Energy conservation initiatives have received widespread attention in the logistics and distribution world these days. Most of us have had to learn to do more with less as we’ve felt the effects of the global recession, and many of us have sought ways to reduce our energy consumption as part of our effort to drive down operating expenses. Many of our customers today take into consideration the sustainability and overall carbon footprint of the equipment they purchase for their facilities. That said, it’s our responsibility to assist them in selecting the most energy efficient, reliable and cost-effective products for their operations.
With so many avenues to improve the energy efficiency of your operations, where do you start? Many DCs can slash their energy bills by simply adjusting their operations to use energy more efficiently. Adjusting energy usage outside of peak hours may provide for a considerable savings through local utility providers. Other options may require an investment in energy-saving equipment or technology, but are likely to pay for themselves time over in the years to come.
A great place to get started on is the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a non-profit organization that promotes sustainable building practices. Known for their LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, the council offers a certification program for existing buildings. Kendall Jackson, a winery located in Santa Rosa, CA, recently constructed a LEED certified distribution center and is expected to cut down on their building energy consumption costs by 61 percent as compared to a baseline used by the USGBC. (1)
If the time, cost, and effort in pursuing a LEED certification prevent your company from taking the next step, you may find the program’s rating system and checklists as reference guides to help implement improvements in your operations at http://www.usgbc.org/. The website offers operations and maintenance projects checklist that covers everything from water efficiency to energy and atmosphere to indoor environmental quality to innovations in operations. (1)
A range of newer technologies can be implemented to reduce your energy costs. New T-5 and T-8 ballasts can offer a longer life than older lamps and can be wired with motion sensors to turn on only when operators are present. A host of local, State, and Federal programs offer incentives to implement these systems. Conveyor systems can be designed to turn off and operate in “sleep mode” when not in use. This not only serves to provide an energy savings, but also reduce the required system maintenance by extending the life of drives, motors, and bearings while increasing the versatility and flexibility of use through intelligent, modular design. Energy efficient 24 volt DC systems have been designed that can provide up to 125,000 hours of life expectancy, up to 10 years of use in 24/7 operations. (2)
1 “Power Down for a Greener DC,” DC Velocity, Sept 2009