An example of an integrated motor and drive solution with IE5 level efficiency and smart pump system capability.
How government funding will aid use of new technology.
Nidec Motor Corporation

In the past few years, the United States has passed two major federal legislative acts. The first was in 2021 with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The second was the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which was signed on Aug. 16, 2022. This act approved approximately $400 billion in federal funding to overhaul regulation for energy security and climate change, as well as investing in future development of sustainable energy reduction and production.

These two legislative actions will allow the pumping industry to take advantage of new technology that is the focus of this government spending. Pumps are a large source of energy consumption and therefore a huge target for improvement. With all of this in mind, it is easy to see how the pump industry sits on the edge of an opportunity: the chance to change how we think about energy consumption within pumping systems.

Smart Pumping Is the Future

One of the key elements is the development of higher efficiency, smart pumping systems. These systems incorporate state-of-the-art technology, including electric motors that surpass the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) Premium efficiency levels, variable speed operation, closed-loop control systems and overall ability for variable demand response.

An example of this new technology is the increased adoption and installation of electronically commutated motors (ECMs), synchronous motors and motors integrated with variable frequency drives (VFDs), which are the heart of these smart pumping systems. The implementation of intelligent pump systems can minimize energy consumption and simplify installation and maintenance procedures. By harnessing technologies such as ECMs, advanced sensors, real-time data analysis and automation, these smart pumping systems can optimize water usage, detect anomalies and adapt to changing conditions. They provide a dynamic approach to pumping, enhancing operational efficiency and reducing environmental impact.

Connectivity to an internet of things (IoT) system, with the integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, further empowers these systems to optimize pumping schedules by considering factors that affect the demand of pumping systems, like soil moisture for irrigation, solids content for wastewater or overall demand required for clean water. These new connected systems offer an opportunity for more than simply preventive maintenance, instead providing predictive maintenance that limits pump downtime, lowers cost for maintenance and increases production and profit.

More Confidence to Invest

With the new government focus on energy infrastructure and energy use reduction, the pursuit of higher energy efficiency within the pump industry now has an effective pull-through method. Prior to the legislation, there was apprehension to increase initial capital for a new technology or more intelligent drive system. Now, with funding support, manufacturers and end users can focus on lifetime cost and overall energy savings over the life of the pumping system.

However, this new push is not solely driven by economic benefits. As higher efficiency standards are being formulated, the availability of new technologies enables a more sustainable future. By adopting these systems, pump users can benefit from incentives and rebates offered by utilities and substantially reduce their carbon footprint, which can support company environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.

As the U.S. government injects $250 billion of spending into high efficiency pump products, this stimulates and funds innovation, purchase and the supply chain of U.S. sourced products that result in less energy consumption. This is aimed at key industries for which pumps are the main lifeblood— such as commercial building, agricultural irrigation and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). Specific targets for the federal funding include:

  • approximately $10 billion focused on water conservation, water use efficiency, drought resilience and stormwater infrastructure to mitigate flood damage
  • $4.5 billion for state-level rebate programs incentivizing adoption of new energy-efficient products
  • almost $10 billion for rural electrification and to move away from fossil fuels, which will increase the need for high-efficiency, electrified pumps

The IRA also has a provision for $47 billion to support manufacturing of the products and the components of the products, such as pumps, motors and VFDs. This provision helps support localization of the supply chain for these products. The earlier passed IIJA legislation had provisions for energy efficiency and infrastructure revitalization as well but, like the IRA, has Build America, Buy America requirements. This means that components for federally funded projects must be domestically sourced. To help development and acceleration of the goals of both acts, focused manufacturing funds, along with a few other pieces of legislation, aim to increase U.S.-based manufacturing on components that make up energy-efficient products, such as semiconductors, lamination steel and wire.

DOE Expanding Pump Rules

Federal funding is not the only thing driving the adoption of higher efficiency smart pumping systems. Regulations from the Department of Energy (DOE) are also continuing to push the minimum efficiency levels for many parts of the pumping system. Pump efficiency rules are being expanded to include circulator pumps, and the industrial and commercial pump rule continues to evolve. New induction motor standards are expected that will increase the minimum level of efficiency to “Super Premium” levels on 100 to 250 horsepower (hp) industrial motors.

Soon, the DOE is expected to expand both the fractional horsepower motor rule, as well as the integral horsepower motor rule, to increase minimum efficiency to NEMA Premium levels up to 750 hp and on additional motor enclosures.

To start the expansion and standardization of overall pump system efficiency, new testing methods are expected to be published for motors that can only be operated on VFDs. These methods are a way to start viewing the motor and VFD as a single system to drive equipment. This is also known as the power drive system (PDS). The publication of these test methods will allow the DOE to include efficiency requirements of the combined motor and VFD power drive system. This will also include regulations on many of the new technologies mentioned previously, such as synchronous motors and ECMs. Also, development of a test method for submersible motors will eventually bring submersibles into a standardized efficiency testing method to allow for industry-wide system comparisons no matter the type of pump.

U.S. government incentives are propelling the pumping industry into a new era of sustainable resource management. With substantial funding and generous incentives, the industry is poised to invest in advanced technologies, particularly smart pumping systems, to achieve higher efficiency and conserve water and energy.