More Beer, Less Froth

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Power Factor Correction may be the ultimate “black box” technology. Few people really understand what it does, or how it does it.

In fact it’s not always easy for a customer to know if the PFC unit is working at all.

However, with kVA demand charges becoming more common in all states it is becoming increasingly important to ensure power factor is optimised at all times.

One of Out Performers’ clients operates a number of large refrigerated warehouses across Australia. Each site uses over 5GWh per year and their power bills had risen significantly over the previous six months.
They asked Out Performers to investigate and we quickly discovered that six months earlier the site had seen a brief spike in total power demand. This was most likely due to site construction work at the time involving a number of arc welding machines.

The client didn’t realise that their electricity tariff imposed a heavy peak demand penalty each month. The tariff is calculated on the highest (“peak”) demand during the previous 12 months. Therefore our client was effectively paying the penalty every month, adding up to $36,000, for a single brief event that lasted for no more than five minutes, over six months ago.

To avoid costly penalties each month the solution was to minimise peak demand on the site in the future. Out Performers analysed the site interval data and identified that poor power factor on the site was causing excessive kVA.

Poor Power Factor can be explained with a beer analogy. It’s like paying for a full pint of beer, but getting 25% of the glass filled with froth. The relationship between the beer and the froth is the power factor. Not enough beer, or poor power factor is not good, in anyone’s language.

Out Performers were engaged to specify the optimal Power Factor Correction (PFC) system in order to ensure the site’s peak demand is minimised at all times. The PFC installed corrected the site power factor from 0.84 (variable) to greater than 0.99. The amount of froth on the site’s pint of beer was reduced from 16% froth to less than 0.01%. This is saving them nearly $35,000 a year in kVA charges, providing a simple payback under 3 years.



Those of you familiar with PFC projects may say that they often seem too good to be true … until they stop working. We agree! We see this happen for various reasons, but the common factor is that usually no-one notices. Even the most dedicated site engineer is unlikely to notice that the PFC is not operational … until they receive a “please explain” email from the CFO who has just tracked-down the $30,000 hole in annual Opex budget!

Out Performers’ Energy Management Centre (EMC) service monitors all the vital signs of our clients’ sites. This allows us to see, in near-real time, the operation of a PFC unit. The chart above is from our EMC on site with this particular client. The chart shows the period of a few days as the PFC was installed at the site. This chart illustrates dramatically how the PFC eliminates the froth on the beer.

Contact Out Performers if we can help you to enjoy more beer and loss froth in your operations.

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