Motoring ahead with energy efficiency
As the world tackles global warming and looks to reduce the production of global greenhouse gasses, one response has been the electrification of everything: the replacement of a fossil fuel economy with wind, solar, hydro and electric vehicles.
But the act of generating electricity itself still affects the environment. Add to this a growing population, increased urbanisation and rising living standards and this ever-increasing reliance on electricity is a growing concern according to automation company ABB Motion Service’s motion digital lead, Mari Emilia Haapala.
As it stands, McKinsey reports that power consumption is projected to triple by 2050 as electrification continues to grow.
One major hoarder of electricity are electric motors – machines that are used to covert electrical energy into mechanical energy – which power systems such as industrial fans, machine tools, household appliances, vehicles and disk drives.
According to ABB, 45% of the world’s electricity is used to power electric motors in buildings and industrial applications.
The automation firm also iterated that there are 300 million motors in the world and most are standard ones, rather than high-efficiency motors that have been designed with longer insulation and bearing lives, lower waste heat output and less vibration.
But rather than throwing them all away and starting again (which would also have a negative carbon impact) there are ways that these existing motors can be made to work more efficiently.
ABB is an expert in electrification and automation and Haapala works with the branch, ABB Motion Services, which covers the firm’s IoT solutions and business line.
According to Haapala, one way of reducing the energy consumption of electric motors is through adding smart sensors to measure which machines are proving to be the least efficient over a period of time, and eliminating just these ones.
At ABB’s own factory, it measures the health of its electric motor-powered machines using its own IT technology that collects energy usage data in real time, to optimise the energy consumption of the building.
“Our drives are all connected to the Cloud,” Haapala explains, “so we know what the building is doing and we’ve identified significant savings, especially when it comes to the usage of heating and ventilation because the smart sensors not only track energy consumption they’re also detecting temperature changes.”
She adds that the data from a fleet of motors can be analysed by algorithms to indicate which ones may need attention if they’re not running efficiently, or are close to failure.
Haapala estimates that tracking this data is delivering results on CO2 reduction and energy cost reduction “from anything between five to 40%”.
While tackling the energy consumption of electric motors using data collected by IoT is positive, there’s the issue of data storage in data centres to also tackle.
To deal with this, Haapala says that ABB is working hard to keep the data centres it uses well-ventilated because “the more efficient ventilation you have the more efficient data centres you have”.
Plus, it also uses a multi-tenant cloud solution so that it occupies less space and is not moving any more data than is necessary.
Energy efficiency movement
While ABB is keeping its own factories and its data centres as green as possible, it has also resolved to help make its customers and partners aware of their own energy efficiency through an ongoing campaign, the Energy Efficiency Movement, which now has over 300 companies on board.
ABB started the campaign three years ago to bring partners, stakeholders, customers and solutions vendors together in this space and invites them to pledge how they are going to contribute to using less energy.
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