IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
Alton Towers Resort is the UK’s largest theme park offering 500 acres of attractions and rides. Operated by Merlin Entertainments, the resort comprises a theme park, mini golf, hotel complex and waterpark; the latter of which formed the focal point of an energy saving project for energy and services company Centrica Business Solutions (Centrica).
Centrica was approached by Merlin Entertainments with a request to review the overall energy usage at the waterpark and provide a solution for reducing energy consumption and improving efficiency. Part of this project included a review of the 24 pumps required to operate the waterpark.
Having worked with Central Group on a number of schemes in the past, including a successful energy saving project at Arrow Park Hospital, Centrica approached our team with a request to review the pumps and put forward a solution.
As part of this wider energy-saving project our lead appraisal engineer noticed there was another opportunity for Alton Towers to make further savings on the Master Blaster ride; one of the waterpark’s main attractions where visitors travel at breath-taking speeds around the twists and turns, blasted up and down the ride which travels around the entire waterpark.
Central Group were able to provide energy saving solutions for a total of 47 pumps used throughout the waterpark complex as well as the Master Blaster ride, which also benefitted from a reduction in operational wear and tear on seven of the 55kW pumps used to power the ride.
A two-part challenge
The project at Alton Towers Waterpark fell into two parts: a review and solution to reduce energy usage at the waterpark as a whole, as well as for the Master Blaster ride.
When considering the waterpark as a whole, Centrica had already been provided with a possible solution to replace 24 of the existing pumps with newer more up to date versions. Central put forward an alternative proposal, which would provide similar energy saving targets but with a much less intrusive scope of work and therefore having less impact on the daily operation of the park.
Our solution included the fitting of variable speed drives to the existing pumps, thereby making each and every pump optimised to make maximum energy savings; a much less intrusive scope of work and reduced capital outlay.
When it came to the Master Blaster ride, Alton Towers’ management were originally sceptical as previous attempts had been made by other drive manufacturers to provide a solution and reduce energy using VSDs. None had been successful as the pumps were controlled by a complicated, interconnected pipework system. A total of 7 pumps are used to operate the ride; 5 in duty with 2 on standby and regularly cycled between to prevent excessive use.
The team from Central discovered that each pump flow was controlled by a valve which was 50% shut, making it a prime candidate for the retro-fitting of inverter.
To run all pumps at full capacity would send too much water through the ride, hence the use of the valve, however our solution was to open the valve fully and instead use an inverter on each pump to control the water flow. This would not only reduce wear on the pump but would also save electricity; every 10% of speed reduction would equate to approximately 30% energy saving.
Strict safety tests
With this being one of Alton Towers’ main waterpark rides, concern was raised as to the safety of the project, so a series of strict tests were carried. A drive was fitted to each pump but before they went into operation a flow meter was used to check and measure the rate of water of each individual pump. The flow was then matched identically with the valve opened up fully by means of reducing the speed of the pump via the inverter.
Under a strict test environment, the flow readings for each of the 7 pumps were logged both with the valves in their existing positions and also when the valves were fully open and then the flow controlled by the drive. This was done to ensure that there was no interference with the performance of the ride.
All of the final testing was done at 6:30 am before the waterpark opened, helping to ensure there was no impact on the operational hours of the ride.
A successful outcome
The success of the original survey led to the project being expanded to include a further 23 applications, a total of 47 pumps at the waterpark. Our team visited the waterpark, arriving and working before opening hours, over a period of two weeks, fitting the drives to the pumps, fine tuning, before turning on and starting the process of reducing the park’s overall energy consumption.
The solution was a lot less intrusive to the day-to-day running of Alton Towers waterpark as the drives were fitted whilst the pumps were still in operation. This meant there was no down time and all areas of the waterpark could operate as normal whilst the work was carried out in the background; providing greater savings and less downtime for operations.
Not only did the work incorporate a much larger assignment than originally specified, but it also produced far better energy savings than predicted, saving the client 1.4m kw/year with a 12 month payback period. And a project which had an initial budget of £400K only cost Central’s client £200K.
It also led to the work being carried out on the Master Blaster ride. Previous solutions provided by alternative suppliers had suggested the complete replacement of all 7 pumps on the ride, which would have resulted in a very long and complicated job and considerable down time. The solution provided by Central improved the life of the existing equipment, making it work more effectively and efficiently, and resulted in no downtime.