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Govt. Gets Smart on Clean Energy Manufacturing

Sept. 17, 2015
The Department of Energy's new innovation lab hopes to use smart manufacturing to increase energy efficiency by 15%.
The Department of Energy's new innovation lab hopes to use smart manufacturing to increase energy efficiency by 15%.

Ask GE Water & Power about the benefits of smart manufacturing, and they’ll tell you that by adding sensors to their wind turbines and linking that to external data, output has improved by 1% per turbine. That doesn’t seem like much, until you realize GE has 1,700 turbines and that savings equals $2-5 million per unit annually. In 15 years that equals a net savings of $66 billion, more than enough to buy all 32 NFL teams.

The U.S. Department of Energy believes costs for deploying such technologies as smart sensors, controls, platforms and modeling could be reduced by as much as 50%, which in turn could increase energy efficiency by 15%. That’s why yesterday, the DoE announced it will be pledging $70 million toward a new Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute, part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.

This public/private cost sharing partnership to develop game-changing smart devices can “transform American manufacturing, enabling businesses to manufacture more while using less energy and spending less,” the department stated in a press release.

“SMART Manufacturing is a key information technology approach to unlocking energy efficiency in manufacturing,” said Secretary Ernest Moniz. “These technologies will make industries from oil and gas to aerospace and food production more competitive with intelligent communications systems, real-time energy savings and increased energy productivity. Energy intensive industries, such as steel making, could see a 10 to 20% reduction in the cost of production, making products such as solar panels and chemical materials, such as plastics, as well as the cars and other products they go into, more affordable for American consumers.”

The administration’s ultimate goal is to double U.S. energy efficiency by 2030. If a 1% increase in wind power efficiency for GE equates to $66 billion over that period, the effect on American manufacturing as a whole could indeed be quite transformative.
Check out the grant and get more details here. The closing date for applications is Jan. 29.