EU-funded projects to increase energy efficiency
The Department of Industrial Electrical Power Conversion at the University of Malta has actually built an electrical car and a boat.
What’s more, students are always looking to develop ways to increase energy efficiency and save it where possible – an ideal way to carry out research under the Manufacturing Research Platform (MRP).
The Malta Council for Science and Technology has been awarded €710,000 under the European Regional Development Fund to proceed with the MRP project, which aimed to highlight the importance of research and information on manufacturing, as well as assist and quicken the transformation of the local manufacturing industry to higher value added activity.
The MRP carried out research projects in energy efficiency, information and communication technology and innovation – all within manufacturing industry.
The energy efficiency project fell under key experts Cyril Spiteri Staines and Maurice Apap, from the Department of Industrial Electrical Power Conversion.
The first project the department developed was based on increasing energy efficiency in electric motors, which account for 75 per cent of all energy consumption in manufacturing.
Large manufacturers of plastic components, such as Playmobil and Toly, cumulatively hold hundreds of injection mould machines, ranging from 10-50kW in output power. To keep the technology up to date, large plastics manufacturers typically replace their machines around every 15 years.
Another partner in the project was Andrews Feeds, where standard electrical motor applications were considered.
Under the supervision of Prof. Spiteri Staines and Cedric Caruana, engineer researcher Peter Spiteri carried out a detailed application for injection mould machines, whereby the power during one cycle was monitored and analysed so as to find ways to reduce energy losses. By applying energy-saving techniques, it was found that savings of three to five per cent could be achieved.
The second project, carried out by Francarl Galea under the supervision of Dr Apap and Prof. Spiteri Staines, was based on increasing energy efficiency during testing of manufactured electrical equipment for Delta Malta (which manufacture power supplies, ranging from a couple of watts up to 6kW) and Abertax (which manufacture battery-related products).
When power supplies are built, a reliability test needs to be carried out, whereby a resistor is plugged as a load for a certain amount of hours. The time this process takes can range from one to 48 hours, which means the energy dissipation can be variable and very large.
This process not only wastes a substantial amount of energy but also heats up the premises.
Mr Galea’s idea was to load the power supply with a specially built converter, which diverts the ‘testing’ energy back into the grid. The result was that this converter saved approximately 60-80 per cent of the energy.
In the case of testing related to batteries, his idea was to plug the regenerative load during the discharging process, in so doing directing the energy back to the grid.