Voltage Optimisation – Proven and Reliable Technology – Electrical Review UK

Voltage Optimisation has been delivering energy savings and cutting carbon emissions for a decade now. It is a proven and reliable technology, and one of only three technologies applicable for a new batch of carbon reduction funding, having been selected due to it’s ability to produce high levels of energy consumption savings over a range of sites. Dr Alex Mardapittas, managing director of EMSC (UK) outlines the  technology available

Voltage optimisation is based on a very simple but effective concept; the voltage supplied to buildings by the National Grid is, on average, 242V while the optimum rating for all electrical devices throughout the UK and Europe is just 220V – a clear and expensive discrepancy both in terms of financial outlay and the environmental cost to our planet. Voltage optimisation systems employ a device in series with the mains electricity supply to reduce the voltage coming into a site to an optimum level. This gives three key benefits: it cuts electricity bills, reduces carbon emissions and extends the life of electrical devices by evening out potentially damaging spikes and dips in power delivery.

Proven savings of, on average, 12-15% on electricity consumption have been demonstrated using Powerstar voltage optimisation products, which are fully designed and manufactured in the UK by EMSc (UK).  The units can be installed in a matter of hours with a payback period of usually less than five years. To achieve maximum benefits, however, each site needs to be considered individually to effect a tailored engineered solution appropriate to that situation.

So successful is voltage optimisation at saving energy, it has been identified as one of the top three technologies, in reports prepared by the NHS Sustainable Development Unit and St Georges University, that have been proven to provide the highest energy savings and payback periods.

Key analysis from both reports is outlined in a document prepared by McKinsey & Company – version 2.1 of the ‘global greenhouse gas abatement cost curve’. The document pinpoints the top three technologies best capable of reducing carbon emissions across a range of different sized sites, as being voltage optimisation, LED lighting and variable speed drives (VSDs).

Thanks to the success of Powerstar, £50m has been made available for EMSc (UK) Ltd to administer to companies implementing the top three efficient, effective and reliable technologies as highlighted in the above report. Funding is available on projects with up to a five year payback and funds are provided interest free for up to five years.

Critical benefits
There are two main types of voltage optimisation systems on the market: fixed and electronic-dynamic – also referred to as variable.

A building that has a stable incoming voltage supply which is still over and above the optimum rating for electrical devices, requires a fixed voltage optimisation system. However, sites with critical equipment, high night loads and greater security requirements such as hospitals, data centres, hotels, education facilities and retails outlets will benefit from an electronic-dynamic system such as Powerstar MAX which ensures voltage is supplied at a constant level regardless of how unstable the incoming voltage is.

This is particularly important for buildings that are operational throughout the night when the load on the grid almost disappears. Powerstar MAX uses an intelligent interface to track product and site performance in real time and maintain a steady supply whether there is a power surge or even if the incoming voltage drops below 220V volts. The technology is able to continue holding the site voltage at the optimum level and still provide significant savings.

Powerstar MAX’s triple wound technology offers an alternative to simple double-wound voltage reduction transformers, and provides greater energy consumption savings in over 95% of sites. It achieves average savings of 12%-15%, up to record savings of just over 26% – greater than any fixed voltage optimisation system on the market.

Further savings are made by the improved longevity of equipment, now protected against damaging spikes in voltage and, as the products have no moving parts, the voltage optimisation unit itself also requires little or no maintenance and the installation and equipment is backed by a 15-year warranty including parts and labour – a win-win situation.

Maximum savings
The newest technology in the stable is Powerstar HV MAX, a super low loss transformer which combines with Powerstar MAX to give increased average combined savings of 17%. §This latest innovation has been developed after years of research, specifically for sites with their own transformers, and takes voltage optimisation one step further by optimising a building’s voltage supply before it is distributed.

Most voltage optimisation devices work by systematically managing the peaks and troughs in power generated in the building to reduce and stabilise the voltage on the low voltage (LV) side, at the distribution point.  Powerstar HV MAX however, optimises the supply of electricity on the high voltage (HV) side – before it even enters a site.

HV side voltage optimisation is far more efficient at minimising the effects of transients which are becoming more of an issue as switching within local and wider reaching distribution networks becomes more common and renewable energy sources are taken on
and off grid.

Powerstar HV MAX can replace a building’s existing transformer, or be installed in new building developments, to provide the optimum voltage output for the site.  It is currently the only system on the market that takes 11,000V input and provides a fully electronically regulated 380 (or user defined) voltage.  As the sole product combining super-low loss transformers and electronic voltage optimisation technology it is also the only system of its kind in the world.

Buildings with older transformers have high levels of losses and even some modern transformers use cold rolled grain oriented steel within their core, which also results in significant losses. The amorphous metal core used in the HV MAX contains ferromagnetic elements alloyed with a glass former.  These materials have high magnetic susceptibility, with low coercivity and high electrical resistance.  This high resistance leads to low losses when subjected to alternating magnetic fields which, when used in transformers, reduces standing losses and delivers greater efficiencies.  As a result the Powerstar HV MAX can boast 99.91% efficiency and reduce standing losses by up to 75% when compared to conventional steel core transformers.

Powerstar HV MAX can be installed in four to six hours by a small team without touching the on-site supply. Site impedance (ZE) and discrimination is unaffected, as is type testing.  It is a flexible application that can be adapted for inside or outside installations in factories, warehouses, manufacturing sites, and office buildings, so lack of physical space is no longer a restriction.

Boosting green credentials
Businesses keen to boost their green credentials will benefit from the new technology which can help both existing and new buildings to achieve sustainability marks and high energy efficiency ratings through voluntary and compulsory measurement schemes. These include BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), and the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme. Over 98% of the system’s components are recyclable.

These savings will contribute to the government’s aim of reducing the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from the 1990 baseline by 2050, as set out in The Climate Change Act 2008, the world’s first legally binding climate change target. Moving to a more energy efficient, low-carbon economy will not only reduce the insidious effect of carbon emissions but also help the UK to become less reliant on imported fossil fuels and less exposed to higher energy prices in
the future.

Energy reduction schemes all require sites to monitor and report on energy usage – a facility provided by the intelligent real-time monitoring interface and targeting system featured on the Powerstar HV MAX. This enables companies to effectively identify where further energy savings can be made.

Powerstar has been installed into a wide range of sites and industries across the world, from large scale manufacturing concerns to healthcare estates and landmark sites such as The Houses of Parliament and Palace of Westminster. The new technology is not by any means a ‘one size fits all’ solution, and businesses will benefit from working with a consultancy led company to ensure the most appropriate solution is found to maximise energy savings – whether as one-off installations or multi-site roll out programmes.

What is clear is the new generation of voltage optimisation technology should form an integral part of every energy management and reduction strategy and can benefit businesses by avoiding unacceptable and unnecessary levels of energy wastage.