Alex, Monitoring is definitely a key to more effectively managing energy efficiency in plants. If you can identify savings, you can justify the expenditures that will save in the long term. But avoiding peak demand is the real payback area, when costs spike on those hot summer afternoons. Low hanging fruit when it comes to more effective energy management.
Energy Usage has been an important subject for a long time in many different industries. We are just now beginning to provide adequate software and hardware mechanisms to monitor energy consumption in our computer centers. Years ago I worked in semiconductor manufacturing and everytime we had new servers added to the manufacturing environment we had to get approval from the local government agencies because of its impact on the power grid. And yet with all of this monitoring I can't help but notice that we still waste a lot of energy. Our servers generate a lot of heat and the rooms have to stay cool to keep the servers running. It would be nice if that heat can be redirected to other parts of the building. We should have smart monitoring mechanisms that can help us use energy more effeciently.
This is a hugely important story as implementation of energy efficiency strategies become a focus at plants everywhere. Closely related is the shift to alternative energy sources. For more on that, I invite you to check out the new Webcast, "Clean Energy: Wind, Solar, or Biofuels?" (we talk about batteries, too) I hosted with guest Brian MacCleery, Principal product manager for clean energy technology at National Instruments.
In my previous position, I had noticed more and more customers requesting some type of energy monitoring. This serves 2 purposes. One, of course, is cost. However, the other was to make sure what we were saying in our sales presentations was actually what we were delivering.
I would imagine that real-time data on energy usage would have the additional benefit of being an alert to the health of the plant. I would think a spike in usage could be an early sign of breakdowns -- or coming breakdowns -- on the line.
Using wireless chips and accessories, engineers can now extract data from the unlikeliest of places -- pumps, motors, bridges, conveyors, refineries, cooling towers, parking garages, down-hole drills and just about anything else that can benefit from monitoring.
With strong marketplace demand for qualified engineers across the board that currently outstrips the available supply, there may never be a better time for engineers and project managers to advance their careers and salaries. Whether those moves are successful in the short-term and long-term is likely to depend on how the transition from one job to the next is handled.
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