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Efficiency in electric motors drives savings, sustainability

In the absence of legislation to drive energy efficiency in South Africa, it is vital that local industries recognise the commercial benefit of converting to high efficiency motors, says Zest WEG sales manager for electric motors Francois Labuschagne.

In pursuit of global targets to reduce the pace of climate change, many countries have legally enforced the use of certain efficiency classes of motor, but not South Africa. Labuschagne points out that as much as 40% of the power consumed on the national grid is to drive electric motors. This means that any improvement in motor efficiency would significantly reduce the total electricity load, and help reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power generation.

“However, even without being forced by law, motor users have a strong commercial incentive to install high efficiency motors,” he argues. “This is because a motor’s purchase price typically makes up only about 2% of its lifecycle cost over 10 years. With another 3% of this cost consumed by maintenance, a full 95% of the cost of running a motor is the energy it consumes.”

Reducing the energy consumption

It is clear, then, that reducing the energy consumption is the best way of saving costs when it comes to operating motors. One of the challenges, though, is that many companies incentivised their procurement departments to save money on upfront capital purchases – rather than on the broader cost to company.

“Where a purchaser does not understand where their motors’ real costs are incurred – that is, in their energy consumption – they will continue to pursue a false economy by choosing products with the lowest capital cost,” he says. “The small amount saved upfront is very quickly lost through higher running costs.”

He points out that, as a global electric motor manufacturer, WEG has been making efficiency innovations to its motors for decades – positioning it well to meet current and future market trends. In South Africa, Zest WEG has gone as far as to offer its IE4 super premium efficiency motors from 37 kW upwards at the same price as the IE3 premium efficiency units.

“We have recently taken another important step in our efficiency and sustainability journey, offering the market our new IE5 motor – and taking our offerings into the ultra-premium energy efficiency class,” he says. “These motors are well suited for fan applications, and have great potential in the agricultural sector in environments such as chicken farms.”

Using smaller fans in these situations can give users the opportunity to install multiple units where they used to have only one large fan. As temperature conditions change throughout the day, one or more of the fans can be switched off completely, further reducing energy consumption.

“We are very excited about this electronically commutated motor, which also comes with an integrated variable speed drive (VSD) and can be locally or remotely controlled,” says Labuschagne.

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