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The Undervalued Role of Wear Materials in Industrial Sustainability



cogs by Ralph Bijker va Flickr

Machines of all shapes and sizes form the iron and steel backbones of businesses around the world. Heavy duty, sophisticated, and above all powerful – these mechanical systems consume an enormous amount of energy over the course of their lives. However, few people consider the other way in which industrial machinery demands resources: during the fabrication and manufacturing processes of building the machines themselves.

Industrial sector companies interested in sustainability ought to factor this “hidden” side of their carbon footprint. That is, the machines they buy are reflective of how they support or don’t support sustainable efforts in other companies.

Rather than dwelling on the sustainability record of the custom fabricators and engineering firms they work with, industries are increasingly opting for a much easier (and cheaper) trick: getting the most out of a single machine rather than replace it with a new one every few years.

The theory is sound. If it takes 20 tons of water, three tons of ore, and however many watts to make a specific piece of machinery when added up, then remove and replace strategies are about as unsustainable as it gets. By using wear technology, making repairs, and performing regular maintenance, factories can extend the lives of their machinery. This, in turn, reduces demand for resource-intensive manufacturing.

The role of wear parts is playing a growing role in this effort with every year. In fact, many industrial components from the first generation of efforts to make energy efficient machinery are already 10 to 20 years old or older. Keeping them running longer and therefore getting the most out of machinery already designed for efficiency, requires wear parts technology.

For many business-minded folks, the sustainability benefits of making a habit of using wear parts technology takes a backseat to the money saving potential. Fair enough. If this proves to be the driving force behind more sustainable business practices, this author approves.

Of course, there are other ways to get extra mileage out of industrial grade machinery. Simple routine maintenance – not unlike the kind performed on an automobile – can prevent wear and tear before it starts. Years of operation can offset gears and bearings by fractions of a millimeter, which won’t be immediately catastrophic but cause damage long term if left unnoticed.

If non-wear parts fail, consult the manufacturer for ways to swap the piece out. Depending on where it’s situated within the works, the replacement can be a simple job. Even complicated projects, when the numbers are added up, are often less costly than total machine replacement.

Speaking of the numbers, if every machine in a factory lasted an extra five years thanks to wear parts replacement, maintenance, and additional parts replacement, it undoubtedly negates the carbon costs of the eventual replacements. Continuing this process for several decades, a single factory following this policy can have a profound impact on the rate in which they ultimately consume resources.

Don’t underestimate the value of wear materials in the matter of industrial sustainability. Keeping machinery operational long past its standard expiration date helps reduce a company’s dependence on environmentally destructive processes. While eco-friendly acts of individuals are important, businesses have an inherently bigger part to play in the fight for more sustainability in this world.



Are the UK Governments Plans for the Energy Sector Smart?



The revolution in the energy sector marches on, wind turbines and solar panels are harnessing more renewable energy than ever before – so where is it all leading?

The UK government have recently announced plans to modernise the way we produce, store and use electricity. And, if realised, the plans could be just the thing to bring the energy sector in line with 21st century technology and ideologies.

Central to the plans is an initiative that will see smart meters installed in homes and businesses the length and breadth of the country – and their aim? To create an environment where electricity can be managed more efficiently.

The news has prompted some speculation about how energy suppliers will react and many are predicting a price war. This could benefit consumers of electricity and investors, many of whom may be looking to make a profit by trading energy company shares online using platforms such as Oanda – but the potential for good news doesn’t end there.

Introducing New Technology

The plan, titled Smart Systems and Flexibility is being rolled out in the hope that it will have a positive impact in three core areas.

  • To offer consumers greater control by making smart meters available for all homes and businesses by 2020. Energy users will be able to monitor, control and record the amount of energy they use.
  • Incentivise energy suppliers to change the manner in which they buy electricity, to offer more smart tariffs and more off-peak periods for energy consumption.
  • Introduce new standards for electrical appliances – it is hoped that the new wave of appliances will recognise when electricity is at its cheapest and at its most expensive and respond accordingly.

How the Plans Will Affect Solar Energy

Around 7 million houses in the UK have solar panels and the government say that their plan will benefit them as they will be able to store electricity on batteries. The stored energy can then be used by the household and excess energy can be exported to the national grid – in this instance lower tariffs or even payment for the excess energy will bring down annual costs significantly.

The rate of return on energy exported to the national grid is currently between 6% and 10%, but there are many variables to take into account, such as, the cost of battery storage and light levels. Still, those with state-of-the-art solar electricity systems could end up with an annual profit after selling their excess energy.

The Internet of Things

Much of what the plans set out to achieve are linked to the now ubiquitous “internet of things” – where, for example, appliances and heating systems are connected to the internet in order to make them function more smartly.

Companies like Hive have already made great inroads into this type of technology, but the road that the government plans are heading down, will, potentially, go much further -blockchain technology looms and has already proved to be a game changer in the world of currency.

Blockchain Technology

It has already been suggested that the peer to peer selling of energy and exporting it to the national grid may eventually be done using blockchain technology.

“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”

Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution (2016)

The upshot of the government’s plans for the revolution of the energy sector, is that technology will play an indelible role in making it more efficient, more flexible and ultimately more sustainable.

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4 Case Studies on the Benefits of Solar Energy




Demand for solar energy is growing at a surprising rate. New figures from SolarPower Europe show that solar energy production has risen 50% since the summer of 2016.

However, many people are still skeptical of the benefits of solar energy.Does it actually make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint? Is it actually cost-effective for the company over the long-run?

A number of case studies have been conducted, which indicate solar energy can be enormously beneficial. Here are some of the most compelling studies on the subject.

1.     Boulder Nissan

When you think of companies that leverage solar power, car dealerships probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind. However, Boulder Nissan is highly committed to promoting green energy. They worked with Independent Power Systems to setup a number of solar cells. Here were the results:

  • Boulder Nissan has reduced coal generated electricity by 65%.
  • They are on track to run on 100% renewable energy within the next 13 years.
  • Boulder Nissan reduced CO2 emissions by 416,000 lbs. within the first year after installing their solar panels.

This is one of the most impressive solar energy case studies a small business has published in recent years. It shows that even small companies in rural communities can make a major difference by adapting solar energy.

2.     Valley Electric Association

In 2015, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) created an 80-acre solar garden. Before retiring from the legislature, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the new project as a way to make the state more energy dependent and reduce our carbon footprint.

“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid told reporters with the Pahrump Valley Times. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”

The solar energy that VEA produced was drastically higher than anyone would have predicted. SolarWorld estimates that the solar garden created 32,680,000 kwh every year, which was enough to power nearly 4,000 homes.

This was a major undertaking for a purple state, which may inspire their peers throughout the Midwest to develop solar gardens of their own. It will reduce dependency on the electric grid, which is a problem for many remote states in the central part of the country.

3.     Las Vegas Casinos

A number of Las Vegas casinos have started investing in solar panels over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that many of these casinos have cut costs considerably. Some of them are even selling the energy back to the grid.

“It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts told Guardian reporters. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”

There have been many benefits for casinos using solar energy. They are some of the most energy-intensive institutions in the world, so this has helped them become much more cost-effective. It also helps minimize disruptions to their customers learning online keno strategies in the event of any problems with the electric grid.

4.     Boston College

Boston College has been committed to many green initiatives over the years. A group of researchers experimented with solar cells on different parts of the campus to see where they could produce the most electricity. They discovered that the best locationwas at St. Clement’sHall. The solar cells there dramatically. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 521,702 lbs. a year and be enough to save 10,869 trees.

Boston College is exploring new ways to expand their usage of solar cells. They may be able to invest in more effective solar panels that can generate far more solar energy.

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