The Complete Guide to Energy Efficiency
Global energy consumption is approximately 580 million terajoules per year, which is equivalent to what 13.8 billion tons of oil can produce. This figure just keeps going up, with a projected increase of 30% by 2040.
While the thought given to the effects of energy sources was once put off for another day, that day has now arrived for individuals, communities, and businesses worldwide. And the big question is figuring out how to use energy as efficiently as possible.
Knowing the true costs of our energy sources, and the damaging impact that fossil fuels have on the global climate, no business can afford to waste any of this energy. The only way to achieve this objective without cutting back on production capacity or uptime is to focus on energy efficiency: maximizing the value and utilizing every bit of energy you put to use.
A strong commitment to energy efficiency can generate significant benefits for any organization. Energy efficiency saves money, lengthens the useful life of your assets, demonstrates values of good stewardship and environmental responsibility to the communities you serve, and helps you meet climate goals like the Net Zero target.
In this article, we’ll discuss what it means to be energy efficient, why it matters so much, how to measure and optimize it, and how to choose the right energy asset management solutions.
What does being energy efficient mean?
Why is being energy efficient important?
How to measure energy efficiency
How to calculate solar panel efficiency
Essential energy optimization tips
The best energy asset management solutions for 2023
How to ensure ultimate energy efficiency
What Does Being Energy Efficient Mean?
When we talk about energy efficiency, we’re referring to the ratio of power consumed to output produced. This holds true for any system that uses power, whether it’s a hydroelectric dam lighting up an entire city or a grid connection providing electricity for a small business owner’s 3-D printer. No matter what you’re using energy for, you can almost always find ways to do more with less.
An inefficient system generates more carbon emissions than a system optimized for efficiency, so one of the first steps an organization should take to go green is to use its energy more efficiently. Increasing efficiency allows businesses to maintain the same production or service level while simultaneously reducing their carbon footprint.
Energy efficiency is also important for the financial health of an organization. Inefficient energy is really the same thing as wasted energy, and if you’re purchasing energy that isn’t directly increasing your productive output, you might as well be burning money.
Inefficient energy usage also puts more strain on your facilities and equipment, reducing their useful lifespan and driving up maintenance and replacement costs.
Why is Being Energy Efficient Important?
There are many good reasons to strive for greater energy efficiency. Let’s look at some of the most significant benefits it confers.
- Minimizing harmful environmental impact. While a large part of the push toward going green and reducing carbon emissions involves transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, increasing the efficiency of the energy you’re already using is one of the first and most effective things you can do to decarbonize.
- Lowering operational costs. Energy inefficiency is wasted energy that serves no useful business purpose. Optimizing for efficiency ensures that you’re getting the maximum value out of your energy expenditures, which is more important than ever, given that energy costs keep rising.
- Improving asset durability. Inefficient energy usage takes a toll on every business asset that consumes power. This is especially true for businesses that consume significant amounts of electricity on a large scale, such as telecom providers, data centers, and industrial facilities. Efficient energy usage reduces the wear and tear on these assets, lengthening their useful life and lowering the costs of maintaining them.
The benefits don’t end there—energy efficiency can also make your workplace safer and cleaner for your employees, improve your brand image and public reputation, and increase the market value of your commercial buildings.
How to Measure Energy Efficiency
Energy efficiency is not an abstraction. It can be calculated with accuracy, providing a performance indicator for measuring your progress toward goals.
To calculate the energy efficiency of any given system, you can make use of a simple formula:
(Energy Output / Energy Input) x 100 = % Efficiency
To follow this formula, you must first measure the energy going into the system using a standard unit such as watts or joules.
Then, you need to determine the productive output of the system using the same units of measurement.
Divide the energy output by the energy input, and you have an energy efficiency ratio. You can convert it into a percentage by multiplying it by 100.
For example, you might have a device that requires 600 watts of energy to produce 300 watts of productive output. 300/600 = 0.5, or 50% efficiency.
To learn more about how to correctly calculate energy efficiency and how to decide on changes, read our detailed article here.
How to Calculate Solar Panel Efficiency
For organizations trying to become more sustainable, shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is critical. Solar power is one of the most accessible renewable sources, but even solar panels can have major variances in the efficiency of their energy output. To make the most of an investment in solar power, you have to be able to calculate the efficiency of your solar panels.
Solar panel efficiency is measured by determining how much natural sunlight the panels turn into usable energy. The average commercial solar panel can convert about 15% to 20% of the sunlight it receives. Efficiency is affected by the type of panel construction (monocrystalline panels are more efficient than polycrystalline and thin-film panels), the placement and orientation of the panels, and environmental factors like wind, rain, ice, snow, and UV damage from the sun itself.
You can calculate the efficiency of a solar panel by taking the power rating as expressed in kilowatts (which should be provided by the manufacturer) and dividing it by the panel’s surface area in square meters. Here’s the formula for calculating it as a percentage:
(Power Rating / Surface Area) x 100 = % Efficiency
Following this formula, the efficiency of a one-by-two-meter solar panel with a power rating of 400 would be 20%.
For those using solar panels as your energy source, check out our comprehensive guide here for calculating solar panel efficiency in greater detail.
Essential Energy Optimization Tips
Calculating your energy efficiency and measuring the performance of your assets is important, but the only way to optimize your efficiency is to take action and make improvements in every area where gains can be realized.
When you have a clear picture of how your energy is being used and where it’s being wasted, you can start to put together a plan to optimize the overall energy efficiency of your organization.
Some areas of improvement will be revealed through simple calculations and oversight, and others might require deeper analytics. Either way, you can do a few things to improve efficiency in nearly every situation.
Here are three of the best tips for optimizing your energy efficiency:
- Automate the Workflow
Tools that automate your energy management processes can play a key role in maximizing energy efficiency. Manual processes can fall short of optimum efficiency due to a lack of organization, delayed action, and other issues resulting from basic human error.Automated, centralized energy management systems ensure that routine tasks are carried out with perfect accuracy and timing. This can help multiple teams work together with live data and shared visibility into your energy system and the processes that depend on it.
- Utilize Renewable Energy Sources
To optimize the energy efficiency within a system, it helps to use energy sources that are inherently more efficient in terms of how they generate power. Renewable, sustainable energy sources designed to store excess production and repurpose waste energy can yield huge gains in efficiency over fossil fuels while being cleaner and safer for the environment.Widely-used renewable energy sources include solar panels, wind turbines, hydroelectric generators, geothermal heat, and biomass fuel. Of these, solar and wind tend to be the most cost-effective. It’s also helpful to supplement these sources with fuel cells and batteries that can supplement and store energy, enabling you to match demand with output and minimize waste.
- Monitor Energy Usage Remotely
Smart energy solutions combine automation with remote monitoring to provide the highest level of oversight and control over a system. Remote monitoring solutions like Galooli give operators real-time visibility into the workings of an energy system and constantly track the performance of energy assets to detect inefficiencies, malfunctions, and other problems as soon as they begin to develop.With a remote monitoring system, you can minimize costly in-person site inspections and address issues like software updates and load balancing the moment you become aware of them.The right solutions will also provide visual dashboards and reporting tools that make it easy to see whether you’re meeting your internal performance benchmarks.
To discover more energy optimization tips, we’ve outlined other possibilities in our ‘8 Essential Energy Optimization Tips’ article, available here.
The Best Energy Asset Management Solutions for 2023
The process of overseeing the assets and facilities that produce your energy and ensuring that they are functioning properly is known as energy asset management. It involves daily operations, maintenance, monitoring, reviewing key performance indicators, and fixing whatever issues arise.
Energy systems can be complex, even on a small scale. In order to manage your energy assets effectively, it helps to have the right tools for the job. Here’s a short list of energy asset management solutions that can make a big difference for organizations that have set a goal of improving their efficiency in the year ahead:
Green IT by Radian Generation is a cloud-based solution that helps with performance tracking, data analytics, and compliance with contracts and regulations. It includes a visual interface reminiscent of Gantt charts and a built-in ticketing system to help operators keep tabs on issues that must be resolved.
This is a great solution for on-site management, especially if compliance is an area of concern. It includes many useful features but lacks robust remote monitoring tools.
Galooli is a remote monitoring and management platform that offers real-time visibility into the performance of your energy assets. With Galooli, operators can detect and diagnose issues without the need for on-site inspections, control automated processes remotely, and gain actionable insights for increasing energy efficiency.
Galooli’s platform was designed with sustainability and renewable energy sources in mind, and it can be run from the cloud or integrated with existing hardware installations. It includes detailed visual dashboards and custom reporting options, providing an overarching view into every aspect of your energy system.
3. Bloom Energy
One way to implement a more sustainable and efficient energy solution is to use a microgrid. A microgrid is a self-contained system for generating and distributing energy that can operate independently of the main power grid. Bloom Energy specializes in providing all the hardware and software you need to run a microgrid based on fuel cell technology.
Microgrid operators can optimize energy efficiency by shifting from grid power to self-generated power based on peak demand cycles. Solutions like the ones provided by Bloom Energy can be a good starting point for organizations interested in becoming less reliant on inefficient grid-based power systems.
To explore 9 of the best energy asset management solutions, read our thorough blog here.
How to Ensure Ultimate Energy Efficiency
Maximizing energy efficiency is an ongoing process that requires data-based analytics and a willingness to act on the insights you uncover. As important as it is to lay a solid foundation by using sustainable energy sources, sustainability alone does not equal efficiency—it’s certainly possible to waste renewably-produced energy.
To maintain energy efficiency over time and take advantage of opportunities for improvement as they present themselves, you need total visibility into your energy system and the flexibility to respond quickly and decisively to changes.
Remote energy management solutions like Galooli can be a powerful resource in the pursuit of optimal energy efficiency. By providing you with uninterrupted real-time monitoring and the ability to make adjustments remotely, Galooli minimizes the need for costly on-site visits and helps your assets perform at peak capacity throughout their lifespan. Sign up for a free demo to see how Galooli can transform your approach to energy asset management.
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