Energy efficiency in industry: a quantum leap is possible

Energy efficiency in industry: a quantum leap is possible

It is now a must to tackle the issue of energy efficiency in the industrial sector decisively. If it wasn't enough to demonstrate its benefits in terms of reducing CO emissions2the swing in energy prices triggered further awareness on the subject.

The data reported by ABB in studies such as This are significant: according to the IEA, industry uses 37% of global energy needs and produces 24% of total CO emissions2. In particular, approximately 70% of electricity consumption in industry can be associated with electric motors. We are talking about small motors, present in household appliances but also in car window automatisms; of those of medium size, which are found for example in air conditioning systems, machine tools, lifts or subways and, finally, the engines used in ships, trains and, in general, in heavy equipment.

Alongside all the other possible actions to reduce the environmental impact, from the installation of photovoltaic systems to the electrification of the company car fleet, to the 100% recycling of waste products and, in general, the diffusion of a concrete corporate culture for sustainability, it is desirable, and right, to think of more efficient machines and equipment, starting from the engines that power them.

All the more reason, because today a wide range of high efficiency electric motors is available on the market (starting from IE3, Premium Efficiency according to International Efficiency standards) and variable speed drives for motor control. Simplifying, the innovation works on efficiency as such – i.e. the ratio between the mechanical output power and the electrical input power required – on the conversion of the dissipated energy and on the intelligent management of the motor activity. The results that can be obtained are surprising: just to give an example, compared to a traditional pumping system which has an efficiency of 28%, with a high energy efficiency system a percentage of 82% is reached. If the technology is available, therefore, what is expected is a decisive signal from the institutions to favor a faster adoption and, at the same time, companies must convince themselves that an efficiency improvement of electric motors is now necessary, not only to demonstrate to customers, investors and society a decisive turn towards sustainable development, but above all out of respect for the planet.

ABB's commitment to true energy efficiency

ABB, long committed to all sustainability fronts, is also working to lead the transition of electric motors in industry towards highly efficient systems, mainly with technology, but also with important awareness initiatives. In 2021, ABB launched the Energy Efficiency Movement which brings together over 350 entities (companies, institutions, universities) from over 30 countries, such as Alfa Laval, Danfoss, DHL Group, EY, Honeywell, Microsoft, Iveco, from different industrial sectors with the aim of promoting awareness of energy efficiency opportunities. Among the 20 Italian partners are not only end users or machine builders such as Danieli Automation, leader in the metal sector, a new member of the EEM, but also the SDA Bocconi business school.

In the wake of the Energy Efficiency Movement (EEM), the first Italian Energy Efficiency Symposium was also held, promoted by ABB Motion Italia and held within the ABB E-Mobility plant in San Giovanni Valdarno, in the province of Arezzo. The Symposium was an opportunity to share excellent examples in the field of energy efficiency and sustainability, create awareness, support SMEs in the energy transition and share the need to continue this journey together in the fight against climate change.

Marco Gritti, Managing Director and CEO of Farina Presse – a company that manufactures presses and hot forging lines for metal – explained how it was possible to recover a large part of the energy that would have been lost in the form of heat in a traditional plant. Farina Presse technicians have devised a kinetic energy recovery model for their line of presses which allows for recovery of up to 40%. A result achieved by the new KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) technology, thanks to the integration of ABB's new generation torque motors and inverters (ACS880 Multidrive). And today the company from Lecco expects to obtain 70% of its turnover from the new green line based on KERS technology.

And 40% is also the percentage of cost savings achieved by Boat Lift, a Cuneo-based company that produces lifting systems for boats and craft. Boat Lift has created an electric Travel Lift composed of lithium batteries, low voltage motors and inverters (ACS380 and ACS880 series) by ABB and a PLC, for movement control. The secret of the success of this application, unique in the sector, lies in the efficiency of the system in order to guarantee maximum autonomy to the battery. Ultimately, considering the consumption of 100% of the battery every day for 6 days a week, Boat Lift saves 2,600 liters of diesel, whose CO2 would require the work of 114 trees for 10 years or, alternatively, a forest of 33 hectares for at least a week.

Delivery of the Energy Efficiency Movement plate to the new member Danieli Automation on the occasion of ABB Formula E in Rome by Tarak Mehta, Motion President

Delivery of the Energy Efficiency Movement plate to the new member Danieli Automation on the occasion of ABB Formula E in Rome by Tarak Mehta, Motion President

Furthermore, the 8th IEA Conference on Energy Efficiency which has just taken place in Versailles showed that in order to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement it will be necessary to double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency between now and 2030 from 2.2% to 4%.

Ultimately, better energy efficiency in industry is possible, also and above all in the overhaul of the ubiquitous electric motors. In addition to providing cutting-edge technologies, ABB is particularly committed to raising awareness of the market, with initiatives, meetings and lots of information material. A good summation of ABB's efforts is certainly the handbook of energy efficiency in industry which summarizes the ten key interventions in this context. Each project must start with a careful analysis of the operational activities, to continue with a correct calculation of the sizing of the systems. We must then proceed with the installation of high-efficiency motors, variable speed drive systems, the electrification of farm lanes and the replacement of gas boilers with heat pumps, up to considering the collection and "intelligent" processing of data relating to the activities of the machines for predictive purposes. An effective, but certainly not exhaustive, list of all the interventions that can help companies on their path towards sustainability.

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