to.
More power to ’em
California has been pushing the conservation button for a while now. The state recently made news by mandating energy cuts and greenhouse gas emission reductions that exceed federal standards. I have every expectation that this bold initiative will work and serve as a model for the other 49 entities in this union. For an example of what’s going on out there these days, you might want to know about Flex Your Power, a statewide energy-efficiency marketing and outreach program that was started in San Francisco during 2001. Send your dreaming mouse to www.fypower.org/ind/index.html for the industrial part of the FYP Web site. Offerings include “Product Guides,” which fetches information about energy-saving measures you can take to improve plant system efficiency with respect to heating and cooling, manufacturing and processing equipment, and lighting. The bit about “Upgrade Your Facility” explains the four basic broad-brush steps a plant can take to evaluate proposed changes to the energy environment. Each step includes links to additional reference and explanatory materials such as online calculators, a library of resources and several measurement and verification protocols. You might find the case studies sprinkled around to be useful for improving your own energy picture, even if you don’t work on the Left Coast.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co., San Francisco (www.pge.com) also is interested in improved efficiency. Although much of the company’s Web site seems to be aimed at providing information about various rebate programs available to its customers, you can find technical information if you dig and explore. For example, you can uncover a page called “Boiler Systems Guide” at www.pge.com/biz/rebates/express_efficiency/useful_info/boiler_guide.html. It discusses boiler types and typical applications, the relationships among stack gas temperature, oxygen content and efficiency along with tips concerning measures you can take on both the fire side and water side to improve efficiency.
Follow the LEED
No doubt, you’ve heard about Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a rating system for buildings based on the degree to which the construction techniques and design elements conform to a set of standards for sustainability. The standards cover five broad areas — site planning, efficient use of water, energy efficiency, resource conservation, and the quality of the resulting indoor environment. Achieving a score of at least 52 out of a possible 69 earns the highest LEED rating, the platinum. As the concept was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, D.C., you might as well go to its Web site, http://www.usgbc.org. If your mouse decides to travel out that way, have it click “LEED” at the top center of the page to get to “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.” Then have it elect “Existing Building Operations and Maintenance” to get “LEED for Existing Buildings.” This is where you can use the link to “LEED for Existing Buildings - Version 2.0 Rating System,” which will open a 122-page document. Then, if you sharpen your pencil, you can start checking off those elements that prove your plant is a good corporate citizen.
Intellect across the pond
We live in a growing global economy and the Old World is demonstrating a lot of creativity in its effort to get its fair share of the total market. So many great ideas have been forged there that in 1995, the European Commission established a network of Innovation Relay Centres (IRCs) that now extends throughout the continent and beyond. The IRCs facilitate transfer of innovative technologies to and from European companies (mainly small and medium-sized) or research departments. Most IRCs are staffed by people with deep regional knowledge.
For an example of what Europe has to offer the plant professional, fly your mouse over to http://irc.cordis.lu/ and click on “Search a technology” at the left side of the screen. When the screen refreshes, click on “Advanced search by Sectors.” Use the Level 1 drop-down menu to select “Industrial manufacturing, material and transport technologies.” Select “Plant design and maintenance” from the Level 2 menu and click “Add sector to the selection.” Use the inner scroll bar to access the “Search” button at the bottom of the inner screen. The day I tried this, it returned 42 entries. Among them are on-site maintenance equipment and technology for the process industry, techniques to extract metals from a solid or liquid waste, semiautomatic plaster removal system for application on ancient buildings and a climbing robot for inspection of vertical surface. Each of the technologies is aimed at more efficient building operation and maintenance. Check it out. There might be something for you here.
From colder climesCanada's Office of Energy Efficiency, Ottawa, hit a home run with its Web site, which you’ll find at http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/english/index.cfm. When you get there, click on “Industrial: Facilities and Equipment” for the relevant material for manufacturing. The rebate programs listed under “Financial assistance” are specific to Canada. But, clicking on “Energy efficient equipment” gives you access to information about the savings potential, purchasing tips, operation and maintenance tips and useful links related to arc welding, battery chargers, boilers, steam distribution systems, electric motors, HVAC, lighting, pumps, transformers, uninterruptible power supplies, variable-frequency drives and walk-in refrigeration. If you investigate “Technical information,” you’ll find, among other things, something about benchmarking and best practices, tools and calculators, energy use data and analysis, and case studies. The information on this site is rather comprehensive. For example, the brewery benchmarking guide runs to 103 pages and covers every conceivable energy aspect of the trade. Many of the other resources are equally intense, so expect to spend some time here if you want to explore fully.
Advanced Energy, Raleigh, N.C., is an independent nonprofit corporation focused on industrial process technologies, motors and drives testing, and applied building science. It was founded in 1980 to investigate and implement new technologies for distributed generation, load management, conservation and energy efficiency. Despite its emphasis on housing issues, part of the site is relevant to the industrial world. For example, you can use the drop-down menu behind “Industrial Process Heating” to learn about the nine possible technologies for heating an object. Investigate the “Knowledge Library” listed under “Motors and Drives” for the tips and guidance it offers. Most of the material behind “Buildings” is for residential applications. If you’re interested, zip over to www.advancedenergy.org and click around.
SustainabilityIn their book, “Natural Capitalism,” Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins seek to outline a framework by which commerce as we know it could be transformed into a system less wasteful and more appropriate for contemporary society. They argue that tweaking existing economic and technological trends could lead to a more utopian world. The trick, you see, is replacing the industrial revolution and its focus on manmade capital with natural capital, which includes our familiar inanimate natural resources as well as living systems such as grasslands, oceans and rainforests. The idea is that we really ought to become serious about these ecological communities because they make life possible. The authors feel that putting stress on these living systems will ultimately impose a limit on the world’s prosperity. I think that means, in a word, sustainability. Anyway, the entire book is available through your browser. Aim your mouse at www.natcap.org/sitepages/pid20.phpand begin this philosophical journey through a range of human endeavors that, as currently structured, might not be in our global best interest.
One person’s viewpoint
Since its founding in 1977, The Cato Institute, Washington, D.C., has advocated market liberalism that combines entrepreneurship advocacy, the market process and lower taxes with respect for civil liberties and skepticism about both the welfare state and foreign military adventurism. In March, 1993, it published “Energy Conservation and Efficiency: The Case Against Coercion,” by Jerry Taylor, who is now one of the organization’s senior fellows. In a mere 14,000 words (equivalent to eight of these monthly Internet columns) with 140 bibliographic citations, Taylor’s study challenges the idea that the U.S. will run out of fossil fuels in either the short or long term. It challenges the idea that the U.S. has an energy-wasting economy. It delves into the factors that determine the extent to which industry adopts energy-conservation measures and installs energy-saving technologies, and explores the relationship between government intervention in the energy economy and efficient energy use. But that’s not all, and I don’t have enough apace to describe more of the content. You’ll have to see for yourself at www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-189.html.