The green energy movement has gained momentum in many parts of the United States. A couple of months ago, the California legislature stated that it intends to produce all electricity from renewable energy by 2045. Many other states have set similar targets.
The United States is making slightly more progress than most other OECD countries. The ACEEE gives the United States a 16.5 rating on efforts to address climate change and promote renewable energy. The United Kingdom and Australia have only received a 15.5 and 13 rating, respectively.
While the United States is ahead of its peers in its quest to promote sustainable energy, it still has a long way to go. The ACEEE rates countries on a 25-point scale, which means that the United States has a long way to go.
Unfortunately, many policymakers and consumers have become complacent. They believe that the efforts they have made are sufficient, but they need to do a lot more to reach sustainability targets.
To be more energy efficient, warehouse managers need to be more efficient, period. Warehouses are large, complex structures and everything that happens can impact something else. Even things that seem tangential. That’s why it’s helpful for those managers to have a checklist for warehouse management systems. These kinds of programs not only help with specific tasks, but can engender a mindset on how to be better, faster and stronger (i.e. more efficient) all around. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how large-scale manufacturing warehouses waste energy, and five ways it can be improved:
- Make better use of electricity consumption
Limiting use of electricity needs to be a top priority in the months ahead. The U.S. Energy Information Assocation reports that U.S. households consumed 2,418 zillion btus of energy in 2016. They could significantly reduce their carbon footprint by promoting energy efficiency.
Lighting: All warehouses can be encouraged to use lighting fixtures that reduce energy use—for instance, modern energy-efficient light bulbs that have a long lifespan and don’t produce much heat.
Equipment: Many forms of equipment, appliances and devices used in warehouses are not turned off when the warehouse closes. Instead, they’re left in a standby or sleep mode. Although this reduces the amount of electricity, in aggregate this still draw power, even if it’s a lower amount than when electronic equipment is turned on.
- Improving Quality of Solar Cells
Solar energy has been the focus of the green energy movement for the past 30 years. However, the World Energy Forum acknowledges that there are some major limitations. The biggest problem is that photovoltaic cells are made from synthetic materials, which aren’t easy to produce. Last year, the World Energy Forum announced that a new material was discovered, called perovskite. Perovskite binds more easily to metals, so it is easier to create solar cells with it. This material can be mass-produced to make solar cells more easily.
- Geothermal Technology
Geothermal energy is underutilized, but it can make a major difference in the quest to promote renewable energy. Unfortunately, older geothermal heat pumps weren’t efficient enough for many people to invest in. Newer, Energy Star heat pumps are at least 45% more efficient, but new developments are needed to encourage consumers and businesses to invest in them.
- Improve temperature regulation
There are a number of ways that businesses and residences can regulate temperatures more effectively. Using programmable thermostats can improve energy efficiency by nearly 10%, but only one in eight households have installed them.
Inefficient building materials and insufficient insulation can result in excessive energy consumption used to regulate the working environment of a warehouse. Cooling or heating the building increases the electric bill far more than necessary because energy leaks out through doors, windows, and other apertures.
- Reduce the size, weight, and material of product packaging
While packaging is necessary in order to hold products, it can often be changed with no harm to the contents.
Size: Often, food manufacturers make bigger boxes, cans, or containers than necessary to hold a product just because it creates the impression on supermarket shelves that the consumer is getting more value for their money. The bulkier the packaging, the larger the boxes, the more warehouses need to spend in moving and storing these packages.
Weight: Besides the size of packages, their weight could also be reduced without harming the content of the products. Weight is often a direct result of using unnecessarily dense packaging materials.
- Reuse packaging materials
While warehouses are fairly efficient at reusing pallets and boxes, so long as they aren’t damaged, it’s also important to use packaging materials that can be reused. One possible way to do this is to create an economic incentive for customers to send back packages after they consumed the products within them. According to research from the University of Michigan, recycling aluminum improves energy efficiency by nearly 1,000%.
- Make waste disposal more efficient
Trash and recycling efforts are necessary for every warehouse, and the size of containers and locations within the warehouse can make a huge difference in how waste material is disposed of or recycled. The larger the containers and the more conveniently they’re located, the less energy is spent filling and emptying them out.
This same type of practical thinking can be applied to many other structures that waste energy — from houses to offices, from buildings to stadiums, and from cities to town. All these collective efforts will, hopefully, add up to make the United States a far more conscientious consumer of energy.
Photo Credit: Umberto Salvagnin