The role of energy optimisation in sustainable baggage handling

In the dynamic world of airport operations, developing sustainable solutions has become not just an ambition, but a necessity. Constraints in resources, evolving governmental regulations, climate change concerns and a growing sense of social responsibility are issues that airports are actively seeking to address. The key objectives are to reduce carbon emissions and the use of resources, with energy consumption emerging as a significant contributor. This article takes a closer look at enhancing energy efficiency in existing and new baggage handling systems, supporting airports as they realise their roadmaps for a greener future.

“Energy usage is the most significant contributor to the carbon footprint of a Baggage Handling System.”
Hanane Hoftijzer-Ghalloudi
Sustainability Lead Airports

Understanding the role of energy consumption

Thorough life-cycle assessments reveal that energy usage is the most significant contributor to the carbon footprint of a Baggage Handling System (BHS), often exceeding 50% of its total emissions. Transitioning to renewable energy sources offers the most substantial reduction in CO2 emissions for airports. Yet, the accessibility of renewable energy can be restricted by local limitations and high transition costs; and as automation increases and more assets are electrified, balancing electricity demands across the airport can become a challenge. Consequently, effective strategies to optimise the energy consumption of the BHS will play a crucial role in sustainable Airport operations.

The potential of analysing energy consumption

The path to energy optimisation in existing baggage handling systems begins with an energy quick scan. This is a comprehensive analysis of energy and flow data aimed at identifying energy-saving opportunities. By collecting data through power analysers and intelligent energy dashboards, the system’s energy consumption and baggage flow can be meticulously tracked and analysed. These insights help to reveal correlations between the process, usage pattern and energy flow – all crucial factors in understanding what drives the system’s energy consumption. Using this information, a multidisciplinary team of process and energy experts can identify opportunities for improvement that are tailored to the unique requirements of both the BHS and the airport. Additionally, the insights obtained will contribute to the development of more energy-efficient future Baggage Handling solutions.

Sustainable system usage

The actual use of the system should be closely aligned with its actual capacity demand throughout the year and throughout its lifetime. It often lies below the design values, as systems are designed to handle peak volumes at a peak hour sometime in the future. The goal is to tailor an optimal flow to the airport’s fluctuating capacity demands and operational requirements. Energy-saving strategies may include idling redundant areas or adopting low-energy routes during low capacity, facilitated by variable speeds. For example, a mere 20% speed reduction on equipment can result in a notable 14% decrease in their energy consumption. Such a nuanced approach – informed by extensive data analysis – ensures efficient system operation while minimising unnecessary energy usage. Configuring systems in a flexible way helps to create more opportunities to save energy.

Moreover, operational strategies such as reducing speeds or idling redundant areas during low traffic hours not only conserve energy but also decrease wear and tear on equipment. This extends its lifespan, reduces the need for spare parts and maintenance, and lowers noise levels. All these factors contribute to the increased sustainability of the BHS.

Adoption of energy-efficient technologies

The most sustainable approach is to effectively maintain and extend the system’s lifetime. However, when new investments become necessary, prioritising energy-efficient solutions is paramount. This can entail replacing assets in an existing system with energy-optimised technology, such as more energy-efficient motors and low-friction belts or investing in entirely new solutions. For example, a pilot conducted at a European hub airport demonstrated that replacing IE2 motors with IE5 motors led to a remarkable reduction of more than 50% in energy consumption for individual conveyors.

Designing energy-efficient new systems

For new baggage handling systems, energy efficiency begins with design—embracing energy-efficient technologies and strategies. Minimising “over-dimensioning” in the design of a new BHS can play a crucial role in reducing the energy consumption. In contrast to traditional systems often designed and configured for the highest anticipated peak, new energy-efficient BHS designs prioritize handling the typical daily volumes—those occurring 80% of the time— with redundant parts added to manage peak loads. Additionally, the system design can facilitate a variable speed approach, allowing for the reduction of transport speed during low capacity. These design approaches not only allow for more flexible configuration and use of the system, but also reduce wear and tear, thereby extending the lifetime of the BHS.

Moreover, new technologies are generally more energy-efficient than older technology, helping to decrease the energy consumption of modern systems. Examples include TUBTRAX ICS, FLEET Bag and ADAPTO BAGSTORE. ADAPTO BAGSTORE, for instance, cuts energy consumption by up to 50% compared to crane-based systems.

Long-term strategies and collaboration

As airports embark on their sustainability journey, the focus on energy optimisation within the BHS stands as a pivotal step for a more efficient and environmentally conscious future. In our collective pursuit of sustainability, understanding and evaluating Total Cost of Ownership is essential, guiding airports to make informed decisions that balance immediate costs with long-term environmental and economic benefits. Realising more sustainable baggage handling depends on strategic planning and close collaboration among all stakeholders, supported by innovative, sustainable technologies. Vanderlande’s commitment to achieving a net-zero carbon footprint by 2040 reinforces our dedication to sustainable practices, which includes reducing the energy used by our solutions. With ongoing innovations and updates in sustainable BHS, airports can be confident that they are moving towards more sustainable operations.

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