ABB reaches 99.05% efficiency, the highest ever recorded for a synchronous motor

Pioneering technology leader ABB sets world record efficiency for synchronous motor.

World record! What a wonderful phrase. When I think about a world record I imagine a person who’s running – running fast like in a race, or just before high jumping, or throwing a javelin. I think about the Olympics and tears of joy, as well Gold Medal ceremonies with music playing and flags waving, of course.

Just like an Olympic athlete, setting a world record in an industrial operation depends on numerous factors that must be perfectly aligned and optimized to get the best result. Instead of a Gold Medal, for industry the reward is lower operating costs and less environmental impact.

But what do champion athletes have in common? How do they become world record holders, while others who finish in second or third place in the competition are sometimes quickly forgotten? The answer, in large part, is efficiency!

Comparing humans and motors – energy losses are the key

Efficiency, for a world-record athlete, can be seen as the ability to use the correct inputs, such as muscle power, training routines, food and nourishment in the most efficient manner to achieve the given task better than anyone else. That task is often focused on moving themselves, or an object, faster, farther, or higher than anyone has ever before done.

Electrical motor efficiency can be described in a similar manner, where the input is the electrical power and, if you have the best design parameters and highest quality components, you will get the highest mechanical power output. For a human to set a world record, a critical key factor is to limit your energy losses so you get the maximum output. It’s exactly the same for motors; lowest energy losses mean highest motor efficiency.

99.05% recorded during factory acceptance tests

Today, electric motors use an estimated 28% of the total electrical power consumed worldwide. Reducing that consumption by just a fraction of a percent can have a very significant impact on electricity consumed, giving benefits in terms of costs for running the industrial operations, as well as CO2 emitted to generate the electricity.

ABB recently set the world record for electrical synchronous motor efficiency. During factory acceptance tests (FATs) carried out with the customer present, we recorded a result of 99.05% full load efficiency on a 44 megawatt, 6-pole, synchronous motor. The motor was included in a contract for six motors of the same design and they all had test results above 99% efficiency. The contract had guaranteed an efficiency of 98.80%, meaning that the efficiency on this motor is 0.25% greater than anticipated.

Over the lifetime of a motor, the 0.25% higher efficiency can be very significant in terms of money and energy savings, as well as profitability and environmental impact.

A cool $500,000 savings and 86 tons of CO2 on just one motor

A typical efficiency for this type of synchronous motor is approximately 98.2 to 98.8%. Calculations show that the 0.25% efficiency improvement will save the user approximately $500,000 in electrical energy costs over the course of a 20-year lifetime. This is just for a single 44 MW 6-pole synchronous motor. With electricity costs being, by far, the largest component in the total cost of ownership of such a motor, savings like these have a significant impact on profits.

Assuming 24/7/365 operations, this one motor saves 110 kW of electric power (0.25% of 44 MW = 110 kW), which over a year amounts to 963.6 MWh of energy. This is the same amount of electricity typically used by 240 European houses in a year (average = 4,000 kWh).

CO2 savings are also significant. On average in Europe, producing 1 kWh of electricity emits 0.45 kg of CO2. Thus the 963.6 MWh saved with this single motor means 4.3 tons less CO2 being emitted to the atmosphere every year. Over the expected 20-year lifetime, that is 86 tons of CO2 greenhouse gases saved. Thus, this might be seen as a world record in both costs savings and climate savings!

Jesse Owens, and what it takes to win

Coming back to athletes – Jesse Owens, the American track and field star and four-time Olympic gold medalist in the 1930s, has an interesting quote about what it takes to be a world record holder: “We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams become reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”

In business, it’s often very similar. Here you can learn more about how ABB’s synchronous motors involved in this performance can help your operation attain new records.


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  • Petri Vatilo

    It is very nice to see that our products keep pushing the limits of technology and improve the efficiencies. This not only benefits our customers but us all.