Voltage optimisation: an overview

New to voltage optimisation? EMSc (UK) managing director, Dr Alex Mardapittas, designer of the voltage optimisation system Powerstar, gives edie users an overview of the technology.

Voltage optimisation is an innovative technology dedicated to matching power demands to the needs of electrical equipment.

It is a cost effective and highly efficient energy saving technique that is successfully being used across various applications and in numerous market sectors and is well worth considering as part of any organisation’s overall energy reduction strategy.

The technology

Voltage optimisation is an electrical energy saving technique in which a device is installed in series with the mains electricity supply to provide an optimum supply voltage for the site’s equipment.

The reason voltage optimisation can have such a significant impact on energy used is because on the whole, the National Grid supplies a higher voltage than is generally required. Although the nominal voltage in the UK is 230V, the average delivered is actually 242V.

Voltage optimisation deals with this over supply and brings incoming mains supply into line with what equipment needs to run at its most efficient, thus saving money, lowering carbon emissions, helping equipment last longer and reducing maintenance costs.

There are two common approaches to voltage reduction available on the market today: simple step-down transformers that drop the voltage only, and voltage optimisers that optimise the voltage as they reduce it.

In doing so, true optimisers tackle poor power quality issues such as harmonics and transients, therefore allowing for greater efficiency and savings.

The savings

Generally voltage optimisers will deliver between 12% to 15% savings. However, the most efficient voltage optimisation solutions can save up to 26% of total electricity consumption and related CO2 emissions, all without compromising the supply to electrical equipment.

Virtually all sites can benefit from reducing and controlling their voltage, but as conditions and loads differ from site to site, the size of the benefit will vary – savings will be determined by the type of system used, as well as site specifications.

To ensure optimum savings and performance, a comprehensive analysis of a building or site’s power conditions should be completed before installation.

As each building is different, with its own unique infrastructure and specific load requirements, a voltage optimisation strategy should be customised to ensure that savings are maximised. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

In addition to saving energy and reducing CO2 emissions, voltage optimisation offers a myriad of other benefits, including no maintenance, protection against voltage spikes, surges and significant reduction of harmonics, independent three phase control to provide voltage phase balancing, and an intelligent interface to track product and site performance in real time.

The cost

The cost of a voltage optimisation system will differ depending on a site’s unique requirements.

However, the payback period after installation (despite the size of the installation) is typically between 0.8 and 2.5 years. To help companies maximise cash flow and to offer support in terms of the initial outlay, there are various financing options available today.

The impact

Voltage optimisation is commonly recognised as a proven, cost effective and reliable way for companies to meet their energy and CO2 reduction targets.

In light of various schemes being implemented to help raise environmental awareness and encouraging changes in behaviour and infrastructure in organisations, the implementation of a voltage optimisation system enables companies to be proactive in taking steps to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.

The market

There are various types of equipment that misleadingly touts itself as ‘voltage optimisation’ technology, so beware.

Most buildings require genuine, dynamic voltage optimisation solution supplied by an experienced and reputable company to maximise energy savings and carbon reductions.

Installing the right type of system is essential to ensure that electrical equipment never receives more or less than the required minimum voltage for correct operation – important during power dips and surges.

By opting for a true voltage optimisation solution, equipment will operate as efficiently as possible at all times, the lifetime of equipment will be maximised, and maintenance costs will be significantly reduced.

Ultimately, if your company’s power is not optimised, you are paying much more for electricity than you need to, and at the same time, emitting excessive amounts of CO2. As voltage optimisation is one of the simplest and most cost effective ways to reduce electricity use and cut carbon emissions, it should be regarded by all organisations as the cornerstone of their energy efficiency agendas.

EMS is a leading manufacturer of voltage optimisation systems and has been manufacturing voltage optimisation systems in the UK for over a decade and is accredited with the Made in Sheffield accolade in acknowledgement of the quality of its manufacturing process, its expansion into international markets.

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