18 August, 2022

Don’t miss out on VSD opportunities (June 2012)

11 June, 2012

By Paul Clark, business line manager Industrial Air Division, Atlas Copco Compressors.
Recent research carried out by the Carbon Trust has found that UK businesses could make significant savings of over £630 million every year simply by using more efficient electric motors and variable speed drives (VSDs). With 10 per cent of all electricity used in industry attributable to compressed air applications the potential savings are highly compelling. For instance, Atlas Copco Compressors recently released figures indicating that UK industry could save a massive 16.5 million kWh of energy in 2012*1 as a result of using its energy efficient VSD compressor technology. This raises the question: why is VSD technology still not being used to maximum advantage by UK businesses?
Air compressor application
VSDs are suited to compressed air applications for a number of reasons, but particularly for their ability to boost compressor performance by matching air supply to air demand. In 80 per cent of all compressed air installations air demand shows fluctuations, which can prove costly if compressors are constantly operating at high capacity. The key feature of a VSD compressor is its inclusion of an integrated frequency converter that varies the speed of the drive motor to exactly match changes in compressed air demand. As a result, VSD compressors use the minimum amount of energy required and can cut the cost of compressed air energy by up to 35 per cent compared to conventional compressors.
Despite all of this, many businesses are still not taking advantage of the production benefits of VSD compressors. However, when it comes to energy saving projects, there are a number of different funding schemes available. One such scheme is the Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECA) programme, which is managed by the Carbon Trust on behalf of the government and encourages businesses to invest in energy-saving technologies and equipment as specified on the Energy Technology List (ETL). Additionally, in July 2011, Atlas Copco launched a 0 per cent finance scheme to encourage investment in the latest compressed air technology, including its full range of energy efficient VSD compressors. Another, more recent, development is the Energy Efficiency Financing Scheme. This is providing £550 million over the next three years for investment in energy efficient technology, including compressed air equipment.
Energy audits
Another reason why some UK businesses are not taking advantage of VSD compressor technology could be a lack of knowledge; in many cases they are not even aware that energy savings can be made. A detailed energy audit of their compressed air system however can identify potential savings and energy monitoring services are now being offered by many compressed air manufacturers and associated distributors.
*1– 16.5 million kW Hours – based on typical 25 per cent average saving on energy and 4000 running hours per annum when a VSD compressor is compared to a fixed-speed compressor.

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