Industrial Ethernet helps to improve energy efficiencyThe drive to improve energy management has become so urgent that efficient installation and reliable operation have become imperative. Fortunately, there are many well-publicised technologies available to help, and Industrial Ethernet in particular is playing a key role in providing efficient and reliable solutions.
Just a few years ago, energy management was little more than a nice optional extra. Then the growing awareness of global warming moved it up the scale. Later the introduction of carbon targets made it a serious matter; more recently rocketing of fossil fuel prices made it imperative. Finally, the sudden move away from nuclear power in many countries is making it a more acute topic than ever.
Further, today's focus for senior executives in all types of organisations is on control of all costs, including energy. John Browett of CLPA notes that companies are finally realising that energy is a raw material just like cement, steel or wood, and efficient use of it is simply good business sense. Moreover, a reduction in energy consumption is good for both the environment and the bottom line.
There is now a heightened need to monitor power systems (both generation and consumption) for efficiency and waste, and a desire to control operation in real time so that performance can be constantly optimised.
Retrofitting energy saving equipment into existing plant and systems can sometimes prove very tricky. The difficulties usually arise when integrating new equipment into an existing control network, as there may be issues with compatibility and interoperability. There are several potential solutions that allow free communications between various pieces of equipment, but selecting the right one for a given job can be more involved than expected.
Automation engineers have been making decisions about networking solutions for many, many years. In the last five or so years Industrial Ethernet has been proving increasingly popular because it is almost universally compatible with both existing and new equipment and is now robust enough to stand up to the harshest working conditions.
The CLPA's Industrial Ethernet offering is CC-Link IE, and CC-Link IE's capabilities have now been extended with the addition of a new, specialist protocol extension, CC-Link IE Energy. This allows managers to easily monitor energy consumption of individual machines or processes over the same networks they are already using for general control purposes.
Manufacturing plants, for example, typically include many energy consuming devices. These could be controlled with a network that incorporates the new CC-Link IE Energy protocol, which would then provide the ability to monitor all of the devices individually and in real time. This would allow optimization of each device to be achieved. Without CC-Link IE Energy, collecting data from each device and determining how to optimize it would be complicated and in many cases impractical.
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