Installing higher efficiency motors can help address energy crisis

2nd February 2024 By: Natasha Odendaal - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Energy-intensive industries, such as mining, are increasingly seeking out ways to reduce energy consumption, and the use of the latest motor and drive technology can play a significant role.

Energy-intensive industries not only need to reduce energy consumption and increase efficiencies for economic and environmental reasons, but also need to mitigate South Africa’s ongoing loadshedding, says WEG Africa projects and technical manager Jaco Brits.

The selection of appropriate motors and drives, upgrading to newer technology and installing higher efficiency motors, such as the WEG premium efficiency IE3 or IE4 electric motor, as part of industry’s energy solution strategies, can unlock significant energy savings.

Electric motors and drives are widely used across industries to operate pumps, mixers, conveyors, vibrating screens and feeders, crushers and other machinery.

Brits explained to Mining Weekly during an interview that there is about a 1.5% energy-use difference between a standard efficiency motor and a premium efficiency motor.

This means that various industries, using a collective 10 GW of energy, for example, can save up to 15 MW just by using more efficient motors, while a significant amount of energy, which can be used elsewhere, is potentially wasted through the use of less efficient equipment.

“Advancements in motor and drive technology, underpinned by WEG’s extensive research and development, have seen substantial improvements in energy efficiency, both equipped with advanced control algorithms to optimise motor performance based on real-time conditions and ensuring motors operate at peak efficiency levels, even in complex processes,” he says.

Further, incorporating high efficiency motors with variable-speed drives (VSDs) can enable the better control and optimisation of equipment, further reducing energy consumption.

Traditional fixed-speed motors run at a constant speed regardless of the actual load requirements, compared with VSDs, which ensure that equipment operates at its most energy efficient speed and power level, based on actual load requirements, subsequently reducing operating costs.

VSDs also have faster reaction to load changes, balance power supply and demand, and have better integration with equipment.

“All these factors reduce unnecessary energy consumption during periods of low demand and enhance overall equipment efficiency and performance,” says Brits, pointing out that, application dependent, the introduction of VSDs can save up to 20% to 30% of energy consumption.

“Substantial efficiency improvements are possible by leveraging the latest motor and drive technology, and the significant savings in energy consumption more than justify the capital cost of replacing old technology equipment with higher efficiency technology,” he continues.

He notes that many of the motors and drives have a payback period as low as a year, and between two to four years for large applications.

“[Customers should] lean on the suppliers and discuss the applications with us. We have been in the industry for a very, very long time. We are industry experts and we can always assist in providing the best solution,” Brits concludes, noting that WEG offers extensive technology solutions to improve efficiency and lower operating costs while ensuring energy security.