The use of variable speed drives for cost-effective energy savings in South African mine cooling systems

Gideon Edgar Du Plessis, Leon Liebenberg, Edward Henry Mathews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An industrial energy efficiency improvement through the introduction of modern technology is an important demand-side management initiative. Cooling systems on South African mines have been identified as large electricity consumers. There is significant potential for energy efficiency improvement by the widespread introduction of variable speed drive (VSD) technology. An energy audit was conducted on 20 large mine cooling systems and potential savings and feasibility indicators were calculated. A pilot implementation study was also done on one mine to experimentally validate the estimated savings. In this paper, the results of the audit, the potential savings and the pilot study results are presented. It is shown that large-scale implementation of VSDs on mine cooling system pumps and fans is economically viable. A total annual electrical energy saving of 144,721MWh, or 32.2%, can be achieved. An annual cost saving of US$6,938,148 and CO2 emissions reduction of 132Mton is possible. The implementation of VSDs on mine chiller compressors will also result in large energy savings, but is not economically feasible at present. Results of the pilot study indicate an electricity savings of 29.9%. The results are important to decision makers and indicate the significant impact that widespread VSD usage on mine cooling systems can have on South African mine sustainability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-27
Number of pages12
JournalApplied Energy
StatePublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Emission reductions
  • Energy savings
  • Mine cooling systems
  • Variable speed drives

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • General Energy
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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