Plant managers everywhere are seeking ways to monitor, manage and minimize energy consumption in their facilities. While most plants present energy-saving opportunities, current monitoring and reporting systems often do not deliver the detailed information that tells managers precisely where their energy dollars are going.
Wireless mesh networks can help solve this problem. Coupled with a variety of standard analog or digital environmental sensors, these networks can collect and summarize information from reporting points dispersed throughout a large facility. Plant managers gain visibility into the inner workings of plant equipment and support systems, giving them the data they need to make informed decisions about reducing energy costs. With their easy and low-cost deployment, maintenance-free lifetimes, and ability to integrate with existing technology infrastructure, wireless mesh networks provide an effective, low-risk way to implement enterprise-grade plant monitoring.
In manufacturing facilities, sensors communicating through wireless mesh networks can be used to collect data on ambient temperature, current flow, heat loss, duct or fluid flow, and other operational measurements that reflect plant activity and energy consumption patterns. Their network devices can be deployed anywhere without requiring wireless expertise and can then transmit results to a centralized location so operators can remotely monitor instrumentation.
As many companies have learned, traditional point-to-point wireless networks can fail when faced with the challenging RF (radio frequency) landscape presented by typical industrial environments. By contrast, wireless mesh networks are designed to avoid these problems. They have self-healing capabilities, giving them a level of reliability that approaches that of wired networks. Using proven technologies such as frequency hopping, coordinated multi-hop communications, and distributed real-time network optimization, wireless mesh networks perform reliably even with increasing interference from RF-generating devices.
Battery-powered motes can make wireless networks suitable for locations where power distribution is not available. And because motes self-organize into a functioning network, no site survey or wireless expertise is required.
Wireless mesh networks are also designed to deliver long lives with minimal maintenance. Motes can last five years on a single pair of AA batteries (and report on their power status, as well). Additionally, if you add or remove monitoring devices, the network reconfigures itself automatically.
Gaining real-time visibility into energy usage via wireless mesh networks is extremely valuable. It allows plant managers to reduce energy costs by identifying inefficiencies and ailing equipment and enabling managers to compare consumption patterns to utility rates.
Plant and facility managers may attain energy savings through tools that analyze and aggregate loads, benchmark facilities, and determine how individual plant operations correlate with energy usage. Better intelligence translates to better decision-making by uncovering hidden problems, optimizing operations, and reducing energy and operational costs. Data and statistics from multiple components can be continually collected, analyzed, and turned into actionable, cost-saving recommendations.