Cold Means Closed
Everyone loves winter right? Wrapping up warm, Christmas, the chance of snow, and most importantly, a holiday from work. However, winter can also spell blackouts and more time off than expected for some factories if the weather gets bad enough.
The National Grid warned in its latest winter outlook report that another UK winter like the one witnessed in 2010 could see factories paid to shut down at peak times to save energy.
The report revealed that this winter the capacity margin – the gap between the total electricity generating capacity and peak demand – was expected to be the narrowest for eight years: 4.1 per cent narrowing to 2.8 per cent in the event of a serious winter. The strain a serious cold snap would cause on the network could see Britain turning to last resorts; factory shutdowns and firing up unused power plants.
In 2010, Britain and Ireland were on the receiving end of the coldest winter since Met Office records began back in 1910. The lowest recorded temperature in the UK that winter was minus 21 degrees Celsius in Altnaharra, Scotland.
Another drastic winter like 2010 would leave the National Grid unable to meet its basic reserve requirement of spare capacity needed to run the system. The electricity and gas utility company would be forced to resort to a contingency plan that was drawn up earlier this year.
The National Grid has agreed with 431 industrial sites that they shut down at peak hours if necessary. Furthermore, contracts are in the process of being agreed with power stations across the UK to provide reserve capacity.
If this wasn’t enough, there’s even the chance of something called “brownouts”, which involve reducing the voltage supplied, effectively dimming our lights.
At European Automation, we believe that the quick and easy fix to the energy shortage conundrum is for industry to become more energy efficient.
Let’s take motors for instance. Electric motors consume vast amounts of electricity. When we say vast, we’re referring to the fact that about two-thirds of UK industrial energy use and about one quarter of total UK consumption comes from running these electricity thirsty babies.
If factories were to employ more efficient motors or even decreased speeds where possible, both energy usage and cost would be reduced. Even a small reduction in the rotational speed can mean significant savings in the energy consumed by the motor. A variable speed drive (VSD) can reduce energy consumption of a motor by as much as 60 per cent.
To calculate how much energy you could save by employing VSDs to control pump and fan applications, you can download GAMBICA’s handy VSD Energy Saving Calculator.
So let’s say you had a 90kW motor running eight hours a day, seven days a week, 50 weeks a year. According to the calculator, the installation of a VSD to the circuit would mean a 20 per cent turn down in speed and a whopping 49 per cent in energy saving. That works out at just above £12,000 savings a year on your energy bill. For just one motor.
The moral of the story here is that factories should take a more pro-active approach to their energy efficiency – and electric motors would be a fantastic place to start. So if you’re a plant manager looking to make some effective new year’s resolutions, feel free to take this as a jumping-off point.