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Energy Drive “Actualises Sustainability” – dynamically monitoring and analyzing system performance with Google Cloud

Electric motors in everything from pool pumps and gate motors to the large industrial fans and pumps consume approximately 50% of the world’s generated electricity. Optimizing old equipment with more efficient engineering has the potential to deliver significant energy savings. But a big challenge remains: how do you increase the energy efficiency of large industrial equipment, especially when it’s dozens of years old?

This challenge and the opportunities to reduce electricital consumption, inspired us to found Energy Drive. We wanted to help large energy users actualise their energy related sustainability goals and overcome the barriers to efficiency in industrial settings, especially within the so-called triple M segment: mining, metals and minerals.  

Our approach is very focused. We retrofit technology, called a variable speed drive (VSDs), onto industrial equipment such as fan and pump motors. These VSDs convert a fixed frequency electrical supply into a variable frequency output. The drive (VSD) controls how the motor operates: A low frequency for a slow speed, and a higher frequency for faster speeds. Put simply, you can make relatively small adjustments in motor speed in return for a large reduction in power consumed.

Energy Drive team members

Reducing energy consumption, minimizing downtime

Every system is monitored for energy consumption and system performance using the latest metering technology and industrial computers. This data is relayed to the client via a web application that shows quickly how plant process optimization is performing and the resulting cost and energy savings that are being generated..

Energy Drive also uses its own dedicated systems to monitor client installations. “We can create early warnings for impending equipment failure and increase visibility of issues to reduce unplanned downtime.” 

As we’ve grown, so has the amount of data that we store and make accessible to clients. When we chose a database environment that matched our goals for growth, Google Cloud stood out. Without sacrificing functionality, Google Cloud is more scalable and flexible and a lot easier to manage than some of the other cloud environments we looked at.

We use Google Compute Engine to run virtual machines on Google Cloud infrastructure and Google App Engine to run our custom-built web tool which clients use to view performance data. In addition, we use Google Cloud Storage for storing and accessing data in our environment.

BigQuery is especially critical to our business. When we looked at other cloud-based data warehouses, they didn’t have a pricing model that matched our requirements. With BigQuery, we only pay for data that we extract and interact with. In fact, we managed to reduce data usage by 80% when switching from a SQL environment.

With BigQuery our clients can access current or historical data in seconds. That’s a big improvement on the past when many relied on manual systems where you had to sift through the network and thousands of data points to extract the information you were seeking.

750 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity saved

We can also overlay this data with insights that make a real difference to a client’s bottom line. Now when a client asks, “What did that system do this time last year?”, we can pull those details quickly and present them in an easy-to-understand format. At the same time, our installations are based on a zero-capex performance model, which simplifies our clients’ project delivery, saves money, and eliminates the short-term shock of large capital outlays which must compete for capital with other internal projects.

Above all, Google Cloud is the powerhouse behind our efforts to reduce energy consumption. In the lifetime of the business, we’ve saved 750 GWh of electricity, the equivalent of half the annual consumption of an average sized steel mill. Another way of looking at it is that we take the consumption equivalent of about 16,500 households off the grid every day.

We’re also proud to be recognized for our achievements in the energy saving industry. In 2019, we were awarded the Energy Efficiency Company of the Year by the South African Energy Efficiency Confederation. In 2021, we were awarded Industrial Energy Project of the Year for our work supporting a South African mining company towards their 2040 carbon neutrality and 2050 net zero target. 

We’re also committed to developing engineering talent in South Africa. Our program for graduates offers young people experience in many fields including electrical, mechanical, and process engineering. They can choose a career path with the confidence that comes from first-hand knowledge of the latest developments in engineering and analytics. 

This links back to our determination to embed best-in-class skills and technology in our business, including the latest tools and enhancements in Google Cloud. Right now, we are excited about powerful machine learning capabilities in Google Cloud and the potential to apply this to our data and provide further energy efficiencies to our clients. Knowing that Google will continue to innovate gives us the confidence to grow the business and help our clients achieve their sustainability goals now and in the future. 

If you want to learn more about how Google Cloud can help your startup, visit our pagehere to get more information about our program, andsign up for our communications to get a look at our community activities, digital events, special offers, and more.

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