I had the distinct pleasure of spending my weekend at the Carolina Raptor Center, a wildlife rehabilitation center outside of Charlotte that cares for eagles, hawks, vultures, kestrels, and various insanely cute owls. If you’ve ever participated in a video conference with me, you know that paintings of Emma, a rescued barn owl who resides at the center, hang on the wall behind my desk. Ever since I purchased the paintings at an art festival many years ago, where I discussed Emma’s story with the artist, I had wanted an opportunity to meet Emma myself. The organization’s PhotoWild event this Sunday gave me my chance.
Though I’m not a photographer, the event gave me ample up-close time with the various birds. In addition, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that those fluffy little owls know more about energy management than most humans. Some of the “Wattage Wisdom” they shared with me is below.
1. It pays to work at night. Blessed with both keen eyesight and excellent hearing, owls tend to have more profitable hunting when working at night. Similarly, manufacturing and industrial customers are discovering that shifting operations to off-peak times, such as during the night, might entitle them to lower utility rates – thus saving them money.
2. Inappropriate fuel can have unintended consequences.Dudley, a great horned owl, developed rickets as a baby because his diet was too low on key nutrients. He broke a bone as a result. Industrial operations can also fall prey to inappropriate fuel choices. A well-intended manager might select a fuel based solely on price, for example, not realizing that that choice might lead to increased emissions – and broken profits from environmental penalties.
3. Silence is golden. Until this weekend, I thought owls were so very, very fluffy because feathers provided good insulation to keep them warm. Thus I was intrigued to learn that an equally important purpose is to enable completely silent flight for successful hunting. In fact, rescued owls cannot be released to the wild until the handlers ascertain that their flight is, in fact, silent – otherwise, their prey will hear their approach and the owl will not be able to obtain enough food energy to survive. Silence in a factory or industrial setting is also a good indicator of sound energy management practices. Plant managers may have done the basics – such as insulation for ducts, equipment, and the building; a simple additional step is to do a walkthrough when the plant is not producing any product. Hear that hissing sound? Steam leaks affect the majority of industrial end-users and can lead to losses of hundreds of thousands of euro per year. Often, the ‘sound test’ can also detect equipment that is left running even during down times – conveyors are often a culprit.