Comment: A healthy supply of power

28-Oct-2013

Duncan Agnew of Powerstar on the impact of voltage optimisation technology on NHS operations

High energy consumption is an inevitable consequence of running a healthcare facility. But, with rising energy prices and a requirement to meet carbon emissions targets, healthcare estates old and new should be investing in technologies that will improve their energy consumption and drive sustainability. DUNCAN AGNEW, Powerstar voltage optimisation consultant to the NHS, believes the advancement in voltage optimisation technology makes it a perfect fit for the healthcare industry

There are some sites that have already taken it upon themselves to address their high energy consumption and associated costs by implementing energy management schemes to assess and improve energy usage. But there is still a proportion of energy consumption that these schemes will be unable to stamp out.

This is because the average incoming low-voltage electricity supply in the UK is 242V; significantly above the optimal 220V rating of modern electrical equipment. Though this excess energy cannot be used productively, it is still factored into a building’s electricity bills.

Fundamentally, voltage optimisation will allow healthcare facilities to save on their energy bills and simultaneously lower their carbon footprint - without impacting on patient care

Through the implementation of a voltage optimisation system this supply and demand imbalance is addressed, making electrical loads draw less power and thereby allowing a building to reduce its carbon emissions and electricity costs.

There are two main variations of voltage optimisation system on the market; fixed and electronic-dynamic, also referred to as variable.

A building that has a stable incoming voltage supply, but one that is still over and above the optimum rating for electrical devices, requires a fixed-voltage optimisation system such as the EMSc (UK) Ltd developed Powerstar, which drops the incoming voltage by a set amount and matches the optimum voltage profile of the site.

Should a building have an unstable voltage supply, high night loading or secure, critical data, then it will benefit from a system that uses electronic-dynamic voltage optimisation technology as these can systematically manage the peaks and troughs in power supplied by the National Grid and ensure the voltage is supplied to a site at a constant, stable level.

A new, unique voltage optimisation solution is now also available for sites that have their own High Voltage (HV) transformer on site. These buildings can benefit still further by replacing existing transformers with a unique super low-loss, amorphous core transformer with integrated electronic voltage optimisation technology to optimise a building’s voltage supply before it is distributed throughout the site.

The materials used in the Powerstar HV MAX, for example, have a high electrical resistance which reduces standing losses and delivers greater efficiencies. As a result it can boast 99.91% efficiency and reduce standing losses by up to 75% when compared to conventional transformers.

The system then uses the existing electronic-dynamic technology to address any voltage instability.

Savings will vary depending on the building and the type of installation, but generally voltage optimisers will deliver between 12%-15% savings, though the most-efficient systems have achieved savings up to 26% of total electricity consumption and related CO2 emissions

Savings will vary depending on the building and the type of installation, but generally voltage optimisers will deliver between 12%-15% savings, though the most-efficient systems have achieved savings up to 26% of total electricity consumption and related CO2 emissions.

This will be welcoming news for many facilities as NHS budgets across the country continue to be reduced by the million, rather than the thousands.

Most NHS organisations are on track to meet financial targets, but research suggests that the financial squeeze is beginning to have an impact on services in some parts of the country. A third of NHS finance directors report that the quality of patient care has worsened in the last 12 months as the second year of cuts begins to take effect.

It\'s not easy to make savings on that scale, but with voltage optimisation it is possible to claw at least some money back that could be used to good effect.

By reducing the amount of electricity being used , facilities will save a significant amount of money, which can be spent on increasing staffing levels of nurse, or upgrading equipment and facilities which can, in turn, improve the levels of care offered by some units.

Voltage optimisation could become even more relevant within the healthcare sector as more and more NHS trusts meet the qualification criteria to join the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme - a mandatory energy efficiency scheme.

The 180 NHS trusts that will be expected to participate in the scheme will need to report their carbon emissions to the Environment Agency and will have to buy carbon allowances. Top-performing trusts will benefit financially whereas those at the bottom of the league table will be penalised, with additional large fines for non-compliance.

The various systems on offer are already playing an integral part in the energy-efficiency strategy of many NHS sites and medical facilities, achieving a significant reduction in carbon emissions and associated costs.

Current NHS sites benefiting from Powerstar, for example, include Rathbone Hospital, Ashworth Hospital and Scott Clinic.

By reducing the amount of electricity being used , facilities will save a significant amount of money, which can be spent on increasing staffing levels of nurse, or upgrading equipment and facilities which can, in turn, improve the levels of care offered by some units

Voltage optimisation is not an off-the-shelf solution as many would have you believe. Buildings differ in requirements and functionally. A site-specific survey should be carried out by the manufacturer or installer, along with an on-going consultation, to determine the perfect voltage optimisation installation for the site in question and ensure maximum savings. There are also number of leasing opportunities that make it possible for many facilities that can’t afford the initial implementation costs of voltage optimisation to still access the technology and all its associated benefits quickly.

Facilities can also gain the use of an energy optimisation system tax efficiently through a leasing plan that is linked to the energy savings obtained with the system. A fixed monthly rate is paid over five years, with no deposit and an option to upgrade or take ownership at the end of the period, allowing for a fast return on investment.

Fundamentally, voltage optimisation will allow healthcare facilities to save on their energy bills and simultaneously lower their carbon footprint - without impacting on patient care.

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