The government’s commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 puts clean growth at the heart of its industrial strategy and requires a transformational change to operating practices for all businesses, large and small.
Buildings in the UK consume a huge amount of energy, accounting for 23% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). For the SME sector, which makes up 99% of all organisations and accounts for more than half of the UK’s non-domestic energy use, it’s critical that businesses improve the energy efficiency of their buildings in order to reduce their carbon footprint, comply with environmental legislation and make financial savings.
Smarter Choices, a government-funded initiative launched in 2020, provides a huge opportunity for manufacturing SMEs to make costs savings in their buildings through improved energy efficiency. The service overcomes the barriers faced by organisations by offering an end-to-end service package that simplifies and secures access to quality energy efficiency solutions.
One company that Smarter Choices is working with is Zircotec. Zircotec specialises in heat management, specifically the production of high performance surface coatings and finishes which are used across the motorsport, general automotive, nuclear, aerospace and defence sectors. The Zircotec coating technology, withstanding temperatures up to 1400°C, is well-known to many motorsport teams, including the Formula One grid, NASCAR, World Rally, BTCC and Le Mans.
Zircotec has been in business since 1970, and originally developed its high temperature coating and heat barrier technology for the nuclear industry. The company first got involved with motorsport when its thermal barrier coating was applied to the exhausts and manifolds of Subaru’s World Rally cars, in order to lower in-cabin temperatures. Unsurprisingly, Zircotec’s advanced coating process is energy-intensive. In 2008, Zircotec received its first OEM contract with Lamborghini to help solve the industry’s problems of high performance and emissions and since then, saving on energy and carbon emissions has become a central part of the company’s growth strategy.
Smarter Choices is working with Zircotec to help unlock a series of energy improvements in the company’s premises and processes. The first step was a detailed energy assessment of opportunities. Now, Smarter Choices is installing submetering and internet-of-things sensors, providing access to a new online platform that will monitor Zircotec’s energy use and help plan how improvements can be made.
That Smarter Choices platform will be central to our subsequent work with Zircotec. We’ll help the company find partners with energy service providers who can deliver installation and financing of the energy improvement measures.
The whole idea behind Smarter Choices is to provide a simple, joined-up route for companies – particularly in the manufacturing sector – to install real-time performance monitoring measures that will reduce carbon emissions and achieve energy bill savings.
Currently Smarter Choices is able to provide support to Zircotec at no cost, as the development of the Smarter Choices platform and delivery of support to a group of pilot companies is being funded through the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy’s BASEE (Boosting Access for SMEs to Energy Efficiency) funding programme. From 2022, the aim is that the Smarter Choices platform and a support package will be rolled out to all SME organisations.
Smarter Choices undertook an energy assessment of Zircotec’s business premises and suggested that an investment of £113.5k could save the business over £21k annually, making Zircotec one of the best performing companies in their sector with respect to energy management.
“Zircotec is an innovative company and we’re always looking for positive change. Increasingly, companies are measured on their carbon emissions as well as the financial bottom line. Our partnership with Smarter Choices will help us make the right decisions about improving our buildings and industrial processes: saving carbon and money.”
Graeme Barette, Sales and Marketing Director, Zircotec
So what are the specific energy saving measures that Zircotec is exploring?
Though Zircotec is using highly advanced plasma technology in its coating processes, the energy saving opportunities identified are typical of many businesses in the manufacturing sector.
Improved extract fan control Zircotec uses extract fans to control the temperature and air quality in the booths where its plasma coatings are being fitted. Inverter drives can help these extract fans work more efficiently. Just a 20% reduction in fan flow rate can result in a ~50% reduction in energy demand, delivering very substantial energy savings that should pay back well within five years.
Air blast-free cooling to support chillers
Plasma is the hottest form of matter in the universe, so it’s not surprising that Zircotec uses a lot of chilled water to manage and disperse heat in its plasma coating units. A blast air dry cooler could significantly reduce the costs of producing that chilled water by using cold air from outside alongside electrical chilling.
Heat recovery from air compressors
Air compressors produce lots of heat, much of which is expelled to the outside. Smarter Choices recommends that this currently wasted heat could be taken via ducting from the compressors and used to heat the office space and other common areas in the building. In the summer, the ducting would take the heat outside to prevent overheating on site.
Factory lighting control
LED lights in the main factory space remain switched on throughout the day despite the adequate daylight from the roof lights. By installing Photocell daylight sensors, Zircotec could reduce the need for lighting by as much as 40% over the year.
Insulate above office ceiling
There is currently no roof insulation, resulting in heat gain in the summer and heat loss in winter.
Like many factories, Zircotec’s plant has a large roof space. It’s south east facing and could be ideal for solar panels. Smarter Choices suggested an installation of 155 PV panels, supplying up to 50KW of electricity.
Could your business benefit from major energy savings each year?
If your business could benefit from expert help to identify energy saving improvements that save you money and make your business more sustainable, get in touch with the team at Smarter Choices to book a free energy assessment. Call 020 7721 5031.
The Boosting Access for SMEs to Energy Efficiency (BASEE) competition is funded by the BEIS Energy Innovation Programme. Further details can be found at GOV web page for Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.