Cool on energy

Energy-efficient control technology will shift power consumption ratings from red to green, bringing immediate cost savings plus tax breaks. Colin Carter explains


As the need to cut costs to stay competitive remains the focus of world industry, drives and motors and the attached control systems are much in demand.

Energy costs, such as oil price rises, are also of great concern — further focusing minds on increasing efficiency.

This is reflected in two recent reports from industry analyst Frost and Sullivan. one notes that the market for electric drives in the European food and beverage industries is expanding — and revenues in the sector are likely to rise from $260m (£130m) in 2006 to a predicted $413m by 2013.

The report highlights the demand for energy-efficient systems in the effort to reduce production costs.

The second report highlights the increased use of energy-efficient pumps for use in the energy market — further evidence that energy costs will drive growth for the next few years.

New products are also flagging energy efficiency as a major sales point in the drives and motors sector and it is clear that saving money is a big selling point.

Leroy Somer’s new MIV-IA variable speed centrifugal pump (using the company’s Varmeca VMA integrated variable speed motor), for example, is typical of technology designed to match consumption to that required by the process.

It is a similar story with the recently announced ‘Affinity’ HVAC/R drive range from Emerson Industrial Automation’s Control Techniques, which is aimed at the building automation industry and promises energy-efficient performance for use in heating, ventilation and air conditioning applications.

Another example comes from SEW Eurodrive, which launched its modular DR motor series earlier this year. This features energy-saving die-cast copper technology and is designed to meet future legal demands for energy-efficient motors around the world.

There are already laws in north America, Australia and New Zealand prescribing the use of energy-efficient motors, and much of the rest of the industrialised world is looking to move in the same direction.

But legislation is not necessarily having an effect on the implementation of energy-efficiency programmes within industry. With the price of oil at around $130 a barrel and looking set to rise even further, energy cost reduction has become a necessity in all industries.

In the food sector, for example, the production of ready meals at a supplier of food to retailers such as Marks & Spencer is an energy-intensive process. Here savings have been made by the installation of Schneider Electric control technologies, including the company’s Telemecanique ‘Altivar’ variable speed drives.

Following the installation, the company monitored its energy bill over a four-month period for its freezing process — which involves quick freezing by fans to pass air over water-filled heat exchangers. It fell by about 50 per cent.

The fans used to operate at full power, and airflow was controlled by mechanical vanes that resulted in much of the power being dissipated.

The installation of 17 Telemecanique variable speed drive controlled fans across the process has meant that fans are now only run at the power required by the process — and the enormous energy savings have meant a claimed four-month payback period for the installation.

But the benefits are not just in the cash saved in energy costs. The group of companies which includes the food-producing business has set energy reduction targets across all its firms and they have qualified for exemption from the Climate Change Levy by reducing consumption by more than two per cent/tonne of product.

The group has also qualified for tax reductions under the Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme, which basically means they can claim the tax back immediately on the investment rather than over the lifetime of the equipment.

Energy efficiency has also been behind recent changes at Ireland-based manufacturer of artificial knee joints and bone cement Stryker Orthopaedics. The company has installed a new control system for its 23 air-handling units around the plant, which are used to ensure there are no dust particles in the plant.

The company has installed a series of Hitachi L300P drives for the fans behind the air-handling units, all controlled by Hitachi EH150 series programmable logic controllers.

The system ensures that each fan is tuned to cope with local demand rather than running at full speed continuously. Energy meters around the system confirmed that savings from this load matching process were substantial. The largest (and most unexpected) savings came from the reduction in space heating.

Stryker’s chief engineer, Robert McKillican, reckoned on something like a 50 per cent saving on gas costs — amounting to almost €80,000 (around £64,000) a year.

Energy saving was also high on the agenda at fast-food giant McDonald’s, with a claimed 50 per cent saving on its restaurants’ energy bills as a result of installing ABB inverter drives on kitchen extractor fans.

The drives have been installed in 50 restaurants across the country, which will add up to huge savings for the company.

As in the previous examples, the fans are now run at the load required to do the job of removing the required amount of air from the restaurants. Previously some of the motors were running continuously at their 5.5kW rating, but are now drawing about 2kW for most of the time, according to McDonald’s upgrades project manager Dave Holden.

With immediate energy cost savings, as well as the tax advantages possible, there is no time like the present for industries to throw out energy-wasting systems that run pumps and fans at full speed constantly.

Even the UK and European governments have realised the benefits and offer fiscal encouragements to companies doing so. Little wonder that the drives and motors sector is one of the most optimistic at present.