Australia has a particular problem with over-voltage, and voltage optimisation has emerged as a simple way to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions while delivering impressive savings.

Voltage optimisation has been shown to be a highly effective energy saving technique with an excellent payback period. The technology has a significant impact on the amount of energy used because it brings the voltage supplied by the grid in line with what is actually required.

The statutory electricity supply range for Australia is 230 volts +10 per cent to -6 per cent, which means that electricity suppliers are required to provide a voltage level that is between 253 and 216 volts. Therefore, the supplier will distribute electricity at 253 volts, and over distances the voltage will decrease. On average, buildings receive it from the grid at 247 volts.

Most electrical equipment manufactured for Australia is designed to work most efficiently at 220 to 230 volts. This means that any incoming power that is higher than this level is wasted energy and organisations are paying for power that is not required and not used.

Voltage optimisation works best on inductive loads — motors and lighting for example, especially if these are not loaded at 100 per cent of their capacity for 100 per cent of the time.

Operating like a transformer, voltage optimisation effectively reduces the voltage to an optimum level whereby all the equipment operates correctly but consumes less power in the process.

Building owners, managers and tenants investigating these systems should ensure the system they choose also offers improvement in power quality by balancing phase voltages, cancelling damaging harmonics and transients from the electricity supply and reducing the reactive power, thereby improving the power factor.

Over-voltage means that energy consumption is not only higher, but as a result, the lifespan of equipment is shortened. Installing a voltage optimisation unit leads to reduced maintenance costs as less demand is placed on electrical equipment.

The technology presents an excellent opportunity for savings without compromising the supply to a building’s electrical equipment.

Generally, voltage optimisers will deliver between 12 to 15 per cent savings. However, the most efficient solutions can save up to 26 per cent of total electricity consumption and related CO2 emissions without compromising the supply to electrical equipment.

Installing a quality voltage optimisation system also helps protect against damaging transients (power spikes) of up to 25,000 volts, lowers the operating temperature of motors and provides an improved power factor by up to 20 per cent.

In addition, there are no moving parts and therefore zero maintenance required for the unit itself.

Some voltage optimisation units are electronic-dynamic, which means they automatically adjust voltage to the optimum level. This makes them ideal for sites with high levels of fluctuating voltage, heavy night loading or critical operations that require additional security.

Sites that have their own HV distribution transformer, such as supermarkets, data centres, hospitals, hotels, education facilities and retail outlets, are more likely to benefit from a system that ensures voltage is supplied to a site at a constant level regardless of the input instability.

This technology is recommended in these sites because when the grid voltage varies (often throughout the night as the load on the grid disappears), it is able to hold the site voltage at the optimum level and maintain a high level of savings.

The stabilised voltage output is a vital feature for sites with critical loads, secure data and important operations that require high levels of reliability and security. This system is also suitable for new build developments, sites with older transformers and those which have previously been faced with physical space restrictions, thus making voltage optimisation installations difficult to implement.

Anyone investigating an electronic-dynamic unit should check to make sure it has an amorphous metal core and utilises electronic-dynamic intelligent technology. If it does, it can likely provide a variable voltage output that will achieve high efficiency and save huge amounts of energy for a site. Standing losses can be reduced by around 75 per cent.

Older transformers have high levels of standing losses and the majority of modern transformers used on commercial sites use Cold Rolled Grain Oriented steel (CRGO) within their core, which still provides significant losses for buildings in comparison to amorphous steel.

To ensure optimum savings and performance, a comprehensive analysis of a site’s power conditions should be completed before installation. As each building has its own unique infrastructure and specific load requirements, a voltage optimisation strategy should be customised to each site.

It’s very importance to install a tailored voltage optimisation solution supplied by an experienced and reputable company. This will not only provide maximum energy savings and carbon reductions, but will also ensure that equipment will operate as efficiently as possible at all times, that the lifetime of equipment will be maximised, and that maintenance costs will be significantly reduced.

By Sam Czyczelis, General Manager of Powerstar Australia