Because electric motors use 70 percent of all the electricity used by industry, they are an essential target for businesses that want to decarbonize at the same time as cutting energy bills. Although motor-driven systems are often out of sight, they are found almost everywhere as they turn electricity into motion, for example to pump water, drive fans and lifts, and run machinery.
However, there is a hidden challenge as motors may not be working efficiently. This means that for every hour they’re running, they will be using more energy than is required to do the job. That quickly adds up in terms of wasted energy, which leads to higher utility bills and mounting CO2 emissions.
It’s hard to know which motors to target as it’s not possible to tell by looking how efficiently motors are running. Therefore, operators need to collect and analyze operational data to gain insight into potential energy-saving opportunities.
Energy efficiency audit
Until recently, energy efficiency audits or assessments required an energy efficiency expert to visit site to install sensors and data-loggers before analyzing and providing recommendations. As a result, they are usually reserved for just the largest motors on a site’s critical line.
However, the advent of wireless data gathering means that it is now possible to scale up digital appraisals to cover an entire fleet of motors. Today, a site’s own operational team can deploy data-gathering with a little support and guidance from the service expert. As a result, the consultant no longer needs to visit in person and can use the same amount of time to evaluate the efficiency of more motors than was previously possible.
This data-driven approach to energy audits, such as ABB’s Digital Powertrain Energy Appraisal, can be scaled up to gather operational data from across an operator’s entire fleet of motors. As a result, it’s possible to pinpoint exactly where energy efficiency performance can be improved.
Six-step energy audit
A digital energy efficiency audit highlights the long-term benefits of upgrading a site’s motors. It provides costed recommendations that will improve their efficiency and will show the return on investment (ROI) and saving in CO2 emissions from those actions.
It follows the same principle as a traditional energy audit and has six steps:
- Identify and understand the scope of the problem
- Quantify energy use by gathering data
- Analysis to identify the energy-saving potential
- Identify potential solutions and their return on investment
- Implement changes
- Measurement and verification to support evaluation.
The benefits of an energy efficiency audit
Good energy efficiency has multiple benefits that are related to cutting energy consumption. The first is that operators can immediately cut their energy bills and free up cashflow.
In addition, reducing electricity consumption helps with decarbonization as it cuts the CO2 emissions required to generate and transmit electricity to power industrial systems. It also helps to comply with tightening environmental legislation.
For companies working close to a maximum power consumption limit, a further benefit is they can make the most of the capacity that is available to them. This may avoid the need to negotiate a new electricity contract or enable them to defer a physical upgrade to their grid connection.
The digital approach offers additional benefits. For example, because data is gathered wirelessly, an appraisal has minimal impact on operations. Data-gathering technology can be deployed at any time without affecting productivity.
In addition, the technology can be left in place to continue gathering data over many months or years. This means the operator can re-evaluate the data analysis regularly. This is helpful as it provides a fresh look at energy performance as energy prices vary over time, rather than simply having a snapshot view. It also helps to measure and verify the success of upgrades.
Using energy audits as a tool
Industry is facing multiple challenges related to energy consumption. On one hand, it needs to respond to the decarbonization agenda and find ways to cut operational costs. At the same time, energy resources will remain in high demand as the global population grows and becomes more urban, and as industries switch from fossil fuels to electric power.
With all these factors to consider, it’s likely that electrical energy resources will remain a high-value commodity for the foreseeable future.
By viewing energy efficiency as a tool, operators can help make the most of a scarce resource while cutting OPEX costs and CO2 emissions. And with a data-driven approach now being possible, they can evaluate the energy efficiency performance of more motors than ever before.
Featured image credit: Unsplash