DOE-Funded Project Aims to Improve Industrial Energy Use

The US Department of Energy has awarded a clean energy manufacturing contract for a $10 million project to develop the nation’s first open smart technology platform for collaborative, industrial and networked information applications.

The project, led by the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition, will receive $7.8 million from the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Program to design a platform that enables data modeling and simulation technologies to actively manage energy use in real time in conjunction with plant production systems.

University of Texas-Austin, UCLA, business aviation and IT firm General Dynamics, industrial gases company Praxair, Emerson Process Management, Honeywell Automation, Invensys, Rockwell Automation, Nimbis Services, American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the National Center for Manufacturing Science are also participating in the project.

SMLC’s platform development uses industrial test beds with actual manufacturing data and applications. The first two tests will be at a General Dynamics Army Munitions plant to optimize heat treating furnaces. The test bed project technologies could demonstrate how to make US manufacturers more competitive by reducing annual generation of carbon dioxide emissions by 69 million tons, and waste heat by 1.3 quads, or about 1.3 percent of total US energy use.

Most US manufacturers manage energy efficiency in their plants and factories passively as part of their production systems, said R. Neal Elliott, director of research at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. By integrating smart technologies that actively manage energy use across manufacturing systems and plants, US manufacturing energy intensity can be reduced by more than half, he said.

Total energy consumption in the manufacturing sector decreased 17 percent from 2002 to 2010, according to data released this month by the US Energy Information Administration. Manufacturing gross output decreased by 3 percent over the same period.

Taken together, the data indicates a significant decline in the amount of energy used per unit of gross manufacturing output, a development that reflects improvements in energy efficiency and changes in the output mix.

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