Exploring voltage optimisation
When it comes to identifying solutions for reducing a building’s energy consumption, an expert analysis from the NHS Sustainable Development Unit and St George’s University, London, has some of the answers. Dr Alex Mardapittas of Powerstar, explains why the study identified voltage optimisation as one of the top three most worthwhile and cost-effective energy-saving technologies.
Voltage optimisation — using an engineered solution for ensuring that a building’s electrical input matches only what it needs, and no more — is a well established and highly effective technology that has been saving businesses millions of pounds off their electricity spend since first becoming commercially available 13 years ago.
The technology has continued to evolve so that its benefits are now available to a wider range of sites than ever. Exciting new innovations have even made it available to premises that have or would benefit from using their own transformers. This would typically be large buildings where the technology can either be applied to new build or retrospectively.
With these advances in place it was rewarding to have confirmation from a study carried out by the NHS Sustainable Development Unit and St George’s University in October 2013 that voltage optimisation is, indeed, one of the three most worthwhile green technologies to adopt — along with LED lighting and variable-speed drives — in terms of delivering the highest energy savings and fastest payback.
To answer the remit of this special feature — energy-saving ‘quick fixes’ that are quick, simple and cost effective — voltage optimisation scores a big tick in each box.
Quick? Yes. Installation takes just three to four hours, and savings begin immediately.
Simple? Yes. After installation there is no further need for intervention.
Cost effective? Absolutely. Proven savings demonstrated by my company average 12 to 15%, and payback is usually just two to three years.
The thinking behind voltage optimisation is very straightforward.
Typically the National Grid supplies a voltage of 242 V while most electrical equipment in the EU works best at 220 V.
A voltage-optimisation unit is a device installed in series with the mains supply to ensure that the incoming voltage matches the optimum required by a site. It can also extend the life of electrical equipment by cleaning the power supply and eliminating potentially damaging spikes in power delivery. Excessive voltage can damage motors by overheating them — a risk eliminated by maintaining an optimum power supply.
An effective voltage-optimisation system requires an engineered solution which matches the needs of a site. Buildings with a stable but excessive incoming voltage supply will benefit from a fixed system on the low-voltage side. Sites with fluctuating voltage or varying loads, particularly those which operate through the night when demand on the grid drops, are better suited to an electronic-dynamic system which uses intelligent controls to ensure that power is supplied at a constant level, regardless of how unstable the incoming voltage.
Our latest innovation is an energy-saving solution that typically benefits large premises by combining an on-site transformer with integrated electronic-dynamic voltage-optimisation technology. This has the effect of optimising voltage on the high-voltage side — before it enters a building. HV MAX units employ a highly efficient amorphous core super-low-loss HV transformer and, depending on the age and type of the transformer being replaced, will achieve 3 to 10% savings simply because it is so much more efficient.
The system takes an input of 11, 22 or 33 kV and provides a fully electronically regulated 380 V (or user-defined) voltage. The user can also alter the defined voltage locally through HMI on site or remotely via the internet.
Combined with the 12 to 15% savings provided by the integrated voltage-optimisation technology, sites using this technology — which is designed, sourced and manufactured in the UK — can expect to achieve average savings of 17%. It can replace a building’s existing transformer or be installed in new building developments in four to six hours without touching the on-site supply and adapted for inside or outside installations.
All sectors can profit from voltage optimisation technology — from hospitals that need to maintain a steady power delivery 24 hours a day to operate sensitive, multi-million pound equipment through to government buildings, hotels, supermarkets and warehouses that are keeping a keen eye on energy expenditure and carbon emissions to meet sustainability targets. Manufacturing industry, in particular, benefits from its ability to lower the operating temperatures of motors, thus reducing maintenance costs.
There is no downside to voltage optimisation. It can be used in conjunction with other sustainable technologies such as solar or wind power and pays for itself within three years. After that, the substantial savings are enduring and feed straight back to a business’s bottom line.
Dr Alex Mardapittas is managing director of Powerstar.
Established over 13 years ago by the current managing director Dr. Alex Mardapittas, a world renowned figure in the development of voltage optimisation, Powerstar is the only voltage optimisation product with a patent on its design.