Monday, 29 February 2016

Carl Turbitt, ABB's UK HVAC Drives Team Leader writes: Jetting off somewhere nice this summer? If so, then the chances are pretty high that you’ll end up in an airport or two at some point. If you get a moment in between stocking up on duty free and trying to find the right boarding gate (and if your flight is delayed then I’m sure you’ll get a moment at the very least), why not take some time to think about just how much energy goes into running a modern airport?

Your average airport terminal is full of conveyors, AHUs, pumps, fans, compressors, chillers and extractors, everywhere you look. The motors for all of these applications require vast amounts of energy in order to function, and all are motors that could benefit from the fitting of a variable-speed drive (VSD).

The very nature of airports means that sections of the terminal will experience short bursts of intense activity as passengers arrive, depart, collect baggage etc, but otherwise remain idle for long periods. This means that those conveyors (carousels), travellators, escalators, pumps and fans etc. can be run at a lower output, but did you know that by doing so the airport could be wasting vast amounts of energy?

You see, a conventional pump or fan works using a throttling arrangement, where if an application’s output is required to run slower, the output of the motor powering it is throttled using valves, vanes and dampers. The motor is still running at full power even though the excess capacity is simply being lost in waste. And wasted energy means wasted money.

A motor fitted with a VSD will use only the energy that it requires at any given time, resulting in no excess capacity, and therefore no waste. This means that whenever an application is ramped down, for instance if a section of the airport is quiet or empty, energy will be saved. And energy savings means money savings.

That sounds good doesn’t it? Well wait until you hear just how much can be saved. Variable-torque loads (such as pumps and fans) are governed by the Cube Law, where if you reduce the speed of the motor, the power expended reduces by the cube of the speed. In practice, this means that a motor running at 80 percent capacity could consume just 50 percent of the energy.

Let’s not stop at fans and pumps, as conveyors, escalators and travellators can also save energy when not in use. By installing variable-speed drives and utilising smart solutions such as motion sensors and the Internet of Things, Services and People (IoTSP), money can be saved even with constant torque applications.

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