Recent developments from energy providers and equipment suppliers are providing new ways to reduce energy usage and costs. We look at developments on the AI (artificial intelligence) front from Constellation (an Exelon company) and integrating process with heating/cooling systems from GEA, supplier of manufacturing equipment to the food and beverage industry.
Becoming more smart about energy usage
Sheetz, a large convenience store chain, will manage its energy use through Pear.ai, a state-of-the-art energy intelligence platform offered to customers by Constellation and its affiliate company, Exelon Generation Services.
The Pear.ai platform provides businesses and manufacturers with utility expense management and centralized, streamlined access to all of their utility data—as well as meaningful analytics. Sheetz will use Pear.ai to manage its comprehensive utility footprint, which includes power, natural gas and water across all 617 of its store locations.
The Pear.ai technology processes thousands of bills per week to identify bill anomalies, generate insights, and model predictive behavior through machine learning. Pear.ai also sends customer alerts to correct issues proactively using a direct conversational functionality that eliminates the need to wait, or pay additional fees, for information from an account or support representative. The technology has created meaningful savings for industrial, healthcare, retail store and higher education customers, among others.
“As a steadily growing business rooted in data and analytics, Sheetz is well positioned to take full advantage of the depth and flexibility of the Pear.ai platform and its supporting team,” says Mark Huston, president, Constellation’s National Retail Business. “We’re excited Sheetz will be able to leverage this solution to optimize its utility portfolio and manage its energy spend.”
Applying Pear.ai to food and beverage
This technology is not just aimed at retail customers. Any industry can use it—including food and beverage. I asked Abhinav Krishna (AK), executive director, partnership development & commercialization, Constellation, a few questions that food processors might initially have about this AI-based technology.
FE: Could a food manufacturer, then, use this technology to get an idea of what’s going on with electrical usage?
AK: Yes. A food manufacturer would get a better understanding of its utility footprint/overall energy spend by using the Pear.ai platform. Pear.ai can process and analyze utility bills including power, gas, water, sewage etc. Customers can track usage and charges on the platform for all of the customer’s bills.
FE: And that technology can be applied to natural gas usage, too? Does an Exelon electric user also have to be using gas supplied by Exelon?
AK: The platform can track utility data across multiple types of utilities and multiple locations. I also want to make it clear that a business does not have to be a Constellation power or gas customer to receive the Pear.ai service. There are contract options available that enable customers who get their supply from their local utility or another supplier to access the Pear.ai technology.
FE: So if you’re a food manufacturer, can the AI-based system go back and look at historical usage/billings to get an even better handle on what’s going on with energy usage over the long term?
FE: And would an industrial user (such as a food/beverage manufacturer) need to break down usage with some well-placed sensors in the facility to provide some additional data sources?
AK: Pear.ai automatically processes/analyzes up to thousands of bills per week. That’s how the data goes from a paper bill or a statement in your inbox to a digital format within the platform. From there Pear.ai produces those analytics and insights around predictive behavior and helps customers identify billing anomalies and ways to save money. We have a seamless way of capturing total data from each of the sensors in the platform. We can capture customer attributes so we can generate reports to help their business.
For more information on Pear.ai, visit Constellation’s website.
GEA introduces a new program to improve efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions
An issue that I’ve covered often in the pages of FE has been integrating process systems with heating and/or cooling systems. You would expect that such an integration of disparate systems could have them working with each other, rather than separately or even against one other.
GEA has put this concept into reality with its SEnS (Sustainable Energy Solutions) offering. SEnS is a concept being put into action by GEA and its customers. GEA suggests that users can realize potential energy savings of up to 30% and a significant reduction in CO2 emissions by as much as 90 or even 100 percent.
GEA’s SEnS integrates processes and utilities (refrigeration and heating) solutions, allowing GEA experts to develop optimization strategies for customers in diverse industries. Numerous successfully completed SEnS projects from GEA show: These optimizations reduce the customer’s energy footprint and running costs, without compromising output or the bottom line.
For example, according to GEA’s website: Aurivo, Ireland’s second largest liquid milk processor, has cut carbon dioxide emissions at its Killygordon site by 80%, thanks to a multimillion-euro upgrade that includes new liquid processing systems and state-of-the-art, energy-saving refrigeration and heat pump systems from GEA. The successful project highlights the benefit of the GEA’s SEnS (Sustainable Energy Solutions) concept and has been awarded the Excellence in Energy Efficiency Design (EXEED) Certification from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.
The Aurivo dairy annually produces and packages 120 million liters of whole milk, skimmed and low-fat milks—including organic milk—for a range of brands. The dairy looked for ways to increase efficiency and capacity as well as reduce carbon footprint. Since the dairy already used a green electricity supplier, its key goal was to reduce overall energy use and cut reliance on fossil-fuel-fired water boilers.
As a result of early discussions with GEA, the dairy decided to employ GEA heat pump technology to reclaim and channel excess heat from the now cooling plant to heat water for the milk pasteurization process. The new refrigeration plant was built on the site of the old, decommissioned facility. The GEA and Aurivo teams worked together to install a new, larger 45,000 liters/hour capacity pasteurizer, together with separation, homogenization and milk standardization equipment that works seamlessly with the upgraded refrigeration and heat pump solutions. (For more details on this SEnS project, visit GEA’s website.)
Tips for a successful project
“GEA has developed a structured, holistic and proven approach that begins with analyzing the customer’s precise energy requirements, then making process optimizations and including utilities in the equation. By connecting heat pump technology to manufacturing processes, GEA experts ensure energy is moving circularly, rather than being wasted,” says Ulrich Walk, chief service officer, refrigeration technologies.
Each GEA SEnS project includes a single point of contact enabling customers to achieve reductions in energy consumption and their carbon footprint. The SEnS process is backed up by a cross-functional engineering team with experts from dairy, food or beverage processing as required, as well as team members with refrigeration (heating and cooling) expertise in diverse processing industries. Each project considers the customer’s business parameters and ambitions, formulated as measurable KPIs, against which the installation must deliver.
When it comes to plant upgrades, GEA recommends that customers should integrate the GEA experts as early as possible in the design process. Doing so can mitigate potential frustrations later on as the solution will be more closely aligned with expectations at a very early stage. Another big advantage: This early involvement will lead to more cost-efficiency.
For more information, visit GEA Automation.