The Case for Using Energy Efficient Motors

March 9, 2012
For our March issue, SPS Magazin originally planned to focus on “Ie3” and “Ie4” motors—the German equivalent of “premium efficient” and “super premium efficient” ac induction motors.

Motor manufacturers are using 2015 as their deadline for introducing this new technology, which means there aren’t too much providers with this energy efficiency category in their portfolio right now. Several manufacturers have introduced products, however, and it makes sense for users to begin adopting them soon, given the savings potential.

According to trade association ZVEI (Zentralverband Elektrotechnik- und Elektronikindustrie), two thirds of the entire industrial consumption of electrical energy on machines driven by electrical motors could be reduced through adoption of these motors. Using ZVEI’s data, it would be possible to save 38 billion kilowatt-hours of energy every year—in Germany along—by replacing old drives with modern drive systems. Projected for Europe, the savings would even be 135 billion kilowatt-hours.

By using electronic speed regulation and energy-efficient motors, CO2 emissions in Europe could be reduced to 69 million tons, according to ZVEI numbers. In relation to the information from the federal environmental agency in 2009, the United States already has had an energy minimum standard for years.  There, high-efficiency drives (Ie2) already have improved efficiency by 54 percent, and the more efficient Ie3 units already amounts to 16 percent. In Germany and Europe, the number of Ie3 units is less than 1 percent.

Manufacturer’s challenges
From the automation manufacturer’s point of view, there are particular barriers to developing and selling Ie3 and Ie4 drives. At first, if we reach for a higher degree of efficiency, more material is needed. In consideration of increasing commodity prices, it’s a challenge to position these drives to the market for attractive prices. Looking at total costs, however, the additional costs of energy efficient motors amortize within a short time. Experts say this would be the case after 5,000 to 8,000 operating hours.

Technical challenges for the manufacturers appear especially in terms of regulation of modern, energy efficient three-phase motors. If these are run with converters, it takes appropriate know-how to find out torque and speed.  Providers of such systems consequently have to call on extreme expert knowledge in terms of motors and their own converters to use this potential to its fullest. The development effort is enormous.

Overall, it’s worth it to seek out the most energy efficient solutions—and to use the already existent energy-saving technology to its fullest. This means using modern drives like Ie2, but also—if they are available—drives at the Ie3 and Ie4 level.

Even if it sounds trite, the “total cost of ownership” is significant.  It’s a fact that’s ignored way too often. Besides, we owe both ourselves and the next generation responsible treatment of our environment and its resources.

Martin Buchwitz, [email protected], is editor of SPS Magazin in Germany.

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