Network your way to lower energy costs

by The CC-Link Team on 10 July 2012

Today there are a number of imperatives driving companies to reduce their energy consumption. Governments and shareholders are applying pressure of different kinds. Even if companies are sceptical about environmental impacts, there’s no denying that reducing costs in general just makes good business sense. Many organisations have done the easier things; switching off lights, running motors with inverters, fitting insulation, scheduling heating cycles to match occupancy and so on.

Once this “low hanging fruit” has been addressed, the challenges often get more difficult. Like finding loose change down the back of your sofa, most facilities still offer further potential savings. The trick is to identify it.

Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned by looking at multi-national companies. Most of these have a head office that issues targets to its operating companies, including revenues and profit goals and cost reduction objectives. The idea of the latter is to trim costs by a few percent each year, which will add up nicely over time. And in recent years energy reduction targets have been added to the list.

With the ‘easy’ projects done, a good next step may be systematic energy monitoring of plant and/or processes. Generally it is easy to calculate the theoretical energy need of a process – and if monitoring shows you are above this, it will be worth investigating further. Typically you will want to monitor energy at multiple points in the plant, which raises the question of how best to collect all the data?

CC-Link is one answer. CC-Link is an ‘open’ communications protocol over which devices from many different manufacturers can freely communicate, meaning companies can interconnect a variety of energy monitoring and control equipment from a variety of suppliers. It provides fast, real time data transfer, and has the ability to find and use alternative communications routes around the network. This means that you can add nodes to or remove them from an energy monitoring network and the network will seamlessly keep on handling data. With over 250 companies offering CC-Link products, there are already a variety of different energy management solutions available. These include monitoring equipment such as smart meters as well as control equipment such as inverters and contactors.

CC-Link can also provide a seamless link to a plant’s building services control system, to monitor environmental heating, cooling and lighting energy consumption. Experience shows that this is often a very productive strategy, highlighting potential savings that many plant engineers may not have thought of.

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