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Other Voices: Intelligent LEDs + multiplying the LED efficiency opportunity

By Mike Feinstein, vice president, sales and marketing, Digital Lumens
May 14, 2013

Editor’s Note: The following column By Mike Feinstein, vice president, sales and marketing, Digital Lumens, is part of Modern’s Other Voices column. The series features ideas, opinions and insights from end users, analysts, systems integraters and OEMs. Click on the link to learn about submitting a column for consideration.

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The president issued a lofty challenge in his 2013 State of the Union Address to cut wasted energy in half. He even proposed federal funding to support states that get behind energy-efficient buildings and highlighted the energy-reducing, job-creating power of those buildings.

This efficiency target, derived from excellent work done by the Alliance to Save Energy, would require us to reduce energy demand from today’s levels by approximately 20 percent by the year 2030. For companies in the industrial sector, an energy efficiency mandate can help address two challenges: the need to increase operational efficiency and the desire to deliver on the promise of corporate social responsibility.

This simple-sounding mandate, however, can refer to a complex set of opportunities, particularly in the industrial and materials handling industries, where multiple systems play a role in energy consumption and efficiency. From fueling fleets with alternative energy to installing temperature and occupancy controls in buildings, to materials recycling systems, installing and managing variable-frequency drives, and a host of other measures, companies have an ever-increasing number of choices for improving energy efficiency.

One stone that has remained unturned for many organizations is solid-state (LED) lighting, which will play a huge part in achieving energy savings for industrial and manufacturing companies in the months and years to come. How? By marrying ultra-low-energy illumination sources (LEDs) with ultra-intelligent controls within the lights themselves and connecting it all to a network that is centrally controlled. After all, LEDs are chips, controllable and manageable. Not controlling them is a missed opportunity in terms of both lighting performance and efficiency.

Shedding light on the size of the lighting efficiency opportunity

To understand the energy efficiency opportunity that LED lighting offers to this sector, let’s first take a look at lighting as part of the overall energy mix in the U.S. The Department of Energy’s Lighting Market Characterization, published in 2012, reports that 700 TWh, or roughly one-fifth of our total electrical load, goes toward generating light. And the majority of that lighting energy is consumed by the commercial and industrial sectors.

According to another DoE report, “Energy Savings Potential of Solid-State Lighting in General Illumination Applications,” the transition to LEDs alone will result in a 46 percent reduction in lighting energy usage by the year 2030 – the majority of which will happen in the industrial and commercial markets. This reduction will be achieved primarily through pure wattage reduction – capturing the savings from the reduction in power consumed by LEDs vs. traditional lighting sources, such as fluorescent fixtures.  However, we believe – based on millions of square feet worth of data from the use of intelligent controls – that intelligent LED systems can multiply the LED savings opportunity even more.

Intelligent Lighting: The Efficiency Multiplier

Forty-six percent savings by 2030 is already a bold claim, but those simple wattage savings are easily achieved today. With integrated sensing and controls, lighting energy savings of up to 90 percent are achievable when switching from high-intensity discharge (HID), high-pressure sodium (HPS), or even T5 fluorescent lighting fixtures. The key is to integrate sensing and intelligence into every single fixture – and manage it according to the needs of the facility.

That means integrating occupancy and daylight sensing, along with the ability for each fixture to store instructions about how it should behave in the event of an occupancy event or available natural light. Should that light come on to 100 percent illumination at 8:00 a.m. Monday morning and turn off 30 seconds after the area is vacant, but come on at 75 percent on Thursday at 2:00 a.m. during a maintenance shift? Those lights also need to be able to communicate key usage data to be used in facility-wide reports. And, they need to be able to receive updated configuration settings as facility usage patterns change. For a contract manufacturer, for example, if an area is reconfigured, the lights should easily be reprogrammable. If there’s seasonality to a business and shift lengths change, lighting settings need to change easily, too.
 
The additive benefits of these various capabilities are the difference between simple, one-time wattage savings and remarkable decreases in industrial lighting energy use. And the granularity of settings on a fixture-by-fixture basis is critical.

Intelligence at work

Considering the size of the industrial market, there is a massive opportunity for manufacturers and industrial organizations to reap the rewards of energy efficient and cost savings through solid-state lighting installations.

Take for example Creed Monarch, a leading contract manufacturing company specializing in precision machined ferrous and non-ferrous alloy components.

For Creed Monarch, control was a considerable pain point when it came to lighting. Working with an energy efficiency partner, Energy Services Group, the company took a thoughtful and strategic approach, evaluating fluorescents and earlier-generation LEDs and finding that none offered the combination of energy savings, quality of lighting and control that the organization required to replace all 332 400W fixtures in its 140,000 sq. ft. facility.

The solution to this challenge was solid-state lighting – networked, intelligent LEDs – that reduced energy consumption by 75 percent, with a projected efficiency increase of 90 percent within the first year. That adds up to projected energy savings of 1,036,669 kWh, or $108,436, each year. The change also enabled Creed Monarch to match lighting levels to work patterns by providing central control over on/off and dimmer switches.

In addition, the LEDs are able to withstand high temperatures under a steel roof and oily mist form machines within the facility.

Intelligence drives efficiency. And more.

While the goal is efficiency, intelligent lighting systems introduce additional benefits – all paid for on the back of the efficiency gains. Intelligent lighting networks can be a conduit for information about security, heating and cooling and other critical facility information that help companies run more efficient operations overall.

It is also worth mentioning that intelligent lighting helps companies fulfill the promise of corporate social responsibility. CSR isn’t necessarily the primary motivator for making the investment in more energy efficient lighting, but it is not trivial, either. By reducing energy consumption – sometimes by staggering amounts – even the most traditional manufacturing and industrial enterprises can demonstrate a contribution to reducing dependence on fossil fuels. Going “green” through intelligent lights is also a massive cost-savings measure that helps a CSR initiative make that much more sense to all stakeholders.

Intelligent math

President Obama has called for a 20 percent reduction in energy use – which sounds like a tall order. But when you do the math, it starts to make perfect sense:  20 percent would be about 20 Quads – and a quad is the equivalent of about a quadrillion Btus (British thermal units), or about 170 million barrels of oil. If the commercial and industrial sector alone implemented intelligent LEDs, we could quickly reach about a quarter of that national energy savings target.

The DoE estimates that LEDs can reduce lighting energy usage by 46 percent and our data indicate that number would be closer to 70 percent if all of those LEDs were intelligent. Given the trajectory of LED adoption in the industrial sector alone, this is not an unrealistic goal.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) calls efficiency the “first fuel” because it should be the first port of call, not an afterthought, in managing a company’s energy consumption. Even if “going green” is not a key initiative, getting smart about energy efficiency should be. Change is never easy. But changing lighting can be relatively simple, especially when the energy- and cost-savings opportunities are so clear.

 

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About the Author

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. Contact Bob Trebilcock.


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