New technology gets top marks for energy savings

A revolutionary new energy saving and storage solution is offering schools greater opportunities for cutting their electricity bills than ever before. Dr Alex Mardapittas of Powerstar explains.

UK schools currently account for over half of local authorities’ carbon emissions, according to the Carbon Trust which estimates their total annual energy bill as £543 million. Reducing energy consumption isn’t just good environmental practice – it’s also one of the quickest and simplest ways that schools can release capital for the provision of core education services. 

A pioneering new technology can now help to achieve savings more effectively than ever by providing schools with greater control and flexibility over their energy use. The new system, Powerstar Virtue, stores energy saved through well-established and reliable voltage optimisation technology to minimise use of energy during periods when tariffs are high.

The new system uses patented Powerstar voltage optimisation technology to harness the induced negative power feedback to the supply and charge a storage medium when tariffs are low. It achieves savings in electricity costs by reverting to this energy at peak periods when costs are high.

On-site renewable generation from solar panels or wind turbines can also be integrated with the ingenious solution to combine the energy saved from the voltage optimisation system with that generated from the renewable energy source. Users can switch to the stored supply at any time, ensuring a constant and reliable energy supply.

Virtual Power Station

As forecasting of available power is simple, Powerstar Virtue allows users to become a VPS (Virtual Power Station) making informed decisions on how much power will be available at all times and as a result deciding when to use stored energy to maximise the benefits. The system can act as a full facility UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) for up to two hours and thanks to its modular nature, additional storage modules can be fitted post-installation to match any future needs of the site.

Powerstar Virtue offers additional benefits: it enhances the financial gains from national and DNO (Distribution Network Operator) incentivised programmes such as STOR, EDR and FDR and sites will also gain the many additional advantages offered by Powerstar voltage optimisation - reduced harmonics, voltage phase balancing and improved power factor, along with reduced maintenance costs and a longer lifetime for electrical equipment.

Installing the system also provides a significant additional benefit, as it eliminates the need for inverters on renewable installations, which can further help towards reducing costs and improving return on investment.

Voltage optimisation is one of the most well-established and reliable ways of achieving energy savings. Reports by the NHS Sustainable Development Unit and St George’s University state that voltage optimisation is one of the three most worthwhile green technologies (together with LED lighting and variable speed drives), to implement in terms of savings delivered and speed of payback.

Voltage optimisation systems employ a device in series with the mains electricity supply to reduce the unnecessary and expensive over-supply of voltage coming into a building to its optimum level – generally 22V below the level supplied by the National Grid.

Powerstar Virtue is integrated with either a Powerstar MAX voltage optimisation system or Powerstar HV MAX for schools with their own transformers. These are well established technologies that have been helping private and public sector organisations by reducing electricity spend and cutting carbon emissions for over a decade. 

Unique patented technology

Powerstar’s unique design achieves savings by matching the incoming electricity supply to the requirements of on-site electrical equipment and returning any excess back to the grid. It does this by generating induced negative power feedback, which flows towards the grid and is subtracted from the incoming power.

Between 70% and 80% of the savings achieved through Powerstar voltage optimisation are through the induced negative power feedback - generated as a result of the patented design of the technology, and a key component for the Powerstar Virtue system - with the remaining 20% to 30% savings gained from the improvement in equipment efficiencies due to appliances operating at a voltage more suited to their operating requirements.

A study into voltage optimisation carried out by the University of Warwick confirmed: “The overall power consumption is reduced because the negative power is induced as feedback power to the source. This power can be considered as being generated from the load site.”

Many schools will have already achieved energy savings by switching to energy efficient LED lighting. Most voltage optimisation systems are not able to provide additional savings on LEDs. Powerstar on the other hand, is the only known voltage optimisation system that has been proven to achieve savings in this area, as a tender recently awarded by the University of Melbourne confirmed. The system has also demonstrated that significant savings - 6%-10% - can be achieved when modern variable speed drives (VSDs) are connected.

British Engineering

Powerstar systems have been designed, sourced and manufactured in the UK for 13 years, delivering energy savings of, on average, 12% to 15%. Power quality is also improved with the installation of a Powerstar system. One of the primary factors behind a recent installation at St John’s Catholic Academy in County Durham, where a survey identified the cause of regular equipment failures, which included computers, motors and swimming pool pumps, as a power quality issue.

Applying the correct voltage to the site’s electrical equipment – a fit-and-forget Powerstar system - has eliminated these electrical failures. The installation has also significantly reduced maintenance costs and resulted in electricity savings of over £8,000 per annum and 42 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Energy storage is increasingly recognised as one of the best solutions to address the twin problems of high demand for electricity plus the volatility of power supplies as more electricity generated by renewables comes onto the grid.

Imperial College London’s Energy Futures Lab has estimated that energy storage technologies could generate savings of £10bn a year by 2050 in the UK. Schools should consider early adoption to gain from an energy strategy that uses enhanced control to deliver maximum financial benefits.

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