The carbon-neutral Green Factory

Carbon-neutral production is possible! Combine photo voltaic panels, a thermal power station, pellet heating and a production process aligned with the energy the system generates.

In 2019, Alois Müller GmbH in Allgäu opened their Green Factory in Ungerhausen, Germany. The Green Factory is a practically energy self-sufficient office and production building manufacturing heating and ventilation facilities as well as components for metal constructions. Over 200,000 solar cells on the roof provide two-thirds of the carbon-neutral electricity which is used directly onsite. Surplus electricity flows into the grid.

Production steps are aligned with the quantity of electricity available. High-powered electrical machines such as the laser are prioritized when the PV facility provides enough electricity. The same applies to lacquer and sandblasting work as well as production entailing various mediums such as liquid nitrogen, purified water and compressed air.

An important step toward carbon-neutral production is analyzing all material and energy flows required for manufacturing. An ERP system balances incoming orders and production data with the current weather prognoses. On days when there is not sufficient sunshine, the Green Factory draws its energy from a thermal power station. Additional energy is also supplied by a wood pellet boiler during extended cold periods.

Industry 4.0 illustrated – Resource efficiency through digitalisation

Digital and fully-automated processes boost resource efficiency for companies in the manufacturing sector. VDI ZRE’s new video uses Blechwarenfabrik Limburg to show how this works.

There, several management systems are used to digitalise production, while a business intelligence system is deployed to network these systems together, coordinate them and control them.

For example, a production planning system (PPS) directs production processes via a manufacturing execution system (MES), and an energy management system (EMS) analyses and regulates energy flows, compressed air and cooling water. All the data is collected by a business intelligence system (BI). If, say, the BI determines that more compressed air is being used for a certain number of tins, it will alert a technician to this. The technician can look for leaks straight away and fix them immediately, thereby saving energy.

The factory’s roof is home to more than 2,500 solar panels, which provide a third of the electricity required by the factory. What’s so special about this? The warehouse management system (WMS) automatically controls the flow of goods within the warehouse on the basis of the electricity available. This means that energy-intensive stock movements are carried out when the factory’s own photovoltaic equipment is producing particularly large quantities of electricity.

Furthermore, heat generated during production is used for heating and producing hot water.

All in all, this cuts the company’s expenditure on materials and energy by half a million euros a year. It also prevents more than 2,600 tons of greenhouse gases (CO2 equivalent) from being emitted, thereby making a successful contribution to protecting the planet.

Resource efficiency in the University Hospital Freiburg in Germany

The concept of “Green Hospital ” combines the goals of medical quality, economy and ecology in the operation of a hospital. For that the VDI Center for Resource Efficiency offers in several short films practice examples. The first film shows the integral measures at the University Hospital Freiburg in Germany. The clinic focuses on integral material flow management that includes many different resources. It has its own power supply and operates a combined cycle power plant and uses among other renewable resources such as wood pellets. Solar panels on the roofs of buildings and a sophisticated facility system, which turns heat into cold, form a complete green energy supply.

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Producing with sunlight – process heat

In this country, solar thermal installations ensure that hot water for the shower is available at your home, above all during summer, although there is a considerably greater potential for the energy from the roof. More than 20% of the thermal energy required by industry ranges below 100° C, which means: this power could largely be provided by the sun. Bakeries already use solar thermal installations to heat their process water for cleaning purposes and in electroplating companies, they are used to bring the tanks to the required temperature. In addition, there are many other branches of industry, in which the use of “solar process heat” could be increased. The Federal Office of Economics and Export Control offers attractive funding options for this technology. The amortization time of the installations will thus be reduced to a few years. If companies increasingly rely on the sun, they will be able to save large amounts of fossil energy and thus a lot of money.

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Efficient wind energy plants through condition monitoring

The reliability of a wind power plant also determines their income. Downtime and stnadstill mean a financial loss. To identify failure risks and problems early, condition monitoring systems are used. Especially in hard to reach offshore installations, these systems provide early warning for necessary maintenance or repair work. In a control center in Kiel in Germany data from over 1000 wind turbines come together and are evaluated. The cost of maintenance or downtime can thus be better planned as the new film of the VDI Center for Resource Efficiency shows.

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