Slowing the flow of dollars that pay for your secondary utilities takes time, manpower and, yes, up-front money. It takes research, planning and investments, but the end result for a typical poultry processing plant is an annual energy consumption savings of between 10 percent and 25 percent.
Where do you start?
Calvin Wohlert, energy engineer and project developer with American Energy Solutions, cautions that the evaluation of energy usage is an undertaking not to be taken lightly. A plant's entire energy system must be part of the evaluation. And although an audit and its resulting changes can be very worthwhile, there is an initial cost of both time and dollars.
Regarding initial planning, Wohlert says, "One of the more important items you have to do is to establish a budget. These things can be very lucrative, but they are not free."
Where to look
Before you can move towards savings, you need to document current usage. Gather your plant information into an energy end-use disaggregation that shows exactly how your energy is expended. This will provide a realistic base to work from and serve as a roadmap showing where to focus your efforts for the best results.
- Determine load profiles.
- Know how equipment is operating.
- Consider installing monitors to record how equipment functions around-the-clock.
- Measure and log all energy use.
- Understand utility rates and structure.
- Look at the entire system.
- Investigate how to reduce energy usage in areas that offer the most savings.
A complete overview is critical to a successful program. If, for example, one project is to recover heat from a compressed air system, and another project is initiated to reduce compressed air energy waste, there won't be as much heat to recover from the compressors which will affect projected savings.
Each area of a plant offers a multitude of configuration opportunities for efficiency improvement. Savings can be found in relatively simple process changes or equipment adjustments, or can be as involved as complete equipment replacements.
Partnering with a program provider can help to develop a clear picture of existing energy usage and available alternatives. Your needs and resources will determine the type of partner that fits with your company. Choose carefully. A good partner will be knowledgeable about energy issues, unbiased regarding equipment and energy plans, and able to contribute a fresh perspective.
Wohlert provided a rundown of some common provider options:
- Performance contracting not very common in industry; typically very long term; highly legalistic; generally big money deals; long-term, guaranteed savings.
- Utilities and state programs some good programs but usually funding and information sources only; little actual on-site involvement.
- Universities programs heavily geared towards educating the students.
- Engineering firms and contractors company profits often come from capital projects that they initiate; be sure their primary focus is on energy savings.
- Equipment vendors offered products may be energy efficient, but their profits come from equipment sales; "buyer beware."
Using internal resources
Relying on internal resources can work but it has its pitfalls. Before dedicating in-house staff, ask some hard questions. Does your staff have the time? Are there staff members who have expertise and experience in energy efficiency? Are they knowledgeable enough to recognize and select the best options for the the highest rewards?
Kick-start your savings
Here is a trio of common energy savings areas to get you started:
1. Lighting: Switching to energy efficient lights can considerably reduce power usage. But also look at reducing consumption by turning off the lights.
2. Compressed Air: Typically very inefficient. Up to 80 percent of its energy consumption can be evolved as heat. Minor reductions in pressure can have major impacts on savings. Establish a. leak management program and consider steps to recover lost heat.
3. Refrigeration: Operating refrigeration head pressure too high is another common area of waste. Investigate lowering pressure. This can be a quick, nearly "no-cost" change that offers significant energy-use reductions.