Current developments

Reducing the voltage of a school or college’™s electricity supply using voltage optimisation technology can cut carbon emissions

According to the Carbon Trust, UK schools currently account for over half of local authorities’ carbon emissions. The trust estimates that schools’ total annual energy bill amounts to £543 million. Add to that annual energy costs for the further and higher education sector of around £400 million, resulting in CO2 emissions of around 3.1 million tonnes per year, and the reasons why reducing energy consumption has become a priority are evident. It is one of the quickest and simplest ways to deliver direct savings.

Voltage optimisation is a valuable tool in achieving this goal. Together with LED lighting and variable speed drives, it is one of three technologies proven to provide the highest energy savings and payback in reports prepared by the NHS Sustainable Development Unit and St George’s University. Verified average savings of 12-15 per cent of electricity consumption have been demonstrated from proven and reliable systems such as Powerstar voltage optimisation technology, a fully UK manufactured range of products and the only systems to carry a patent on their design.
Voltage optimisation is based on a simple concept: the voltage supplied to all buildings by the National Grid is unnecessarily high – 242V on average – considering that the optimum rating for all electrical devices throughout the UK and Europe is just 220V. Voltage optimisation systems employ a device in series with the mains electricity supply to reduce the voltage coming into a site to its optimum level. This gives three substantial benefits: it cuts electricity bills, reduces carbon emissions and extends the life of electrical devices by evening out harmful spikes and dips in power delivery.

Energising solutions

To achieve maximum benefits and the best engineered solution, each site should be considered individually. There are two main types of low voltage (LV) voltage optimisation systems on the market: fixed and electronic-dynamic – also referred to as variable.

A building that has a stable incoming voltage supply which is still over and above the optimum rating for electrical devices requires a fixed voltage optimisation system such as the original Powerstar solution, while sites with an unstable, fluctuating voltage profile, or those with critical equipment and greater security requirements, including schools, colleges and universities, will benefit from an electronic-dynamic system such as Powerstar MAX. This solution is designed to ensure automatically that voltage is supplied at a constant level, regardless of how unstable the incoming voltage, through intelligent electronic controls.

Powerstar MAX’s intelligent interface maintains a steady supply whether there is a power surge or significant changes in the incoming voltage levels to the site. It is able to continue holding the site voltage at the optimum level and still provide significant savings of 12-15 per cent, along with reduced carbon emissions.

Larger colleges and universities with their own transformers can now take voltage optimisation one step further. Following the development of Powerstar HV MAX, the world’s first high voltage (HV) electronic variable solution, which has been established in the market for two years, they can optimise the voltage supply on the HV side before it even enters a building,

Powerstar HV MAX is a super low loss, amorphous core transformer which combines savings achieved from replacing an older high-loss transformer with the efficient amorphous core model, with the additional benefits of the electronic-dynamic Powerstar MAX voltage optimisation system. Savings from Powerstar HV MAX deliver increased average combined savings of 17 per cent and provide one combined solution to two common problems, whilst also eliminating the issue of over voltage at source before it enters a site.

Whatever other energy-saving measures are taken to reduce costs, cut carbon emissions and contribute to green building accreditations such as LEED and BREEAM, voltage optimisation is a fundamental strategy that will work alongside them. The unwanted extra voltage supplied to educational establishments across the UK is, quite simply, an unnecessary waste of fossil fuels and money. Installing voltage optimisation technology is an essential element of any successful energy management programme.

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