Industrial control and automation is not an obvious application for energy harvesting, although machinery, by its very nature, is an obvious source of energy, ripe for harvesting.
Nevertheless, why exploit energy harvesting in a plant or factory environment? Consider that two of the major trends affecting the industrial automation sector between now and 2015, according to Frost & Sullivan, are energy efficiency (sustainability) and the integrated enterprise (networked automation). Incoming legislation for electric motors is one of the more pressing drivers of the first trend. The need to improve overall efficiency to remain competitive is stimulating the second.
So far, so good, but where does energy harvesting fit in? Wireless sensor networks have been found to deliver a host of technical, logistical, and commercial advantages in industrial monitoring, control, and automation applications. The employment of energy harvesting techniques to power these networks, thereby making them autonomous, is fast becoming a compelling dynamic. This combination of technologies can address both challenges facing the industrial automation sector: energy efficiency and networked automation.