To coincide with Earth Day, Intel Ireland General Manager Eamonn Sinnott shares perspectives on Intel’s commitment to sustainable operations and some of the ways we are working to implement sustainable practices in our manufacturing environment in Ireland.
Working together to drive a more sustainable manufacturing environment
This year, Earth Day falls in the middle of what is an extraordinary time for people right across the world. The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in many new and unpredictable challenges that require us now, more than ever, to work together.
The spirit of coming together and tackling challenges as one team is something that has been a cornerstone of our Intel culture here in Ireland for more than 30 years.
Since 1989 we have developed our site in Leixlip to become one of the most complex manufacturing locations in the world where we proudly produce products that are powering the global digital infrastructure upon which our modern society relies.
These complex operations have a heritage of mindful manufacturing – it’s something that is in our DNA. Intel’s founders instilled a strong commitment to environmental responsibility that lives on today and in our inaugural Environmental, Health, and Safety Report Gordon Moore said; “We need to continually improve our manufacturing process, thereby reducing our burden on the environment and becoming an asset to the communities in which we live and work.”
This commitment to sustainability has been unwavering and we strive to pursue new ways to reduce emissions and improve energy management through conservation, renewable energy, efficient building design, and other efforts.
It is our constant focus to look at how we can do more. To continue to look for ways, big and small, to reduce our footprint.
As we move forward with the next industrial revolution, one categorised by digital enablement and data analysis, there are new opportunities and solutions emerging to help drive a more sustainable manufacturing environment. We are embracing this opportunity as best we can, here are some examples of recent sustainability projects delivered in Leixlip;
We are well on the way to changing all of the many thousand light fixtures in our manufacturing buildings in Leixlip, moving from fluorescent units to a much more energy efficient LED solution that uses a significantly lower amount of power. Additionally, as the LED units are programmable and sensor enabled, they can be controlled in order to further reduce their use – meaning that we don’t unnecessarily have to leave lights on when an area or room is not occupied. What might seem like a simple change has had a significant environmental impact with an associated energy reduction of up to 90% for our cleanroom lighting. Additionally, as the LED unit has a much longer lifespan, maintenance is reduced, and we have also found that there is a reduced amount of heat being generated which lowers the burden on air conditioning units.
The equipment running in our factory generates heat that we need to then cool down. Traditionally that heat would need to be removed by chillers and cooling towers to the atmosphere. The team in Ireland has taken this heat resource and installed heat recovery chillers or large industrial heat pumps to send that heat to our cleanrooms eliminating the need for heat from fossil fuel boilers. As a result, our use of fossil fuels is minimised to only critical processes. For example, in order to capture and redirect waste heat produced by our compressor system, a new heat recovery loop was constructed. This low-grade heat source from the compressors is now used to heat the incoming water for our site which is consumed in our water purification systems. This means that instead of using natural gas to heat the water we are using waste heat, therefore, reducing the amount of energy used.
Significant investments have also been made towards upgrading the cooling systems used at our site. Recent developments by our suppliers gave us the opportunity to pioneer the latest in chiller technology for Intel globally. These new chillers deliver a performance improvement of over 30% in energy efficiency. In addition to this, the replacement also allows us to operate under a refrigerant with a GWP of 7, as compared to a previous figure 1300, which means if released the refrigerant will now only survive 25 days in the atmosphere instead of a previous total of 14 years.
We are constantly striving to conserve water, and this is achieved through a variety of water conservation projects at our site. One specific example of a project to reduce water usage was implemented in our filtration process. The Intel production process requires water of a very high purity and therefore our water must be refined before it is sent to the factory. This refining process involves many filtration steps and at each step some water is rejected, and the rest is used or “recovered”. Our engineers have worked to improve the efficiency of these filtration steps to increase the amount of water that is recovered. This is an example of how we conserve water by increased recovery. One such project was undertaken in 2017 and now results in 268,807m3 of water being conserved per year.
Intel began the journey of manufacturing sustainability over 50 years ago and it is one which continues to evolve. We are committed to working together to explore new approaches, to implement innovative solutions and to be ambitious in showing leadership in our role as a global citizen.
Eamonn Sinnott is Intel Vice President, Manufacturing and Operations and General Manager, Intel Ireland.
See the infographic below which captures a summary of Intel Ireland environmental commitments;
Intel – celebrating Earth Day 2020
- Read more about how Intel has Reached 1 Billion Gallons of Water Restored
- Read more about how Accenture, Intel and the Sulubaaï Environmental Foundation announced Project: CORaiL, an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered solution to monitor, characterise and analyse coral reef resiliency.
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