Retrofit : Retrofit Volume 2 Issue 2 2013
58 • RETROFIT AUSTRALIA • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 2 2013 | Energy Controls efficiency and Ohm's law, the voltage on the grid is almost always going to be higher rather than lower. In most cases throughout Australia, the voltage supplied to business and residential areas is going to be around 240 or more (I checked the voltage in my home when writing this story; it was 242 volts). We shouldn't see this as a major concern in regards to ability to use and operate electrical equipment -- certainly, it is in the range within which all appliances will work. What we need to look at is the overall efficiency of the energy that is used by the business or residential consumer. Simply reducing the in-feed energy down to the precise energy level that is needed could save as much as 15 per cent of energy costs to the consumer. There is a related amount of CO2 emissions that is also reduced. The type of technology used to reduce in-feed energy voltage is called voltage power optimisation (VPO). This is a class of technologies that reduces the voltage from the grid to the user. More recent trends in the VPO sector have been newer devices called dynamic voltage power optimisation, or DVPO. These units are able to not only dynamically address high voltage, but also to rapidly adjust voltage up or down, depending how the incoming voltage is behaving. DVPO units can also clean up any dirty energy artifacts, such as harmonics. (Harmonics deserves its own lengthy story, so I won't dip into the topic here, only to note the importance of harmonics and other dirty energy artifacts.) VPO and DVPO technologies have found a great acceptance in the United Kingdom in recent years, because the country went through an adjustment of the voltage standard from 240 volts down to 220 volts to fall in line with the European Union (EU) standard; however, the only real change was the technical range of voltage, and not the actual supplied voltage. The reason is simply that appliances will still work to either the old 240 or the new 220 volts. The United Kingdom's energy industry simply made the acceptable range wider, perhaps to appeal to the EU. Australia did a very similar thing soon after. The old standard supply voltage for Australia was 240 volts, and now it is 230 volts. Nothing has actually changed, though -- the supply is, in reality, still at least 240 volts, if not much higher in many areas. Where most electrical appliances are rated at 220 volts, this means that, in effect, everyone is wasting 20 volts, or consuming 10 per cent more electricity than they really need to use. A relatively inexpensive DVPO unit will leave the additional 10 per cent of energy in the grid; therefore only feeding the appropriate amount of energy into the consumer's factory or building. The initial benefit is an immediate reduction in the electricity costs for the consumer, and the second-level savings are just as tangible: light bulbs last longer, motors run cooler and quieter, and machinery and air conditioning are more efficient. DVPO is a relatively unexplored efficiency/environmental technology in Australia until recently, although there are some notable installations, such as the Ian Thorpe swimming centre in Ultimo, Sydney, the Sydney Town Hall building and a very large number of installations in the Coles Supermarket chain (where there are now about 500 or 600 units across Australia). All of these examples have successfully reduced energy costs and carbon emissions. In the United Kingdom, DVPO has been a standard business installation for many years, with around 10,000 installations to date. Perhaps the most notable installation is the Tower of London site; hardly an institution to succumb to vague unproven innovations. The United Kingdom's built environment has a large number of older buildings; these can pose a number of problems -- such as high ceilings, traditional lighting, a limited ability for insulation, and heritage windows -- when trying to achieve energy reduction values. All of these characteristics are challenges to the building management in tightening the energy efficiency of the building. Harmonising the incoming energy with the energy consumed is an extremely effective way of not only reducing energy costs, but also of significantly reducing indirect emissions through energy use: the fruit lying on the ground. Incoming voltage control is an extremely simple and easy-to-install technical solution for green building retrofitting or new design. But the real benefit is that the technology works continuously for up to 50 years with very little attention needed. In effect, DVPO units become structure savings within the fabric of the building, each year making the consumption cost of electrical energy 10 per cent less than what it would have been. As energy prices are on an upward path, the magnitude of the savings increases each year. Phillip Lawrence Masters by Research in Management UTS, Ecological Modernisation PhD Scholar, Sydney University, Environment Policy.
Retrofit Volume 2 Issue 1 2013
Volume 2 Issue 3 2013-2014