With energy to spare

Electricity consumption and its cost is an important issue to machine builders. It’s one of several important angles for gaining competitive advantage that must be carefully explored.

By Joe Feeley, Editor in Chief

Joe FeeleyFor those of you that build machines relying extensively on big, honking motors and drives with heavy duty cycles, your customers should be mighty interested if you have some good news about energy consumption enhancements you’ve built in. It’s also one of those elements where, in order to provide the capacity for these savings, you have to sell those customers on a bit more up front cost. And we all know how pleasant an experience that can be.

Well, here’s some ammunition that may help you make that case. Earlier this summer, CEE, a consortium of motor manufacturers, trade associations, electric utilities, and government agencies kicked off the “Motor Decisions Matter” campaign to encourage more motor management and planning as a tool for cutting energy costs.

The CEE reports that energy represents as much as 97% of a motor’s total life cycle operating costs. The Department of Energy says a typical 30 hp motor in service today will gobble up about $22,000 worth of electricity per year at $0.10/kWh in continuous-duty service.

Baldor Electric President John McFarland, during a recent visit to our offices—while making the point that Baldor was a sponsor of the campaign and an early leader in producing a line of motors that met the efficiency standards advocated by the CEE—noted that the actual purchase cost of a motor represented only about 2% of those total life cycle costs.

So, cut to the chase. What can CEE-advocated motor standards do for you and your customers? These motor standards based on the 1992 Energy Policy Act (EPAct) raise the efficiency of a new NEMA Premium 30 hp motor to about 92-93% versus the 88% installed average. NEMA Premium defines a range of motors that are single-speed, polyphase, 1-500 hp, two, four, and six pole, squirrel-cage induction motors NEMA Design A or AB, continuous rated. Those that meet or exceed the nominal efficiency levels specified by NEMA may qualify as Premium.

Baldor says they’ve gone beyond that with a motor series that approaches 94-95% efficiency for a 30 hp motor. So that EPAct-complaint motor will save close to $800 in annual energy costs. The Baldor level of efficiency could save $1,200. The numbers, of course, get even better at higher horsepower ratings. Over the life of a machine with multiple motor/drive configurations, the savings can be dramatic.

The CEE recognizes that the cost of a new high-efficiency motor could be 20-30% more than a standard motor because it’s built with more copper, better laminates, tighter tolerances, and longer warranties. But depending on the duty cycle, Baldor says the payback on that 30 hp unit from energy savings could be less than 18 months. 

You can also give your customer something to think about by suggesting he replace those older motors still in service on legacy machines, and certainly not automatically opt to rewind a failed, older motor. The first-year energy savings alone will approach the cost of that new motor. It’s not a bad hedge against future fluctuations in energy costs.

The cumulative energy-savings effect of industry-wide migrations to more-efficient motors could be staggering. The Department of Energy says about 63% of the all the electricity used by U.S. industry is consumed by electric motor-driven systems. Only 10% of all motors in service today meet the CEE standards.

Seems to me that this is a story your customers will want to hear.      

Electricity consumption and its cost is an important issue to machine builders. It’s one of several important angles for gaining competitive advantage that must be carefully explored.

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