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Green Sparks Fly as GE and GM Boost Energy Efficiency

GE software sparks energy efficiency improvements at GM factoriesWhen you rub two green-transitioning corporate powerhouses together you’re bound to start something, and that seems to be the result of a new collaboration between GM and GE. The two have partnered in a new energy efficiency program that uses GE software to synchronize the conveyors at GM factories with lights, generators, and other equipment. The concept is simple but the results are impressive, which makes you wonder why nobody ever thought of it before.

Energy Efficient Factories and Conveyor Belts

The basic idea is that the schedule for running one type of equipment – the conveyor belt – determines all of the other equipment in a conventional manufacturing plant. GM started by jiggering GE’s Proficy Cimplicity factory management software to coordinate the schedule of conveyors with lighting for 20 of its factories. Then they moved on to include heating, ventilating, and air conditioning equipment. Compressed air generators, hydraulic pumps, ovens, and other equipment are also included. The gains in energy efficiency are significant and GM estimates that the payback period is only six months. After that it’s all gravy. GE has also just introduced a new software package called Proficy for Sustainability Metrics, which monitors energy and water use.

Momentum for Clean Energy

With corporate juggernauts GE and GM up to their necks in green tech, things are starting to cook. Just this weekend, the Koch brothers are meeting with other influencers, presumably to figure out how to keep the oil industry afloat politically in the 2012 election cycle. They’re facing a tough road for two reasons that just popped into the news this week. One is Obama’s momentum, which could enable  green-centered candidates to coattail on him. Also, sustainable energy is starting to look very do-able, the latest example being Los Angeles, which just announced that it has bumped its renewables up while keeping utility rates down.

Yesterday’s Energy

That brings up two more reasons why the oil industry needs to step up its game for 2012. Oil prices are already spiking due to political turmoil in the Middle East and the domestic economy is improving, which could lead more U.S. homeowners and businesses to invest in micro wind power, solar, and electric vehicles. Meanwhile, by bringing in Jeffrey Immelt to head up his new economic advisory council, Obama is on the road to neutralizing oil-friendly campaign contributions that skyrocketed after the Citizens United decision. Last year, CleanTechnica remarked that an epic corporate battle over sustainable energy was brewing, but now that looks like just a warm-up. The real action is just getting started.

Image: Green sparks by Lee J Haywood on flickr.com.

 
 
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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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