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Taking ‘'green tech'’ global

Fri, 11/16/2012 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

3-50aWhen manufacturing transfers between the UK and Japan, it is usually a story of British job losses and gains in the Far East. One company has reversed the flow – as the production of Power Perfector’s Voltage Power Optimiser (VPO), started in the UK earlier this year. 

Over the last ten years Power Perfector has grown in to one of the UK’s most successful ‘green tech’ companies by distributing Japanese-built energy efficiency technology to government departments, councils and numerous multinational companies. As a result, the company was last year named the UK’s fastest growing ‘green’ company. 

In the UK, Power Perfector has installed over 4 000 VPO units for its commercial clients, and tens of thousands worldwide in both commercial (three phase) and domestic (single phase) and buildings. 

Power Perfector is operating in a receptive market. According to UK Trade and Investment, the global market for low carbon and environmental goods and services is growing strongly and worth £3.3 trillion ($5.3 trillion). The UK Government sees this as a priority market for UK companies in achieving the target it has set of £1 trillion worth of exports by 2020. 

In August 2012 environmental think tank Green Alliance released a new report, ‘Green Economy: A UK Success Story’. One of its findings shows that while the general economy will only return to 2007 levels by 2014 at the earliest, the ‘green economy’ will grow by 40% in that same period. 

Growing global market 

Power Perfector is now looking to increase the use of the technology outside of the UK, where its business has been focused to date. The acquisition of the intellectual property, manufacturing and distribution rights from its Japanese developers for VPO technology has allowed Power Perfector to open new international distribution channels.

VPO technology was developed in Japan in 1993 to combat rising energy costs due to increasing demand and a lack of natural energy resources. The technology works by exploiting the difference between the voltage supplied to a building by the distribution network and the optimal voltage for efficiently operating electrical equipment – 220V. The greater the difference between these voltages the greater the opportunity there is for a client to benefit from voltage power optimisation. 

3-51aIn order to assess the potential value of new markets, Power Perfector uses the following high level indicators:

Supply voltages that are consistently higher than the typical rating of electrical equipment used - largely 240V grids

High energy costs - the higher the electricity cost the faster the payback

Low interest rates - a low cost of borrowing opens the market to broader and more attractive financing options for the procurement of Power Perfector services

Distribution arrangements are already in place in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Denmark and Ireland with more to follow over the coming months and years.

On average, savings of 10% have been achieved in the UK. The level of saving varies from building to building and is dependent on several factors, such as the level of the incoming voltage, the energy price paid and the load conditions on site. 

The latter may impact on the energy savings. For example, some types of electrical equipment will not achieve significant savings from VPO. Lighting systems with an electronic ballast, motors fitted with variable speed drives, and resistive (mainly heating) loads do not achieve good results. Conversely, air handling units and magnetic ballast lighting see good savings. 

3-52bAt National Express’ coach stations an average saving of over 16% was achieved in buildings with an ideal load profile for voltage optimisation. Equally, insurance company AXA was content to make 6% savings at its Suffolk House site, as the building had only just undergone a refit and the company was striving for excellence in building efficiency. 

Improving power quality 

Quite apart from the energy savings the technology generates, there are a number of power quality benefits embedded within the technology, which distinguish VPO from the wider voltage optimisation market.

3-52a

Anecdotally, power quality on the distribution network is degrading, in part due to the success of the government’s push for sustainability, which has seen a proliferation of renewable energy projects feeding into the grid that disturb the sine wave and create an increased incidence of transients (spikes). 

While in the past the National Grid had the task of prioritising and balancing the UK’s electricity demand using the traditional sources of nuclear, coal, gas, hydroelectric and oil generation, now a raft of wind farms, tidal CHP and biomass plants make the job infinitely more complicated. 

The intermittent nature of generation from renewables means that, when there is a drop in generation, non-renewable forms of generation are called upon to fill the shortfall. This switching between sources - to ensure a constant supply of energy - has a knock?on effect on the quality of the power supplied to our homes and businesses.

Power spikes and harmonic distortion can damage sensitive equipment and increase the regularity with which organisations have to carrying out maintenance and replace electrical equipment. Transients can knock out power across a business and bring a hasty end to a day’s trading. It is something that is likely to get worse as the proliferation of renewable energy increases. 

Ben Martin, Power Perfector’s Director of Strategy and Market Development, says: “Perhaps most pertinent is the protection from common transients that our technology affords.

“These can have a devastating effect on a business’ ability to carry on trading short-term. For a hotel, for instance, it could be the difference between having 200 guests in dressing gowns in the car park or not. It is our view that most businesses will need this protection from spikes as we move towards the energy gap and the number of generation methods increases.”

Furthermore, the Power Perfector is able to deliver significant reductions to the 3rd, 5th and 7th order harmonics. It reduces currents flowing on the neutral by attentuating triple-n harmonics and helps to balance the three phases supplied to your site. Improvements in power factor of between 3 and 10% are immediately identifiable on most sites due to the ability of VPO to reduce reactive power.

“Installing VPO allows you to reduce the stress on the electrical equipment within a building. This has a knock on effect on the amount of maintenance you need to carry out,” says Martin. “While it is difficult to quantify how much this saves on maintenance and replacement costs, our clients claim to have seen savings as significant as 10%.”

“The quality of our power supply isn’t something that most of us have had to concern ourselves with but, in the future, it should increasingly be on a business’ risk register.”