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Raising the performance of HVAC assets

03 June 2019

Ian Hopkins advises on how to transform HVAC efficiency to combat the problems of rising energy costs, climate change risk and energy supply disruption. 

Energy can account for up to 15% of total overheads in food and drink manufacturing businesses, particularly where refrigeration and heat intensive processes are involved.

An increasing pressure on energy costs is often exacerbated by capital constraints, which can frustrate investment in non-production assets and leave companies reliant on ageing, inefficient energy infrastructure.

Energy efficiency should be stage one of any energy strategy, but it is often difficult to know where to focus for best results. Examining metered data and conducting energy efficiency audits will only tell you so much. Gaining a detailed understanding of how energy intensive processes and HVAC equipment are performing often requires more detailed analysis. 

The availability of IoT enabled energy monitoring and reporting technologies gives the ability to gain deeper insights into where energy costs lie; where energy is being wasted and where to  they are wasting energy and where to focus on making improvements. 

This new technology involves attaching wireless sensors to energy-using devices, such as chillers and air-conditioning systems. Hundreds of sensors can be installed within a few hours, without causing any disruption to operations. 

The resulting data is then interpreted via an IoT enabled online analytics platform. The data produced can provide real-time, granular visibility of both power and heat use and provides insights into how processes and assets are performing. This informs both energy saving opportunities and operational improvement and preventative maintenance strategies.

Centrica Business Solutions applied its Energy Insight technologies to identify £116k of annual energy cost savings at a food and beverage producer's distribution centre. This included spotting a hidden opportunity to reconfigure a fault on a cooling compressor that's saving more than £50k per year.   

By optimising data, organisations are able to understand their energy priorities and build an accurate and convincing case for capital investment. This is particularly useful for informing investment in onsite generation, such as combined heat and power (CHP), which shifts usage from the grid to more affordable, sustainable and resilient energy supplies. 

The high demand for heat/cooling within the food and drink processing sector makes CHP suitable. Food businesses are using this onsite generation technology to achieve energy cost savings of up to 40%, while also improving energy sustainability and resilience. The return on investment for 'good quality' CHP at the right sites is typically between three and five years.  

Instead of rejecting waste heat to the atmosphere, valuable heat energy is harnessed by connecting the CHP’s heat recovery system directly to the site hot water or steam system.  This means that CHP can operate at around 85% efficiency. In addition, by connecting to an absorption chiller, heat can be used to produce chilled water for air conditioning and process cooling via a process known as trigeneration or combined cooling heat and power (CCHP).

Climate Change Levy exemption
With intelligent design and operation, CHP users can optimise savings by achieving ‘Good Quality’ classification under the government’s CHP Quality Assurance Scheme (CHPQA). This accreditation is essential in order to benefit from financial incentives, such as Climate Change Levy (CCL) exemption for small-scale CHP.

The benefits of CCL exemption have recently grown. On 1 April 2019 CCL rates increased by 67% increase on natural gas and by 45% on electricity. This follows the closure of the CRC energy efficiency scheme, with the lost tax revenue from CRC being offset by increased CCL revenues. 

CHP also scores in terms of versatility – since it is suitable for new and refurbished buildings, as a replacement for an ageing boiler plant, or in augmenting existing or new boilers.
 
A number of food and drink processors are replacing ageing steam systems with CHP to achieve significant energy cost reduction. De-steaming can be an effective means of delivering energy cost reductions and improving heating performance and reliability.

For projects where steam energy is still required, existing systems can be replaced or reinforced by installing CHP. Heat from the CHP’s high-temperature exhaust gases will be used to generate steam energy.

Centrica Business Solutions has introduced a Flexible Term Agreement (FTA) for food and drink manufacturing businesses to help them unlock energy cost savings from CHP. Businesses have the flexibility to relocate or return the CHP unit after three to five years, penalty free. This flexible contract keeps pace with changing business demands. The capital and ongoing operational costs are repaid via a performance-based service fee and discounted charge for the generated power. The generated heat is supplied free.

Centrica Business Solutions has supplied a 1MWe CHP system to help one bakery plants save £400K per year. This will enable the company to pay for the warranty-backed unit in around three years. The high efficiency CHP system is also helping the business to improve its energy sustainability by saving 1,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

The UK  bakery produces more than two million products every day and places great emphasis on sustainability. When the company started making plans to open one of Europe’s largest plants, it wanted to ensure the bakery operated in the most energy efficient manner possible. Through the CHP installation, electricity is produced at low-voltage, then increased to a high-voltage for connection to the site’s 11KV ring main.

Exhaust gases from the engine are used to generate the site’s base steam load requirements, and hot water is recovered from the engine, stored, then re-used by other equipment on the site.

Centrica Business Solutions is now working with the  company on several projects across its portfolio of bakeries, enabling it to be at the forefront of environmental leadership within the food industry.

Ian Hopkins is a director of Centrica Business Solutions.


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