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January 18, 2013
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Automation Insider: Optimizing Energy Use

garymintchellBy Gary Mintchell, Editorial Director

Whether you personally monitor/manage energy at your site or not, you can bet your management is interested in gathering better, more detailed information about energy usage. This is not just for the idle amusement of the “guys with ties.” Determining and managing energy from unit level down to individual components offers significant opportunities for improved plant profitability.

Energy management has been a key topic discussed during my last few trips around the automation world. From the end of October through the end of November, I attended the Yokogawa Users Conference, Rockwell Automation’s Process Solutions User Group and Automation Fair, concluding with a trip to Nuremberg, Germany, for the SPS/IPC/Drives 2012 trade show.

What I learned along the way
During a Profibus International (PI) press conference at SPS, a Daimler engineer described a beta project he had completed for a Mercedes plant: It involved the use of the “ProfiEnergy” protocol within Profinet to save energy during machine or line downtime periods. The protocol monitors the process and recognizes idle states. It’s then able to turn equipment to LOW or OFF, reducing or eliminating energy usage when it isn’t needed. The speaker reported energy savings greater than 50% during these states. (PI says studies have shown up to 80% savings generally.)

OPC is another digital communications protocol. Its latest UA edition incorporates many new features that engineers are exploiting in order to move energy data in a better, faster way. Given the discussions I’ve had both at the OPC Technology Summit in October in Orlando and at the OPC Foundation press conference at SPS, I expect application stories detailing successes before too long.

Two other companies showed me energy monitoring equipment and applications at SPS. Wago is a German manufacturer of terminal blocks, I/O components, controllers and some application software. It was displaying new software that draws information from its I/O to provide a detailed look at energy usage. Likewise, B&R Automation, an Austrian motors, drives and controls supplier, has enhanced its portfolio of energy solutions.

As you work with other departments in your organization on energy optimization, be aware that there are many automation solutions available to help you in your quest. MT

Gary Mintchell, gmintchell@automationworld.com, is Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of Automation World magazine and blogs at www.garymintchellsfeedforward.com.

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