Tuesday 19 August 2014

In my book “Energy Efficiency” (http://goo.gl/qxV1PR) I quoted examples of energy efficiency technologies in different applications across buildings, industry, transport and IT but of course it was only possible to have a small selection in the book. I am always interested to find examples of energy efficiency in sectors or applications that that don’t get much attention. On my recent travels to the USA for the Investor Confidence Project (http://www.eeperformance.org) I read of two aviation related examples courtesy of the American Airline inflight magazine.


The first concerned the new $50 million flight simulators for the American Airlines 787 Dreamliner. Of course flight simulators in themselves reduce fuel use enormously by training pilots on the ground rather than in the air. However, the interesting thing about the new 787 simulator, made by CAE, is that it is all electric. Previous generations of simulator used hydraulics to provide the multi-axis movement that helps to make simulators so realistic. The net result is a 75% reduction in average power use from 48kW to 12kW and a 50% reduction in peak power from 144kW to 72kW – impressive(1). The reduction in peak power will also reduce the cost of supply infrastructure (a co-benefit) in a new facility. Although the replacement of a simulator will never be driven by energy costs, rather by the lifecycle of simulators and aircraft, when the change is made there is a significant reduction in energy use and peak power. The point of this example is that there is huge potential to improve energy efficiency in all of our buildings, equipment and systems – energy efficiency potential is everywhere – we just have to look for it and apply good engineering and product development skills to exploit that potential.


The other example from American Airlines concerns the use of iPads for flight planning. Airline pilots use aeronautical charts and manuals and used to carry 35 to 40 lbs of paper into the cockpit (hence the need for the boxy black flight bags that every pilot and wannbe pilot had/has to have). The paper has now been replaced by iPads loaded with charts and manuals as well as pre-flight information, weather and apps for things like cross wind takeoff limits. The 35 to 40 lbs of paper has been replaced by 1.5 lbs of tablet. American Airlines estimate that the reduction in weight will save $1.2 million a year in jet fuel – a small drop compared to their total fuel spend and probably hard to measure but every little bit helps. Taking a systems view there will also be savings in paper (and energy used to make the paper), fuel savings in ground transportation used to deliver the paperwork and other significant co-benefits – possibly including reduced pilot downtime due to injuries caused by lifting those flight bags!


On a larger scale in aviation one of the main benefits of the 787 Dreamliner itself is of course its fuel efficiency. It has recorded a measured, in-service, 21% reduction in fuel usage per passenger compared to a Boeing 767. The need for greater fuel efficiency is driving aircraft fleet replacement and the retirement of older aircraft including the venerable Boeing 747 which revolutionized long-haul air travel and made it more accessible to all. The iconic 747 will be sadly missed by many – me included – when it finally leaves service but the pressures to improve fuel efficiency in aviation are inexorable.

(1) Thanks to CAE for confirming the numbers.


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Dr Steven Fawkes

Welcome to my blog on energy efficiency and energy efficiency financing. The first question people ask is why my blog is called 'only eleven percent' - the answer is here. I look forward to engaging with you!

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