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Reducing The Electric Bill

Dec. 28, 2006
There's a lot you can do to control your energy spend, if you're willing to commit to a strategy focused on efficiency rather than initial costs.

The big target: electric motor efficiency. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says motors in industrial processes use 63% of the electricity consumed by industrial plants.

The potential savings? Up to 18% in electrical consumption if companies were to apply "proven efficiency technologies and practices," says the DOE. Specifically, the agency recommends motor efficiency upgrades and application improvements.

Capturing those efficiency benefits typically requires some strategy adjustments, such as changing the motor purchasing paradigm, says Randy Breaux, vice president marketing, Baldor Electric Co., Fort Smith, Ark.

He says evolving the new paradigm requires a C-level management strategy committed to motor efficiency. "It starts with management empowering purchasing to use lifecycle costs, not lowest initial price to guide motor acquisition decisions," Breaux explains.

The reward is more than the annual paybacks in energy cost reduction. Baldor calculations also show an impressive annual environmental benefit even for upgrading a single 1 hp (horsepower) motor. At a power utility, an upgrade to a Premium Efficient motor means less fuel is burned -- saving about a barrel of oil annually or 520 pounds of coal. That keeps approximately 1,400 pounds of carbon emissions from reaching the atmosphere.

Randy Breaux, vice president marketing, Baldor Electric Co."Motor users also need to understand that high efficiency motors also have other performance advantages," says John Malinowski, Baldor's motor product manager. "They run cooler, have better balance, greater structural rigidity and closer tolerances. The bottom line -- a longer lasting motor with fewer problems."

On high efficiency motors, Baldor took its own medicine about five years ago when chairman and CEO John McFarland asked employees, "What can you do to control our energy costs?" The solution began with a motor survey of Baldor's manufacturing facilities, which revealed that many motors in use were made 15-20 years ago.

In addition to replacing those motors with the latest efficiency designs, the company increased process efficiency of fans and pumps with adjustable speed drives. The company also installed peak shaving generators in one plant to keep electrical rates as low as possible year-round. The result, says Breaux, resulted in a payback of nearly $1 million each year since the program began.

Although energy rates have continued to increase, Breaux says Baldor's energy efficiency initiative has been able to offset the price increases. "Our energy cost increases have been minimized over the last five years."

Implementing a motor efficiency strategy typically should involve more than simply replacing old motors, advises Breaux. For example, is the overall industrial process configured properly from an electric motor standpoint? "The message that we try to get across is that the entire industrial process must be considered," he notes. Typical motor management analysis can involve evaluating the application's need for a drive and the time duration that the motor is being used.

Efficiency gains new status as manufacturers compete in an environment of rising energy costs.Motor loading also needs to be evaluated. Don't make the mistake of putting a 10 hp motor in a 7-1/2 hp application. Bigger is not always better when you consider that a 10-hp motor's maximum efficiency comes with a 10-hp load, cautions Breaux. To help motor users navigate the sometimes not-so-obvious efficiency issues, Baldor offers an end-user development motor management plan.

Guidance is provided beginning with surveying the manufacturing plant to determine the number and types of motors and drives. Breaux recalls one plant manager who was startled to discover that his plant didn't have 300 motors -- it actually had close to 4,000.

In addition to helping users catalog and determine the appropriateness of each motor, the plan tags motors with maintenance directions if malfunctions occur. With Baldor's motor management plan, maintenance pro-viders no longer have to guess on a corrective course of action. The motor survey's database details all of the appropriate options. One might simply be to replace the unit with a premium efficient motor in order to maintain efficient operation. Repair could be another option if a premium efficient motor replacement is not specified. For motors with a repair history, replacement might be specified as a way to maintain energy efficiency.

Breaux says providing that information is a major premise behind an effective motor management plan. The right replacement is important considering that motor service life may be as long as 15-20 years."

Another challenge to motor efficiency goals is that many managers have not had the opportunity to buy into the lifecycle cost strategy, admits Breaux. "The average plant manager is struggling with making his budget, and as a result, most of them are looking at initial price -- not lifecycle costs." Breaux says his challenge is to get to the management gatekeeper, the energy czar responsible for setting the efficiency goals. His message: "Sometimes it takes an upfront investment to get a long-term payback."

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