The field of mechatronics exists as a complex collection of engineering disciplines that has boundary conditions which are set by the mechanical load or work that is required. Everything you need to know about the final solution is a result of properly understanding the work that is required and investigating all the related issues that will insure the success of the project. As all work is the result of energy, the cost of energy, the cost of doing manufacturing work, is a large component of operational costs in every manufacturing business.
Energy and energy cost is an increasingly complex issue. Sometimes it’s referred to as efficiency. So it’s not just performance of the work statement, but how efficiently the work is done. Why? Because efficiency reflects keeping the operational cost low and maximizing the profitability of the particular business you are involved in. The focus in manufacturing circles lately has been on improving efficiency.
The means by which companies improve efficiency is to invest in technology that can measurably return on the investment cost of the improvement. ROI. The projects with the highest rate of return are funded first which is promotes improve performance in large companies. A major factor in the return on investment is cost saving, and one of the easiest costs to manage is energy.
Energy saving is a big industry. Alternative energy is supposed to be all about it. Except it’s not. ROI in the alternative energy sector is poor for wind power, getting better for solar power in states with high energy costs. The easiest way to save energy is through variable frequency drives. These systems generally have a 1 year rate of return and they actually increase the life of the equipment they are connected to.
Lately, even the electric power saving attribute has gotten more complex. Utility companies charge for short term demand where peak power can cost 75 cents to $1. per kilowatt instead of the commercial rate of 6.5 cents per kilowatt. Large industrial manufacturers with $1 million per month electric bills have been working at this for years. And it makes perfect sense.
Recently, however, utility companies have created policy and enforced cost penalties for poor power quality. This creates a whole new world. Large industrials with complex loads may appear to have very poor power quality, poor power factor and reflected electrical noise going back to the utility. Remember, we are only renting those electrons, we don’t actually own them. Utility companies are requiring their large customers to improve the reflected “noise” going back, to make up for the cost of losses associated with power factor loss.
All of which make using variable speed drives a key strategy in reducing energy cost in operating pumps, fans and industrial processes. Makes sense.