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Why industrial apps should prioritise energy efficiency

13 Nov 2015  | Tony Young

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It's about quality

A complementary energy-efficient technology to regenerative braking is the harmonic filter, which works by improving the power quality of a system. By increasing the number and diversity of power electronics used in industrial environments, you also increase the number of non-linear loads, in which the current drawn by the load doesn't have the same wave form as the supply voltage.

Some of the most common sources of harmonic currents include industrial equipment like welding machines, arc furnaces or rectifiers, variable speed drives, office equipment like PCs, printers and even household appliances, such as the humble television.

The flow of harmonics reduces power quality and can cause a number of problems including premature ageing of equipment and overloads on the power distribution system, which result in the need to increase the level of subscribed power, thus incurring additional costs. Finally, harmonics can cause irritating and costly tripping and shutdown of production lines and equipment.

The bottom line is that when electrical equipment has a poor signal, it uses more energy. The peaks caused by harmonics in electricity can result in energy wastage and the best way to solve the problem is by implementing a harmonic filter.

Depending on the application, you might want to use an active or a passive filter, with series or shunt compensation. The first thing to do is survey your system. Or better yet, get a specialist to come in and do that for you. This way, you won't miss anything and you'll have a full picture of the different generations of electrical equipment on your shop floor. A survey will also allow you to see your industrial facility as a whole and identify the real root causes for power quality problems.

Get ahead of the crowd

One of the challenges when it comes to making industrial environments more energy efficient is the psychological barrier. Many people in industry still cling on to an outdated mentality and choose electrical equipment based on the lowest purchasing cost. Many more still see energy efficiency as a luxury most companies can't afford.

In reality, energy-efficient and energy-generating electrical equipment will not only amortise costs relatively quickly, but it will bring impressive savings for your company in the long run.

Tightening industry regulations and increasing energy prices mean industrial players of all sizes now have more reasons to make energy efficiency a priority and put continuous energy improvements at the heart of their business model.

Part of the reason da Vinci's robotic knight never caught on was that the mentality of the times simply didn't fit with the idea of automated machines. Perhaps we shouldn't make the same mistake when it comes to energy efficiency. The technology is readily available, but we must be wise enough to implement it.

About the author:

Tony Young is owner director of supply and repair specialist CP

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