Every full Energy Audit should look at Power Factor. It’s funny how often it comes up. Even when you don’t think you have a problem you might in the future.
I first heard about Power Factor Corrections in the late 1980s. My friend’s dad worked for Border States Electric (BSE) as an engineer. He came over to the BSE from Northern States Power (Now Xcel Energy). He was one of the first guys in the area to work on solving this problem using banks of capacitors. He would tell me how electric motors would create a lagging power factor. His job was to calculate the capacitance necessary to correct for low power factors. It didn’t hurt that BSE got a lot of orders for switched capacitor banks.
In the 1990s, my dad and I started to do some energy audits of our own. We would run deal with facilities looking to increase the efficiency of their equipment. It was there they would run afoul of low power factors. Utilities don’t like low power factors and will bill a penalty if your power factor falls below a certain threshold. Our lighting retrofits would have very clean power and high power factors, but because we were using substantially less energy for lighting than before- there was less clean electricity to dilute the dirty (low power factor) electricity, which the motors were using, and hence the facilities would be getting billed a Power Factor penalty. The solution: capacitors and/or new energy efficient motors- but that’s a story for another day.
If you’d like to learn more about Power Factor corrections and motors, I have this article from Moorhead Public Service and their partners at Missouri River Energy Services.
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