Industrial-energy-efficiency

Around 45% of the energy used worldwide is used by industrial electric motors. That’s a whole lot of electricity. It’s also why industrial energy efficiency has become such a hot topic. Reduced energy usage holds the key to an improved environmental impact and lower operating costs.

However, energy efficiency initiatives have historically been low on the priority list, often due to:

  • difficulty with identifying which processes are the most inefficient, and therefore need the most attention.
  • high short-term costs (installing inefficiency detection software, rightsizing motors etc).
  • the prioritization of high levels of production, regardless of cost.

New advances in condition monitoring are making industrial energy efficiency improvements far more achievable. SAM4 monitors the health of a motor by measuring current and voltage, which by extension means that SAM4 can also measure and detect inefficient processes. Traditional conditional monitoring techniques rely on vibration analysis to monitor the health of motors, and so are unable to offer the same efficiency improvement features.

Production managers are now turning to current and voltage measurement driven condition monitoring to identify inefficiencies in industrial processes, so that maintenance teams can act quickly to rectify the inefficiency.

Why increased industrial energy efficiency is so important

Improved environmental impact
It goes without saying that the most important objective when improving industrial energy efficiency is an improved environmental impact.

As important as it is, justifying spending money on this can be a difficult conversation, especially when there are more short-term pressing issues, and multiple different stakeholders begging for budget.

Reduced costs
Perhaps a more effective justification when there are multiple budgetary mouths to feed is that investment in improved energy efficiency can result in lower operating costs in the long run. This is especially the case as energy gradually becomes more expensive.

Improved brand image
This may seem like a self serving reason to invest in improving industrial energy efficiency, but it is valid nonetheless. Reduced energy consumption is a hot topic, and a demonstrated effort to reduce energy consumption could be a point of differentiation - encouraging consumers or businesses to engage with you rather than a competitor.

How can condition monitoring help improve industrial energy efficiency

As mentioned, electric motors consume a huge amount of electricity worldwide, and so even a few, small concentrated efforts can make a difference. Below are a few ways that condition monitoring can help reduce energy consumption in industrial environments.

Proper maintenance
According to research, properly maintained motors consume up to 15% less energy. SAM4 can be used to detect developing faults (which cause motors to run less efficiently), so they can be fixed as soon as conveniently possible.

Re-engineering inefficient processes
Consider a scenario with two very large drainage-pumps. They operate at 80% of capacity in the autumn and winter, as the most rain falls in those seasons. During spring and summer, they both run at 40%.

A relatively quick way to reduce energy waste would be to operate one pump at 80% in the spring/summer instead of two at 40%.

Although this might be a simple example, the point stands. By combining domain knowledge, process knowledge, and power consumption and load measurements provided by monitoring systems, it is often possible to identify new ways to increase process efficiency.

Right-sizing motors
You don’t need a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and the same applies for the use of electric motors. Selecting a motor that matches the load is an important step in improving electrical motor efficiency.

The efficiency of a motor is at its greatest when it runs between 60% and 80% of rated power. The motor will become gradually less efficient when the load is lowered, and will become significantly less efficient when operating at a load below 35 to 40%. By replacing inefficient motors with more appropriately sized motors, the total energy consumption of a plant could be significantly reduced.

When right-sizing motors, it is also important to balance the long-term effects of right-sizing with the short term costs. For example, replacing an oversized and inefficient motor before it shows signs of a fault will incur a cost. However in the long term, the plant will save both money and energy by using a motor that is better suited to the process.

Sign up for a demo

If you are interested in finding out more about how SAM4 condition monitoring could help your plant become more energy efficient, sign up for a demo here.