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Working towards an intelligent energy management solution

03 April 2012

Suzanne Gill spoke to Dr Richard Bateman, from the Advanced Manufacturing & Enterprise Engineering (AMEE) group at Brunel University, to find out about the EuroEnergest project which has the ultimate aim of reducing energy usage in the automotive industry.

In addition to manufacturing systems researchers from Brunel University in the UK, the 'EuroEnergest' project involves four partner companies - Enertika, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Universitat Politechnica de Catalunya, and Comfort Consulting. The aim of this three-year project, funded by the European Framework 7 programme, is to reduce energy consumption in specific areas of the automotive industry by a minimum 10%.

To do this the project partners are working towards the development of an intelligent energy management system (iEMS) that will help attain high energy efficiency in the manufacturing process by interacting dynamically with industrial loads and available power sources. It is expected that the system will interact with industrial loads and available power sources. The use of artificial intelligence algorithms to apply a dynamic simulation to former models, together with optimisation based on energy prices and real production data, will make it possible to research and develop an intelligent energy management system that is able to extract planning rules and optimised interconnections at energy hub level for optimisation of energy consumption and cost.

The system will be validated at SEAT's manufacturing site in Barcelona. “Having SEAT involved in the project is a big benefit – as it is part of the VW/Audi Group – which all use similar systems. So, any successful system could be quickly rolled out to other automotive plants in the group,” said Dr Bateman.

"Brunel University will be leading the life cycle analysis of the total energy costs and environmental impact along the whole process, where energy and CO2 savings measurement procedures and technologies are defined and developed," continued Dr Bateman. “We are looking at several integrated ways of effectively reducing energy usage. Although it might be considered that our goals are relatively modest, in the automotive industry even small energy savings can offer huge benefits.” Europe produces around 15 million cars every year, around 25% of global car production, and this is responsible for around 1.2% of total industrial energy consumption of CO2. “The overall impact of even a relatively modest energy saving would be huge if we could roll it out to the wider automotive industry,” explained Dr Bateman.

“SEAT joined the project because it is keen on employing alternative energy, such as co-generation and solar power. Of course, alternative power cannot just be switched on and off – it works when its works! Having the ability to forecast demand is critical to maximising the use of alternative power on an industrial scale.

“One of the main objectives of the project is to develop a number of control algorithm and to do this we need to first fully understand, in terms of energy usage, what is going on across the plant and to control it. We need to be able to measure and map energy use to a very detailed level. The next step will then be to use this knowledge to reduce energy usage, and to better control it – ultimately moving energy around the plant to where it is needed at any given moment.

“Being able to achieve this dynamically would be virtually impossible for a human to do, which is why we need to employ an automated system with embedded intelligence to enable the system to make decisions based on a set of principles that allow it to effect things around the plant.

Adaptability is key
Explaining how the system will differ from existing energy management systems, Dr Bateman said: “Currently energy management systems are programmed to make changes – a human still needs to make the decisions and set up the system. The EuroEnergest project aims to produce something that is able to adapt to changes dynamically, making decisions to quickly counter process variables such as temperature changes.”

The project is, initially, focusing on HVAC because this is one of the most energy hungry parts of the automotive manufacturing process. Around 70% of energy consumed in a typical automotive production environment occurs in the paintshop, 20% in the metalworking/forging and 10% on the assembly line. Temperature and humidity in the paintshop are critical to the process, so it is here that HVAC energy costs become a big issue.

In conclusion, while discussing timescales, Dr Bateman said that the project should yield some tangible results within 12 months.

www.euroenergest.eu


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