World’s leading particle lab concerned about energy efficiency

CERN lab. (Image by CERN, Facebook.)

ABB and CERN, at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, have identified significant energy-saving potential through a strategic research partnership focused on the cooling and ventilation system at one of the world’s leading laboratories for particle physics institutes, located in Geneva, Switzerland.

The study included energy efficiency audits that helped identify a savings potential of 17.4% across a fleet of 800 motors.

The research, conducted between 2022 and 2023, followed an agreement between ABB and CERN. This saw the partners developing a roadmap for reducing the energy consumption of the site’s cooling and ventilation system via data-driven energy efficiency audits.

The audits identified potential annual energy savings of up to 31 gigawatt-hours (GWh). If achieved, these savings could be enough to power more than 18,000 European households and could avoid four kilotons of CO2 emissions, the same as planting over 420,000 trees.

Energy efficiency audits work by evaluating the performance and efficiency of motors based on their operational data. Audits help large facilities like CERN to identify the most significant energy-saving opportunities across whole fleets of motors.

CERN and ABB experts assessed data from motors in various cooling and ventilation applications. They combined data from multiple sources, including digitally connected motors, CERN’s SCADA system and data gathered directly from their pumps, piping, and instrumentation. The experts analyzed the efficiency of the whole system to provide insights to pinpoint the motors with the best business case for energy efficiency upgrades.

“We are proud to cooperate with CERN and support its ambition to conduct physics research with a low-carbon footprint, by helping them achieve more energy-efficient operations on their cooling and ventilation systems,” said Erich Labuda, president of the motion services division at ABB.

“This research project represents another step in CERN’s energy efficiency journey. As an institution with a large installed base of motors, working with CERN is a great example of how we can support in making a big impact in improving energy efficiency as part of the transition to a low-carbon society.”

In Labuda’s view, cooling and ventilation systems are a fantastic first place to look for energy efficiency upgrades because they are often overdesigned, being specified to operate at a maximum load way above the average.

“We found one pump motor at CERN with an energy-saving potential of 64%. It is also important to not just evaluate motor efficiency, but the system as a whole – including the fans, condensers and cooling towers. This holistic approach supports the improvement of CERN’s overall energy efficiency and reliability,” he said.

CERN’s next step is to create a roadmap for the upgrade of the first motors recommended as part of the energy efficiency audit, which are the IE5-rated Synchronous Reluctance Motors (SynRM) operating with variable speed drives. These motors will also be digitally connected, enabling condition monitoring solutions to accurately assess their health and performance to ensure maximum uptime.