Serving the Region’s Manufacturing Industry
Robert Cotner, Elias Dotterer, Andrea Eborn, Dr. John Gardner, Ryan Montrose, Dr. Krishna Pakala, Mateo Rios, Jason Talford, Matthew Walsh
“The Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs), sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, provide eligible small- and medium-sized manufacturers with energy assessments at no direct cost to the client. Additionally, the IACs serve as a training ground for the next generation of energy engineers.” 
Example Assessment Recommendations (ARs)
Solar Thermal Collectors
The IAC team observed the use of natural gas burners to force heated air through bins of corn to remove humidity. The process’ required air temperature is under 200 °F, so the installation of a glazed flat-plate solar thermal collection system was recommended to reduce natural gas usage. The design simplicity of the system means reduced installation and maintenance cost. They also typically have high efficiency and resilience to differences between ambient temperatures and the fluid in the collector. The glazed flat-plates absorb solar energy, heating water which is pumped through tubes to insulated storage tanks. Then the heated water is passed through heat exchangers to heat up air which is forced through the client’s existing corn drying system.
Compressed Air Leaks
Compressed air leaks on large horsepower compressors can result in a large amount of wasted energy. Fixing compressed air leaks is a great method of saving energy because the implementation cost is low. The IAC team recommends inspecting and repairing all air leaks in couplings, hoses, tubes, fittings, pipe joints, quick disconnects, condensate traps, valves, flanges, packings, thread sealants, and point-of-use devices. Fixing air leaks will reduce the load that the compressors must meet and help facilitate consistent energy savings by retaining the compressed air within the system. Often, medium and larger leaks can be heard with the human ear while smaller leaks (under 2 cfm) can only be found with an ultrasonic leak detector.
During the IAC site visit the client showed us the two steam generators they used to satisfy their process heating demands. They also shared their plans to upgrade to a full boiler system in order better accommodate future upgrades to their processes. This presented an excellent opportunity to recommend the implementation of a condensing economizer in addition to the purchase of their new boiler system. Calculations for this recommendation demanded returning to the fundamentals of thermodynamics and quickly expanding them into topics of heat transfer and thermodynamic combustion.
Using a process that involves micro organisms to create natural gas, biodigesters are one of the best uses for waste products such as food and animal excrement. Using a process called anaerobic digestion, waste product turns into 3 different components: natural gas, liquid fertilizer, and compost mix. Natural gas can be used to create electricity or used to heat up water in a boiler. The liquid fertilizer and compost mix can go back to the farms to create more crops to start a cycle of product, waste, gas and fertilizer, back to product.
Smart irrigation controllers proportion water delivery to local weather conditions, saving 20-30% compared to dependence on human programmed timers. Financial savings are scaled to the irrigated area, meaning thousands of dollars in annual savings for large areas such as athletic fields.
Example AR Savings Calculations
- CAES Energy Efficiency Research Institute. (2019, April 3). Industrial Assessment Center. Retrieved from https://www.boisestate.edu/ceeri/industrial-assessment-center/
- Flat Plate Solar Collectors. (2020, March 31). Retrieved from https://solartribune.com/flat-plate-solar-system/
- United States Department of Energy Industrial Technologies Program. (2004, August). Energy Tips – Compressed Air. Retrieved from https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/05/f16/compressed_air3.pdf
- [Photograph of an Ultrasonic Air Leak Detector] (2015). Retrieved from
- Boiler economizer flow diagram. (2020, April 12) Retrieved from http://www.claudiodeziderio.com.br/efficiency_economizers.php
- Digester Flow Diagram https://www.flickr.com/photos/consumersenergy/14529756719
- Design & Installation of Irrigation Systems. (2020, April 4). Retrieved from http://www.park-landscape.com/irrigation
A special thanks to the U.S. Department of Energy
For questions or comments about this research, contact Andrea Eborn at email@example.com.