Energy is a precious commodity
Never before in recent years, energy resources and usage have been the focus of public debate and, therefore, have taken the utmost importance also in all fields of technology, above all the construction sector.
If the must a few decades ago was to build in a functional way for the person and increasingly affordable in terms of costs, today these objectives are still present, but the emphasis is so much stronger on environmental protection. In construction, as you may already know, we talk about sustainability to indicate that set of techniques and procedures that tend to minimise the impact of the building on the natural environment that surrounds it, from site management to the daily operation of the facility during its life, up to the criteria for controlled demolition.
Within this environmental awareness in the design and management of buildings, whether they are residential, for commercial use or industrial, particular attention must be paid to energy. Indeed, it is an increasingly precious commodity, both because its production has a more or less serious impact on environmental pollution, and because its supply also weighs, in a considerable way, on the management costs of the building.
The AKNO group, which has always been a leader in the industrial and logistic construction sector, founded, in order to deepen these problems and put into practice targeted solutions, its own specialised division: AKNO Energy. In the article you are reading we would like, in particular, to take stock of the state of the art in two fundamental themes: the self-production of energy in industrial sites and the techniques for saving energy compared to standard consumption.
Producing energy with photovoltaic panels
Since its conception, in the last century, solar energy immediately became the emblem of “clean” or, better to say, renewable energy. What, in fact, is more free and available than sunlight? Solar panels also do not produce polluting gases, do not burn fuel and can be installed almost anywhere.
The reality, as it always happens, is not so simple and also with regard to solar energy, it is necessary to carefully study the concrete situation to build systems that are efficient and with a real low environmental impact.
Solar panels, indeed, do not always, as you might think in the first instance, have zero environmental impact. The problem, in their case, is the so-called “land consumption“, that is the phenomenon whereby the large surfaces necessary to obtain important quantities of energy, if they are obtained by covering the soil, subtract spaces from the agricultural production and compromise the development of the local ecosystem. On a land that is perpetually in the shadow of large solar panels, no vegetables grow and consequently the effects on the environment can be serious, depending on the case.
One of the most practical solutions for the installation of solar panels becomes, therefore, to place them on the roofs of the buildings, so that the consumption of the ground is zero, or rather is equal to that already occupied by the building itself. In the case of industrial buildings, however, it is also very useful, as we shall see, to have glass roofs to decrease the electric energy consumption for artificial lighting and this evidently conflicts with the idea of a roof entirely covered with photovoltaic panels.
This example is useful to emphasize that the energy problem cannot be addressed in a simplistic way, as if we could rely on linear solutions. Any technology that promises to improve our energy consumption, in fact, brings with it negative consequences and needs the work of experts in the field to draw up a budget to help us identify the optimal combination of the various planning factors.
A biogas system for heat and energy
Another way to achieve a self-production energy system that can both alleviate the environmental impact of a complex of buildings, and decrease the cost of ownership is represented by the installation of a biogas system.
Biogas is a mixture of gaseous fuels, mostly composed of methane, which is obtained by the action of particular bacteria on organic material, generally waste. In specific silos called digesters, in fact, the organic substances that are deposited undergo the action of anaerobic bacteria which, as a by-product of their transformation action, produce a significant amount of gas which, when collected properly, can be used as fuel.
Therefore, it is not renewable energy in the strict sense, since a fuel is used, nor of a system without environmental impact in an absolute sense, since in any case it places, at least, the products of combustion in the atmosphere. Where is then the environmental and economic convenience of a biogas system?
The answer lies mainly in the origin of the organic material used by bacteria to produce gas. Usually, indeed, this material is the waste of food processing or the result of waste differentiation to separate the organic part. This means that the “raw material” to produce biogas should be disposed of in any other way and that, to assess the environmental impact of heat or energy production with this system, we must consider the issue as a whole.
In other words: do you pollute and pay more to dispose of the organic waste in a conventional manner and then to buy fossil fuel, or to use the same waste to produce energy through biogas?
As you can see, here too the issue is complex and it is necessary, in order to be able to understand it in an optimal way, we need to resort to the support of specialised technicians such as our experts at AKNO Energy.
The race for energy savings
The one towards the adoption of technologies that allow energy saving is now a real race, stimulated for sure by environmental considerations, but made more and more rapid by the progress of domotics and, in general, by the regulation and electronic control of the systems.
As for the buildings built by AKNO, we have been committed for years to building facilities with large glass roofs to decrease as much as possible turning to artificial lighting and assemble thermal brake windows to reduce the energy expenditure due to heating and air conditioning. Furthermore, through systems for the collection, purification and reuse of rainwater, we obtain good results also in the reduction of water consumption, one of the great environmental challenges of the present and the near future.