Funding and Regulatory Changes Driving Shift In The Pump Industry

The pumping industry is on the verge of a technology transformation thanks to the significant impact of federal funding in the U.S. and the focus this funding has on innovation in the development of pumping systems. Although the funds benefit U.S. motor and pump manufacturers, end users everywhere will benefit from the increased energy efficiency and lower energy costs these investments are spurring.

By Patrick Hogg, Director of Marketing, Nidec

Two major federal legislative acts in the past two years are driving the change: the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), and the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act or IRA. The latter approved approximately USD $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.

Combined, these two legislative actions are going to allow the pumping industry to take advantage of new innovative technology that is the focus of this government spending. Pumps are a large source of energy consumption and therefore a huge target for improvement. The pump industry sits on the edge of a huge opportunity: the chance to change how the industry thinks about energy consumption within pumping systems.

Smart Pumping Systems

The development of higher efficiency, ʽsmart’ pumping systems is a key element that is revolutionizing the future of pumping. These systems incorporate state-of-the-art technology, including electric motors that surpass 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 ʽsmart’ pumping systems. The implementation of intelligent pump systems can minimize energy consumption and simplify installation and maintenance procedures. By harnessing cutting-edge technologies such as ECM, advanced sensors, real-time data analysis, and automation, these ʽsmart’ 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 opportunities for more than preventive maintenance but can provide predictive maintenance to limit downtime of pumps, limit the cost for maintenance, and increase the overall production and profit.

Less Apprehension to Invest

Prior to the U.S. legislation, there was apprehension about increasing initial capital for a new technology or more intelligent drive system. Now, with funding support, manufacturers and end users can focus on lifetime costs and overall energy savings.  With the U.S. government’s focus on energy infrastructure and energy use reduction, the pursuit of higher energy efficiencies within the pump industry now has an effective pull-through method.

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 innovative 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.

Figure 1: Nidec's SynRA® motor is an example of an integrated motor and drive solution with IE5 level efficiency and “Smart” pump system capability.

Stimulating Innovation

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

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

The IRA also provides USD $47 billion to support the manufacturing of the products and the components of the products that are the drivers of this innovation revolution such as pumps, motors, and VFDs.  This provision helps support the 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 the development and acceleration of the goals in 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.

The water treatment facility for the city of Venice, FL, features pump motors from Nidec/U.S. MOTORS. Project details at Photo courtesy of Haskell

New Pump Rules Pushing Efficiency

Regulations from the U.S. 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 to increase the minimum level of efficiency to ʽSuper Premium’ levels on 100-250 Horsepower (hp) industrial motors.  In the near future, 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 750hp and on additional motor enclosures.

To standardize 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 otherwise known as the Power Drive System (PDS).  The publication of these test methods will allow the DOE to include the efficiency requirements of combined motor and VFD power drive systems.  This will also include regulations on many of the new technologies mentioned previously, such as synchronous motors and electronically commutated motors.  Also, the 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.

Final Words

The pumping industry is entering a new era of sustainable resource management. With substantial funding and generous incentives, the industry is poised to invest in advanced technologies, particularly ʽsmart’ pumping systems, to achieve higher efficiency and conserve water and energy.

By leveraging funding and innovation, stakeholders can lead and shape the future of the pumping industry, ultimately ensuring a more sustainable and resilient water supply for generations to come. These opportunities have their hurdles, but the pumping industry is poised to achieve sustainable systems that use a fraction of the energy.

About the Author

Patrick Hogg is Director of Marketing for Industrial Pumping & Distribution at Nidec Motor Corporation/U.S. MOTORS and an active member in Hydraulic Institute with over 15 years of experience in the pumping industry.

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Shopia Ketheeswararajah is a feature editor contributing to Pump Engineer, Stainless steel World Americas, Hose and Coupling World, and other related print & online media.