Industrial Power Management

Saving Money with Energy Monitoring for Industrial Installations

Effective energy monitoring for industrial operations is becoming increasingly important for controlling costs. A selection of easy-to-install sensors and monitors coupled with communications capabilities and analysis software are essential.


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Owners, operators and maintenance professionals responsible for commercial buildings, industrial facilities and other large businesses realize that the simplest way to cut power consumption (and the associated costs) is by altering their energy usage practices and policies. But how can this be accomplished to any real benefit without first aggregating detailed power usage information?

For this reason, systems integrators and consultants specializing in energy have become increasingly focused on 1) implementing power monitoring systems that let customers gather key power consumption data for facilities, systems and equipment, and 2) providing the accompanying tools that let decision makers analyze this data so that they can change business practices and ultimately slash their energy bills. To better assist customers in this endeavor, there are specific embedded technologies, capabilities and features one should seek when sourcing energy monitoring hardware.

A “Business-Sized” Solution

Currently, there is a rapidly growing market for monitoring power consumption in private residences. Simply visit your local Home Depot and you’ll find devices that connect to a single piece of equipment or instrumentation—like the home’s power meter—and provide an overall snapshot of power consumption.

But what large businesses and industrial customers require is quite different. They need robust, high-precision systems designed for warehouses, shopping centers, factories and processing plants. Facilities such as these differ from private residences in many ways, including the fact that they operate on three-phase electric power, as opposed to most residences, which use single- or dual-phase. In cases such as these, a broad snapshot of overall power usage simply won’t do. Instead, what’s needed is the specific power draw of each individual asset in the facility. In other words, the energy consumption of each piece of manufacturing machinery, all lighting and refrigeration systems, each heavy duty pump or motor, all HVAC systems, etc., must be tracked and accounted for separately.

However, meeting this requirement shouldn’t require a separate energy management system for each and every asset, but only a single system with enough embedded intelligence and precision to measure changes in power draw from each identifiable source. This way, as all changes are tracked and measured, it will be easier to deduce the heaviest energy consumers.

Additionally, all power monitoring solutions ultimately rely on hardware connections—typically I/O modules, current or voltage sensors and other types of signal processors—that interface to equipment and gather data. This hardware and these connections need to be extremely precise and sensitive to provide the highest levels of accuracy and granularity in the readings they acquire. From there, customers will be free to slice and dice their energy-related data any way they wish.

Utilize Standard Communication Technologies

An energy management system that innately supports standard communication technologies—Ethernet networking in particular—and protocols like IP, SMTP and SMS, provides several advantages, including a simple way to aggregate and share energy-related data over a network. Information can be served to PCs and operator interface terminals locally across the facility, as well as to any web-enabled PC, laptop or mobile device. Providing this type of remote access to the acquired data is crucial, as personnel located offsite may need 24/7 access in order to fully understand and reconcile their facility’s power requirements with production schedules and pricing structures set forth by power providers.

In addition to having this embedded protocol support and web capability, the energy monitoring system should also provide the ability to share and view data using a software application that presents the energy data for evaluation and archiving. For example, some cloud-based software applications can provide simple, graphical interfaces to view data, while others such as eSight Energy’s eSight and Pulse Energy’s Pulse are sophisticated tools that let you organize and present data in a variety of ways (Figure 1).

Figure 1
Pulse Energy Manager provides energy analysis for executives, operations personnel and energy managers in such installations as government, health, and industrial plants.

Also, one of the main benefits of implementing an energy monitoring system is its capability for sending alarms. There is tremendous value in systems that can be configured to alarm via email (SMTP) or text (SMS) messages, which can be sent to key personnel whenever predefined usage thresholds are threatened or eclipsed.

Gather Real-Time Data

Formulating effective energy management strategies relies first and foremost on accurate data. The fresher and more comprehensive that data is, the better decisions customers will be able to make and the better energy management strategies they’ll be able to devise. Conversely, a lack of real-time visibility causes the customer to miss many of the opportunities for cost savings. So with power draws naturally fluctuating (often dramatically over the course of even just a few minutes) a real-time energy monitoring and data acquisition system is what’s required to manage equipment and load shed in the most cost-effective manner.

Finally, as well intended as they may be, energy management initiatives are sometimes hastily conceived and then handed down from corporate to an individual or team with vaguely stated objectives like, “Cut our energy costs by 15 percent.” Often, the individuals responsible for implementing the necessary technologies and meeting the stated goals have little idea where to begin. These individuals carry titles like “Plant Floor Supervisor” or “Production Manager” and their primary responsibility is the facility’s line of business operations.

Customers seeking energy monitoring solutions shouldn’t have to possess an engineering degree in order to implement and subsequently understand the data provided by their monitoring system. Likewise, they shouldn’t be burdened with having to perform complicated installations, application development wiring, or other electrical work. On the contrary, the system should not only be easy to install, it should also offer a method to translate and present the acquired data in a straightforward way. Opto 22’s easy-to-use OptoEMU Sensor, for example, is an energy monitoring appliance that provides detailed, real-time data from pulsing meters, electrical panels and equipment (Figure 2).

Figure 2
The OptoEMU energy monitoring unit collects energy data from buildings, electrical subpanels and individual high-use equipment then delivers the data to be viewed online and used by analysis and control applications.

Managing Massive Refrigeration

As a real-world example of a company making smart and educated decisions in the selection of its energy monitoring hardware, consider the case of Supervalu, one of the largest companies in the grocery industry. The company wanted to reduce energy consumption in its distribution centers, each of which encompasses 40,000-500,000 square feet of refrigerated space. Supervalu enlisted the services of both Net Peak Energy Group, which serves as an energy data aggregator and curtailment services provider, and Advanced Energy Control (AEC), whose areas of expertise include refrigeration control, HVAC and building management systems. Together, Net Peak and AEC sourced and implemented multiple OptoEMU Sensors—hardware appliances designed for industrial-grade real-time data acquisition and energy monitoring. The hardware was selected because it required minimal configuration out of the box and because it possessed the embedded intelligence, features and functionality needed to meet all of the technical requirements of the project. 

First and foremost, the Sensor offered physical connections to a variety of systems, equipment and metering devices. For example, at Supervalu, the Sensor monitors both pulse-emitting devices (such as utility meters and sub-meters) and the voltage and current of several load panels, chillers and refrigeration units. Because it is Internet-enabled, the hardware is able to send data to both Net Peak’s network operating center located in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Supervalu’s local network databases and web-based applications. All communication required to perform the monitoring and reporting takes place over the Internet via TCP/IP and other standard communications technologies. In this way, the Sensor provides a simple and standards-based way to interface to the Supervalu distribution centers in Pennsylvania and gather real-time consumption data.

Additionally, it’s important to remember that energy monitoring ultimately leads to energy management. If you’re overweight, counting calories and weekly weigh-ins provide the information you need to make the changes in your diet that will help you lose those extra pounds. Energy monitoring works the same way. Supervalu utilized the embedded intelligence found in Opto 22 hardware (i.e., controllers and input/output systems) to interface to analog and digital output signals and expertly manage compressors, control solenoids on evaporators, switch relays, and otherwise provide immediate response based on energy data by the Sensor. The system runs control programs to handle about 1500 inputs and 500 outputs, enabling full automation of Supervalu’s industrial refrigeration, ventilation (and soon) the HVAC and lighting systems. At the same time, the control system is intelligent enough to regulate specific refrigeration temperatures and can be programmed to send alerts if these ever deviate from a predefined range.

For any business, the ultimate goal of energy monitoring is to reduce the total cost of power. An energy monitoring system with the right mix of built-in features and intelligence can provide crucial data to the individuals responsible for the facilities and systems actually consuming the power), and make usage more transparent so necessary changes can be brought about more quickly. 

Temecula, CA.
(951) 695-3080.

Advanced Energy Control
Randolph, WI.
(866) 820-2318.

eSight Energy
Schaumburg, IL.
(847) 701-2340.

Net Peak Energy Group
Green Bay, WI.
(920) 268-1686.

Pulse Energy
Vancouver, BC, Canada.
(778) 331-0500.

Eden Prairie, MN.
(952) 828-4000.