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How Much Focus Should Go Towards Optimizing Inherently Inefficient Compressed Air Systems vs Phasing Them Out?
Abstract

Compressed air systems represent about 10% of total U.S. industrial electricity usage, making them a popular focus for energy efficiency programs. These systems present big energy savings opportunities in generation equipment, distribution systems, and end-use applications. However, in a fully optimized compressed air system, the useful mechanical energy output is only 9% of the input energy. Furthermore, most end-uses can be met with non-compressed air solutions. For example, pneumatic valves, tools, and actuators can be replaced by electric motors. Many end-use applications or entire production lines can be redesigned to not use compressed air. These alternatives are not new technology and already exist in most industries.


This analysis finds a potential savings of nearly 68,000 GWh/year in the U.S. by switching away from compressed air. This represents 9% of total U.S. industrial sector electricity usage. When faced with a global timeclock to decarbonize, it is critical to reflect on our goals and strategies for compressed air. Should we optimize an inherently inefficient system, or try to phase it out completely? Is compressor-less manufacturing feasible? What impacts would this have on our electric grid, carbon goals, and manufacturing costs? This paper discusses these questions through use of compressed air energy audits, utility program M&V, and manufacturing databases. It provides analysis at both a zoomed in end-use-application level, as well as a big picture context level.

How Much Focus Should Go Towards Optimizing Inherently Inefficient Compressed Air Systems vs Phasing Them Out?

Wagner, C., Kleinhenz, P., and Schuessler, R. Proceedings of the 2021 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Industry, July 2021, Virtual.

Citation
54 - How Much Focus Should GO Towards Optimizing Inherently Inefficient Compressed Air Sys
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Peter Kleinhenz, PE

Peter Kleinhenz, PE

Ryan Schuessler

Ryan Schuessler

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