Energy efficiency is something that governments around the world have been setting targets for – it can reduce running costs for businesses, lower carbon emissions and show the public that a company is environmentally aware. So why is energy efficiency as a concept, so difficult to “sell” to businesses?
Companies can be put off by the perceived large initial investments required to “go green”. But energy efficient solutions are often cheap and easy to implement, sometimes requiring nothing more than some logical thinking.
The sad reality is that many businesses and offices still leave their lights and computer systems switched on through the night, wasting energy and adding to their costs. These issues are easily addressed – a memo asking employees to switch off lights and computers as they leave, is a simple solution, and the first step in making a change in the collective thinking of everyone involved.
In the manufacturing and engineering sectors, there are unique challenges to operating with energy efficiency in mind; automated systems and processes often run 24 hours a day meaning that machinery needs to be constantly working. But there are technologies which can make a huge difference to the costs and energy consumption of such equipment.
Variable speed drives (VSDs) are an extremely cost effective way to minimise carbon emissions from electric motors. VSDs control the speed and rotational force (or torque) of a motor, which means they can reduce its speed in line with its requirements. This helps to reduce the amount of electricity used and thus the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere.
With billions of motors being used throughout the industrialised world, 65% of all industrial electrical energy is used by electric motors, which can be found anywhere from sewage and irrigation pumps, lifts and conveyors, paper machines and power-plant fans etc.
As 90% of the lifetime cost of a motor comes from its energy consumption, even a small reduction in speed can give significant savings. For example, a centrifugal pump or fan running at 80% speed tends to consume only half of the energy of one running at full capacity.
An additional benefit of using VSDs is that motors require less frequent maintenance work because they are no longer running constantly at full power. This can be a big advantage for businesses where equipment maintenance means that production has to be halted – potentially costing firms thousands of pounds in lost time.
VSDs are just one example of how businesses can benefit from implementing environmentally friendly and cost-effective solutions to benefit from improved energy efficiency. All that is required is for business leaders to be aware of these options and their potential benefits. With rising energy costs, businesses will soon be forced to investigate these solutions to remain competitive and successful.
James Armstrong is an experienced journalist and broadcaster, currently writing on behalf of UK Automation – providers of new, used, refurbished and obsolete industrial automation spare parts. Photo by Alan Levine