What You Can Do: The ''Dos'' of Energy Conservation

The bad news is: We're in an energy crisis. The good news is: We can do something about it. Actually, we have to do something about it. Rick Payton, director of motor marketing at Rockwell Automation, notes, “The problem has prompted US Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham to state last March, ‘America faces a major energy supply crisis over the next two decades.’ We have entered the twenty-first century with an energy crisis.”

Though we may be in the lull of this crisis, or at least seemingly so, the energy topic keeps popping up. From California's crisis one year ago to Enron's “fall from grace” one month ago, energy continued to make news headlines throughout 2001.

And, on the Internet, a mind-boggling amount of energy-related material is accessible. A narrowed search on “national energy conservation policy” yields a bevy of government documents with chapter titles such as “Taking Stock: Energy Challenges Facing the United States.” There's also much to be found in cyberspace on initiatives inside government on conserving energy in-house. More good news, or at least as good as it gets for now.

In order to make the good news meaningful, business, government, and individual consumers alike — across the globe — should implement ways to conserve energy. To do this, however, might mean subjecting your operation to a painstakingly thorough inspection.

Michael Lamb, certified energy manager at EEREC (Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearinghouse), an agency funded by the Dept. of Energy (DOE), tells PFFC he spoke with a major company recently that endured just such a process — and came out way ahead. “A few months ago I was talking with the Ford Co. They said they spent I-don't-know-how-many thousands-of-manhours chasing air leaks in some of their factories, but it was well worth it. They saw an immediate savings in electric power [costs] once they took care of the problem.”

Minimizing air leaks is one conservation step an operation can take. There are many more. PFFC has compiled a brief list of things that can make your operation more efficient, use less energy, utilize its own waste energy, and help you find and take advantage of inexpensive — even free — resources.

The First Steps
Number One: You need to assess your operation's current energy use. Do enlist the help of professionals. Unless you're an energy expert, don't think you'll be able to assess your energy needs and uses accurately on your own. Energy-management consulting firms can help track your usage and recommend specific conservation methods.

Of course, employing such professionals isn't cheap, but the return on investment seems to be worth it. “If it's a big facility and is too cost-prohibitive, utility companies and the DOE can contribute to those audits,” says Payton.

Small to medium-sized operations also can benefit from these DOE services to which Payton refers. The Office of Industrial Technologies (OIT) offers the IAC (Industrial Assessment Center) program. Says the IAC web site (oit.doe.gov/iac/), “[This] program enables eligible small and medium-sized manufacturers to have comprehensive industrial assessments performed at no cost. Teams of engineering faculty and students (located at 26 universities around the US) conduct energy audits and provide recommendations [that can] improve productivity, reduce waste, and save energy. Recommendations…have averaged about $55,000 [US] in potential annual savings for each manufacturer.”

Number Two: Once you're through your energy audit, do examine the energy used by your motors. “The electric motor still consumes [the most] power, over 60 percent of the total industrial demand,” Payton explains. “Improving motor efficiency will reduce power costs, and consideration of more efficient mechanical components driven by that motor will reduce them even further.”

Though you can reinvest in your old motors and get them rewound, says Lamb, it won't be as efficient as new technology. “The rewound one would certainly work but at a much lower efficiency. Your typical 100-horsepower motors, brand new, have a power factor of about 0.91 or 0.92. As soon as you rewind it, it's probably running at 0.89 or 0.90, so you've lost several percent.”

If your motors aren't efficient, soon they might have to be. NEMA (National Electrical Mfrs. Assn.), in its September 15, 2001, issue of its ei (electroindustry) publication, says it's persuaded the House of Representatives “to include language in the National Energy Conservation and Policy act that would require the federal government to investigate use of the NEMA Premium efficiency motors as the standard for procurement. It is estimated [this] would save 5,800 gigawatt hours over the next decade.” Visit NEMA at nema.org, and a visit to DOE's home site and micro sites (doe.gov) can provide more specific data on government initiatives.

Number three: Do check out software that can help track and maximize your company's energy usage. Silicon Energy offers a management suite that can manage your energy on an enterprise-wide basis, in one plant, or across several. “You install the software, and you can gather data from all facilities into one particular place,” says the company senior VP of operations, John Preston. “You can view your own [plant], or you can view every plant in your organization.” Basically, says Preston, the software helps makes energy a controllable cost.

See the “10 Ways” list below for seven more steps to help you conserve energy.

For more information, the Internet provides a handy tool. Lamb suggests checking out such sites as aeecenter.org the Assn. of Energy Engineers, where you can find how to get helpful publications such as the AEE's “Guide to Energy Management.” Another trade group that may be able to help: the American Society of Heating and Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers. Visit them at ashrae.org.

Rockwell Automation Systems — Milwaukee, WI; 800/245-4501; reliance.com

Silicon Energy Corp. — Alameda, CA; 877/749-9400; siliconenergy.com

10 Ways to Conserve

  1. Conduct an energy audit.
  2. Invest in new, efficient motor technology.
  3. Investigate software that can help you track and maximize your energy usage.
  4. Examine your operation's need for lighting retrofits.
  5. Upgrade your heating and cooling equipment, and invest in geo-thermal technology if affordable.
  6. Recapture and use your waste energy.
  7. Minimize energy leaks.
  8. Get involved with your local utility and be informed of the cost-structure formulas they charge.
  9. Stay aware of energy sector events and news. Potentially, they're all affecting.
  10. Heed Rick Payton's (and many others') warning: “Energy prices aren't going back to the discounted rates [at least for long] that we saw prior to this crisis.”

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