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Iritron emphasises the importance of energy studies for optimising industrial plant electrical consumption

Gerhard Greeff, Iritron’s divisional manager PM&C

Against a backdrop of high and ever-increasing electricity tariffs, as well as loadshedding, business owners and operators of factories and industrial plants are acutely aware of the need to optimise their factory or production facilities’ electrical energy consumption. 

This is why, as a specialist in industrial automation and control systems integration, Iritron’s team of experts highly recommend investing in an energy study program. An energy study can provide valuable insights into the health and efficiency of a plant’s electrical system. 

Through the analysis of data collected during the study, companies can identify shortcomings in their factory or plant reticulation, recognise peak consumption periods of energy-intensive machinery, and subsequently optimise operations to achieve substantial cost savings. Additionally, the programme can help uncover potential safety issues and areas of non-compliance.

However, owners should be cautious – before an energy study can be carried out, the electrical reticulation must be in good order. Plant layout, usage, equipment and personnel changes over the years often result in modifications not being reflected in diagrams and documentation. 

Typical examples are found where distribution boards and electrical equipment may not be correctly labelled, and protection gradings may be incorrect due to changes over the years. 

Apart from the potential danger and non-compliance that outdated drawings create, it also lessens the accuracy of the energy study. This situation must be rectified with accurate documentation – which will make it much quicker and easier for technicians, which Iritron has readily available, to start investigating and analysing the energy consumption in the different plant areas and provide recommendations for improvement.

Essential elements of an energy study require the installation of measurement equipment, such as Schneider Electric’s PowerLogic PM5320R power metres, with ethernet interface and modbus TCP/IP protocol, which provides a host of critical measurements, including:

  • Instantaneous values of current, voltage, frequency, real, reactive and apparent power and power factor;
  • Accumulated Active, Reactive and Apparent Energy;
  • Power Quality Measurements, including Total Harmonic Distortion and Total Demand Distortion, and
  • Data Logging of min/max of instantaneous values, plus phase identification.

Once the parameters of the study and measurements have been agreed upon, the energy metres are easily installed in a number of distribution boards on the plant site, which will collect data from specific areas and equipment. The historical data provides the ability to analyse and pinpoint exactly what is happening in the plant at any given time. 

The energy study takes into consideration and analyses the energy mix that is present in the facility, be it solar, battery, generator and/or utility power. 

Iritron engineers conduct detailed and often complex analyses to identify areas of potential savings in conjunction with an analysis of the electrical account from the service provider, as it is important to understand the tariff structures and rates. Account information often reveals hidden evidence where cost savings can be made through the implementation of monitoring, automation and control.

Implementation of a cost-saving strategy can include multiple control measures such as: automated controls, power factor correction, maximum demand control, peak shaving, and working around the peak tariff periods. Combining potential areas of saving with all the data from the energy measurements will result in the implementation of a successful energy optimisation plan.

Iritron is a Level 2, B-BBEE empowered engineering, integration and manufacturing company providing solutions in the fields of electrical, instrumentation, control systems and decision support systems. We have extensive local and international engineering expertise and a proven track record across various industries.

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