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Voltage optimisation powers profitability

12 May 2013

A new voltage optimisation system, purpose-built for small and medium-sized business, can make significant energy and cost savings, paving the way for bigger profits, says Geoff Clifton.

Most businesses will need to power a significant amount of electrical equipment, which, coupled with the rising prices of electricity, can put a large dent in profits. Of course, it is possible to take steps to reduce electricity consumption through energy management schemes and by changing the habits of staff to be more frugal with their usage, but ultimately there is still a proportion of consumption that businesses are unable to address.

This is because the average incoming voltage supply in the UK is 242V, despite the fact that modern electrical equipment is designed to operate to its full potential at around 220V - a notable difference that still has to be paid for.

For over a decade now, large industrial and manufacturing businesses have corrected high voltage power supplies through the installation of voltage optimisation systems. These businesses learned that there is nothing to be gained by operating machinery and equipment at a voltage higher than it was designed for.

In fact, the effects are detrimental, significantly reducing the life expectancy and efficiency of equipment. The implementation of voltage optimisation, or VO, made their electrical loads draw less power and operate more efficiently; implementation reduces both energy bills and carbon emissions.

So successful were voltage optimisation units in the large industrial sector that the author’s company, VO4Home developed and engineered systems for use in a domestic environment. The next stage was to address the needs of a sector lying between these extremes: the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME).

Previously, SMEs were evaluated to determine whether they were big enough to benefit from a commercial VO system, or if their size and usage was small enough to benefit more from a domestic unit. Through this evaluation process some businesses found voltage optimisation simply wasn’t a viable energy saving method, which is why VO4Home created a system specifically for the sector.

This new 100A, 3-phase voltage optimisation unit for SMEs achieves substantial energy and carbon savings by providing the optimum voltage for all loads at any given time, without affecting the business’s operating capacity or output. The simple reduction and optimisation of voltage delivers immediate and significant savings of typically around 10-12 percent, but in some circumstances as much as 18 percent.

Another benefit is transient reduction. Transients, or ‘spikes’, in an electrical supply, are becoming more of an issue as switching within local and wider reaching distribution networks becomes more common and renewable energy sources are taken on and off grid. Businesses that operate throughout the night, such as hotels and hospitals, are able to benefit from voltage optimisation as the load on the Grid reduces significantly during these hours.

Renewable energy
The UK’s 2,000 registered photovoltaic (PV) companies can also offer the 3-phase unit as part of an enhanced service, as the two technologies complement one another by maximising savings and helping to reduce clients’ payback periods.

This will be particularly attractive to those businesses that turned to solar panels as an alternative to voltage optimisation, as the savings potential of solar panels was significantly decreased following the government’s changes to the Feed-in Tariffs scheme, which reduced the income of solar panel owners feeding their generated electricity to the National Grid. 

The voltage optimisation unit would go some way to rectifying that, because as well as optimising the low voltage supply it would also optimise the incoming solar power; adding further savings and increasing the units of energy exported to the grid.

With a properly evaluated voltage optimisation installation, business owners will be able to address falling solar PV tariffs, rising energy prices, and the growing need to be seen as green.

Geoff Clifton is business development manager at VO4Home

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