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Driving technology take up

23 November 2017

I was recently lucky enough to visit ABB’s facility in Helsinki. As you can imagine, conversation at one the world’s leading providers of variable speed drives inevitably turned to the huge level of electric motors that operate without a VSD.

A group of us had toured the site, including the particularly impressive forensic labs that help to ensure product coming out of the facility achieves the highest levels of reliability. We were all well versed in the benefits of using VSDs, both in terms of energy efficiency and productivity - yet we were still faced with the conundrum of why still less than one in ten of every electric motor is fitted with a VSD.

Let’s just think about that figure for a moment... more than 90% of electric motors are not fitted with VSDs. OK, so not every situation is going to benefit from a VSD, but with around half of all motor applications having some kind of varying demand, many, many would. A variable speed drive can reduce energy consumption by as much as 60%. For a 90kW motor in continuous duty, this can mean over £9000 per year. Of course, the amount that you save does depend on the price paid for energy in the first palce, however, even in the countries with the highest energy costs, the uptake of VSD technology is woefully low. In a sector that has long been shouting about the benefits of VSDs, both in terms of a healthier bottom line and the environmental advantages to be gained, it seems incredible that the message still hasn’t got through.

Whatever lies behind industry’s reluctance to invest in VSDs, it certainly seems as if a new approach is needed in order to encourage more widespread use of the technology. If it is the capital expenditure that is making potential users balk, then perhaps more inventive financing options could be encouraged. In the consumer sector, they way many people finance cars has changed with the latest deals meaning they lease their vehicles rather than owning them outright. Likewise, in the building energy management sector, there are many innovative SMEs installing energy saving solutions and taking their payment out of the resulting cost savings.
Surely there is the opportunity for imaginative entrepreneurs to apply this type of model to the motors and drives sector. As I witnessed at the Helsinki plant, today’s  quality VSDs offer really high levels of reliability, so negating potential worries about failure and unplanned downtime, particularly when combined with the latest condition monitoring systems.

Imagine the worldwide energy savings if, instead of less than 10% of ten motors being fitted with a VSD the figure was reversed and more than 90% were fitted with a VSD. It’s almost unimaginable, yet in theory it should be possible.

 
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