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Baldor has launched direct-drive technology for controlling commercial building cooling tower fans that improves reliability by eliminating moving parts while also saving energy and running quieter.

The new technology – the VS1 Cooling Tower Drive – is based on a permanent magnet motor that packs the high torque required into such a compact space that it can be retrofitted into cooling towers, sitting underneath the fan in the space currently required for the gearbox element of conventional power transmission systems.

Air cooling towers are commonly used as part of the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems of medium- to large-scale office and industrial buildings.

Large fans pull air over a water-soaked media to cool the water before it is returned to the chiller unit.

The most common technique for driving such fans has been a standard AC induction motor, connected to the fan via a driveshaft and disc coupling arrangement into a right-angle gearbox, which reduces the motor’s speed to the range required for fan circulation.

Such arrangements are prone to a number of drawbacks: the gearbox runs at high speed and requires regular inspection and maintenance of the lubrication and seals; misalignments in the power transmission system can cause vibration, wear and noise; and the complex power transmission system introduces significant energy losses.

The VS1 Cooling Tower Drive provides a direct slow-speed drive for the fans combined with variable-speed control that is optimised for the building cooling application.

By eliminating the driveshaft and gearbox, the solution minimises moving parts, improving reliability and power efficiency as well as reducing the system bill of materials.

The interior permanent magnet synchronous motor design uses energy-efficient technology that, in combination with the elimination of the gearbox and drive-train transmission losses, results in a more efficient system compared to conventional fixed-speed designs, according to the company.

Additional energy savings can be gained by being able to operate the fan at reduced speeds during non-peak load conditions.

The direct drive also reduces noise and eliminates the issue of cooling tower water becoming contaminated from leaky gearboxes.

The direct-drive fan motor is controlled by a Baldor VS1 drive with a specially developed speed control algorithm.

The variable-speed control of fans can save energy compared with older fixed-speed solutions.

The company’s algorithm provides sensorless control of the permanent magnet motor, which is optimised to manage the large inertia of the fan, with a low starting current requirement.

The motor is a synchronous type from Baldor’s RPM family, based on permanent magnets.

Thanks to improvements in the magnetic and thermal properties of permanent magnet materials in recent years, the company claims that this technology represents a viable alternative to conventional AC induction motors and delivers energy-efficiency advantages.

Laminated frame technology is used in the design, eliminating the conventional cast-iron outer frame of large AC motors and allowing more room for active (torque-producing) magnetic material.

This produces a highly torque-dense motor, allowing Baldor to offer the technology to the cooling tower retrofit market for installation in the same space currently used for the gearbox.

The motor will provide continuous constant torque over its entire range from zero up to base speed and employs optimum pole construction to maximise both efficiency and power factor.

A high degree of protection is an important factor for this application as the operating environment is extremely humid.

An epoxy compound insulation applied via vacuum-pressure impregnation – a technique derived from a system originally developed for navy applications – is used for the stator windings.

The drive end of the motor is also protected by a metallic, non-contacting, no-wearing, Inpro labyrinth shaft seal in combination with a slinger cover to prevent the ingress of moisture and contamination into the motor.

Baldor’s new product has been trialled and compared with a conventional cooling tower fan drive system at a university building with identical twin cooling towers housing 5.5m (18ft) fans.

One tower was left as originally constructed, while the other was retrofitted with the new Baldor permanent magnet motor and variable-speed drive.

Independently verified power measurements showed a decrease in input power of approximately 13 per cent for the direct-drive arrangement when running at full load, yielding significant electricity cost savings.

Rich Schaefer of Baldor said: ’Direct drives represent a win-win technology for commercial building HVAC applications; it makes the drive system a lot simpler for manufacturers of cooling fans and delivers a range of benefits to the end user in terms of higher reliability, greatly reduced maintenance, lower running costs and less noise.’ The drive system is now available in nominal power ratings from 7kW to 145kW (9.5hp to 192hp) and a 150rev/min to 500rev/min base speed to drive cooling fans from 2.1m to 5.5m (7ft to 18ft) in diameter.

The motor flange footprint is designed to interchange with gear reducers that are widely used in today’s global cooling tower market.

Adding a foot mounting adapter plate is a simple means of fitting the motor in other gearbox footprints.


Baldor Electric Company, a member of the ABB Group, designs, manufactures, and markets the broadest line of industrial energy-efficient electric motors, power transmission products, adjustable speed drives, linear motors, motion control products, gear products, industrial grinders and generators. The Baldor range provides a complete motion solution for machine automation and utilizes our acclaimed MINT motion language.

Range includes:.

* Rotary and linear servo motors.

* Intelligent Servo drives.

* Inverter and vector drives.

* Multi-axis motion controllers: Boxed and board level solutions.

Baldor is the largest motor and mechanical power transmission company in North America and the second largest worldwide.

Baldor-Reliance motor products now range from 15 watts to 11,000 kW and includes:.

* ‘Super-E’ motors that exceed the new IEC 60034-30, IE3 efficiency level.

* NEMA Premium Efficiency rated motors, meeting the new EISA legislation covering motors supplied into the USA.

* Custom motors to meet client specific requirements.

Dodge power transmission products offer a wide variety of engineered mounted bearings including Grip Tight Adapter range and enclosed gear products including the Quantis modular, High Efficiency range. Baldor operates plants in the USA, United Kingdom, China and Canada with products available from our worldwide network

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