How much electricity does a bottle of beer take? Israeli start-up Lightapp knows
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How much electricity does a bottle of beer take? Israeli start-up Lightapp knows

Big data project by Israeli firm, California panel aims to show how energy efficiency can save manufacturers money

Lightapp in action (Screenshot)
Lightapp in action (Screenshot)

How much electricity goes into a roll of paper towels? How much water does it take to process the hops that go into a bottle of beer? How does the weather affect the tire manufacturing business?

The answers to those questions are in the data, but extracting that data in a manufacturing setting is difficult without the energy monitoring system developed by Herzliya-based Lightapp Technologies.

Over 150 factories in Israel use the company’s sensor-based monitoring software to precisely measure, and better control, the amount of resources that go into each item they produce. In recent months, the company has expanded to the US, where it has a number of customers.

Now, Lightapp has partnered with the E2e Project – an energy-management and efficiency program of the California Energy Commission (CEC) – to conduct the largest demonstration and evaluation of an innovative energy monitoring system, focusing on industrial facilities.

The $5 million project will see Lightapp install its solutions in over 100 factories in California, providing for the first time a large body of empirical evidence on the effects of energy-management programs on industrial production, according to Catherine Wolfram, Faculty Director of E2e.

“Policymakers are looking to energy efficiency to reduce the world’s dependency on fossil fuels,” said Wolfram. “Yet our understanding of how individual behavior influences energy use is still poor. This project aims to narrow that knowledge gap.”

Lightapp has created a software-based, optimized energy management system designed especially for industrial facilities. While there are many energy-management programs for homes and businesses, there aren’t many for factories, because of the difficulty of installing such a system. There are a million things going on in production, and a million parts to worry about in the equipment that is used in production. With manufacturers facing increased competition, there isn’t time or manpower to check all the equipment for energy efficiency.

That’s where LightApp comes in, according to CEO Elhay Farkash. “Lightapp’s mission is to enable decision makers at all levels in the industrial sector to make financially-driven decisions about their energy and operations.” The company’s “innovative approach to energy management relates electricity consumption within specific plant systems to these systems’ production outputs.

“Lightapp’s software combines data from shop-floor sensors, manufacturing software systems, and external data such as weather, and it creates reports that allow users to discover, analyze, and share data about how they consume energy—and, more importantly, how they might use it more efficiently,” said Farkash. “The reports also identify operational changes, repairs, and capital investments that would lower consumption.”

With the metrics, manufacturers can immediately find out where they are losing resources – e.g., a leak in a water tank or an electrical short that is forcing another system to supply more power less efficiently. And they can even break down the energy cost per manufactured item in order to determine where and how they can save money in their energy usage.

At a conference for its Israeli clients held last week in Herzliya, Guy Pe’er, vice-president of innovation at the company, presented a case study that Lightapp conducted at one plant of Israeli dairy producer Tnuva – where the system was able to lead managers to reduce energy use by 36%. “This is a phenomenal figure,” said Pe’er.

For the California project, E2e and Lightapp will test Lightapp’s energy-monitoring system in 100 California industrial facilities. The project will focus on the facilities’ compressed air systems. Compressed air systems do everything from running bottling lines at breweries to powering tools in automotive and tire factories, and they account for around 10 percent of the electricity used by manufacturers. In some plants, compressors use more electricity than any other kind of gear.

If successful, the technology can be used throughout a facility to measure and help optimize energy consumption in every part of the manufacturing process, said Farkash. “We are excited to partner with E2e to roll out our new technology to industrial facilities in California and show that by simplifying energy management through software, manufacturers can improve bottom line results and enhance throughput performance.”

E2e (the name stands for Energy to energy – with the big E symbolizing the wasteful use of energy that will hopefully be converted into the smaller usage under the program) is a joint initiative of University of California – Berkeley, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Chicago, which means that Lightapp will be working with some of the top energy researchers in the US.

E2e will structure the evaluation as a randomized controlled trial, where randomly chosen facilities will be recruited to participate and receive Lightapp’s analytical software. This arrangement will enable the faculty researchers – Catherine Wolfram (UC Berkeley), Michael Greenstone (University of Chicago), and Christopher Knittel (MIT) – to precisely measure the impact of the new technology and analytics on industrial facilities’ electricity consumption. By including a sampling of facilities from different industrial sectors, the researchers also hope to identify which types of facilities are more likely to adopt the new technology and gather information on potential barriers to adoption.

If successful, the findings can be used to encourage thousands of California manufacturers—and even more worldwide—to deploy energy management systems to save energy, lower costs, and reduce carbon emissions.

“In recent days we have begun installing our system in our first California clients – two facilities owned by Anheuser-Busch,” said Farkash. “We expect to include about 120 factories in the US and Israel in this project by the end of the year. These companies will send data about their operations in real time, and thus get the benefit of receiving an analysis that can help them save significant amounts of money on energy usage.”

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