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The sky’s the limit when it comes to airport energy savings

An article from ABB’s Carl Turbitt caught our eye this week (ABB UK HVAC Blog - ‘Sky-high savings? Get away…’) as it raised some interesting points about the energy consumption of airports.

Airport terminals contain a vast amount of electric motor-driven devices, which are relied upon for a smooth-running 24-hour operation. These include:

  • Conveyors
  • Air handling units (AHUs)
  • Pumps
  • Fans
  • Compressors
  • Chillers
  • Extractors

Anyone who has used airports at different times of the day will know that the volume of passengers can vary dramatically. This means that equipment such as baggage carousels, escalators and AHUs do not always need to run at full capacity, but because an electric motor can only run at one speed the excess energy is wasted.

Traditionally, throttling arrangements such as valves and dampers were used to regulate the flow of air from a HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) unit or the speed of a carousel conveyor belt. While this solved the problem of controlling speed, it did not stop the motor itself from running at full speed and consuming power that was not put to use.

The emergence of variable-speed drives in the last few decades has enabled airports to optimise processes and keep energy consumption to a minimum. That’s because a motor controlled by a VSD will only use as much power as the application demands at a given time.

For example, a HVAC system within a departure lounge can be programmed to cope with demand during peak times when passenger numbers are high and also quieter periods when the equipment does not need to work as hard.

Running certain applications, such as fan and pump processes, at just 80 per cent of the motor’s capacity can halve energy consumption. The purchase and installation costs of a variable-speed drive can be recouped via energy savings within 12 months in many cases, and the reduced strain on the motor and the machinery it drives also means lower maintenance costs and longer equipment life.

Of course, airports are only one of the countless facilities within which variable-speed drives can make a massive difference to energy consumption (and cost). Here at Gibbons Engineering Group, we’ve carried out ABB drives installations for industries as varied as food and beverage, printing and paper, education and healthcare.

To find out more about the benefits of variable-speed drives, call Alan Roberts on 07966 468430 or email

HVAC Services, Humidification, Variable-Speed Drives, Electric Motors, Pumps & Controls

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