Industrial & Agricultural Innovation
California’s industrial and agricultural businesses can offer significant opportunities for energy and water savings. Large pieces of equipment such as kilns, furnaces, and boilers typically run on fossil fuels and operate for 20 years or more. Equipment investment decisions frequently prioritize increased productivity, product quality, and affordability. To compete, low-carbon technologies must provide similar benefits in addition to saving energy and/or water.
Featured Research Topics
Low-carbon Process Heating
Process heating is fundamental in the manufacture of most consumer and industrial products. It is used for distillation, evaporation, drying, extraction, curing, heat treating, melting, and providing the heat for endothermic chemical reactions. Low- or no-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels include units that run on electricity, solar, or zero emission fuels such as hydrogen. A CEC-funded project is demonstrating a low-carbon processing heating and cooling technology based on solar collectors.
Smart Industry and Agriculture
Digitization (converting information into computer-readable formats), the Internet of Things, and big data—present California’s industrial and agricultural businesses with new tools to transform their operations. “Smart” systems with sensors and controls can collect, integrate, and transmit large amounts of complex data to automate and optimize many processes, reducing energy use and improving resource allocation. CEC initiatives are targeting the deployment of sensors, optimization software, and automatic controls for compressed air and refrigeration systems to reduce energy use in industrial plants. In the Central Valley, a CEC-funded project is using geo-spatial and automated systems for irrigation and water-based fertilization to create energy and water savings while still maintaining crop yields.
CEC is supporting the development of technologies to convert biogenic municipal wastes, livestock wastes, agricultural and forest residues, and food processing wastes into renewable energy products. Innovations for conversion technologies such as anaerobic digestion and gasification seek to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve environmental performance for the production of electricity, thermal energy, and transportation fuels. A CEC-funded project in San Luis Obispo County is developing a new type of anaerobic digestion for use in a facility that aims to process 36,500 tons of food and urban waste into 6.2 million kWh per year of renewable electricity.
California’s cycles of drought underscore the urgency of using water resources wisely. Development of cost-effective wastewater cleanup and desalination processes will help create a stable and resilient water supply for industry, agriculture, and communities. A CEC-funded project is piloting a membrane technology for treating water from food and beverage processing, which typically contains high levels of suspended solids, starch, and other organic matter. In addition to increased water supplies, anticipated benefits include reduced waste disposal fees and energy savings.