By Liz Stevens, writer, Plastics Decorating
According to the US Department of Energy (DOE), more than one-third of the energy consumed in the US (>$200B a year) is used to power manufacturing plants and industrial factories, not including the energy used to transport the produced goods. There are, however, many ways to improve the energy performance of America’s manufacturing plants.
The DOE’s Better Plants Program has partnered with nearly 250 organizations in the nation, representing over 3,000 plants. Many are small and medium manufacturers. Better Plants helps the industrial community set and achieve ambitious energy reduction goals. By joining Better Plants, partners gain access to a slew of resources, including these Top 5.
Technical account managers
Through Better Plants, partners receive support from a dozen technical account managers (TAMs) who help facilities develop energy management plans, identify energy-saving opportunities and track energy performance metrics. The TAMs are also subject-matter experts in a variety of technology focus areas.
Kristina Armstrong, for example, is an expert in life cycle assessment analysis, techno-economic analysis and the Better Plants Program’s MEASUR (Manufacturing Energy Assessment Software and User Resource) tool suite. Armstrong works for Oak Ridge National Laboratory with a focus on energy and technoeconomic analyses of various technology applications.
Wei Guo, also an Oak Ridge National Lab employee, is expert in process cooling and HVAC, refrigeration and smart manufacturing. Among his many publications, Guo was co-author of “Variable-Speed Pump Efficiency Calculation for Fluid Flow Systems with and without Static Head,” published in International Journal of Energy Management.
Prakash Rao is a Research Scientist within the Buildings and Industrial Applications Department at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. His expertise includes water, the water-energy nexus and ISO 50001. Rao conducts research and analysis into the potential for reducing the energy consumption and water use impacts of the manufacturing sector while maintaining its productivity.
Diagnostic tools on loan
The Diagnostic Equipment Program (DEP) enables partners to borrow 20 different kinds of tools to collect energy data and improve equipment performance. Historically, this equipment was used by DOE experts for In-Plant Training. Now, partners can directly access the equipment free of charge. Through this program, partners can test out tools before deciding to purchase a piece of equipment on their own.
The tools include items such as anemometers for rooting out air leaks around seals, current transformers to quantify the electric current flowing to a component or system, infrared cameras and infrared thermometers, power loggers for tracking low voltage 1-Phase and 3-Phase electrical components, strobe tachometers for clocking the rotating speed of motors, pumps and fans, and ultrasonic flow meters and ultrasonic leak detectors.
The Diagnostic Equipment Program is managed by Daryl Cox, who also is a technical account manager with expertise in motors, pumps and diagnostic equipment.
Better Plants provides partners with free industrial system software tools to help manufacturers increase energy efficiency in facilities and specific systems. The software tools available include energy systems analysis tools for pumps, fans, compressed air, steam process heating and motors. Also available are energy management tools for ISO 50001 prep, calculating an energy footprint, profiling plant energy and water, and more.
The latest software resource made available is MEASUR, a suite of tools that consolidates all of the DOE’s energy systems software as an aide to improving efficiency in energy systems and equipment. The tool contains 40+ calculators and system modeling capabilities. It operates on multiple operating systems, and on web and desktop interfaces.
In-plant trainings (INPLTs) are multi-day, hands-on workshops – held at partner facilities – that train participants on how to identify, implement and replicate energy-savings projects. Better Plants partners host an on-site, three-day training at one of their facilities, and invite other manufacturers to attend.
Topics for in-plant training include ISO 50001 readiness, compressed air, energy treasure hunts, fan systems, process heating, pump systems, refrigeration, steam, water efficiency and water/wastewater treatment. There are even “primer” webinars available to prep staff for the training workshops.
With the changes required during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Better Plants team has also created VINPLTS (virtual in-plants) covering 50001 readiness and process heating.
The Better Buildings Finance Navigator helps users explore financing choices and identify relevant financing options for energy projects. Partners who take advantage of this resource can get help to locate financing that fits specific needs, explore financing options, and make contact with Better Buildings Financial Allies to discuss projects.
The Navigator is an online tool developed by the DOE’s Better Buildings Initiative. The Navigator is designed for anyone in industry who wants to access financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects or learn more about the marketplace in general. Users include building owners, facility and energy managers, sustainability directors, executives, contractors, consultants, brokers, researchers and other decision-makers.
The Navigator also offers primers on sector-specific financing, including industrial sector financing. Partners can access toolkits covering resources and best practices for energy efficiency and renewable energy financing options. Financing option fact sheets are available, covering topics such as efficiency-as-a-service, energy savings performance contracts, internal funding and green bonds.
For more information, visit https://betterbuildingssolutioncenter.energy.gov/better-plants.
For a roadmap to the Better Buildings Program, get the QuickStart Guide for Small to Medium Manufacturers at