Protecting the world’s largest collection of paintings

2014-02-28 - Russia’s Hermitage uses ABB energy efficient technologies to ensure the right climate for art and visitors alike
It would take more than a year to view all of the three million pieces of art in the State Hermitage Museum, which is one of the world’s oldest and largest museums. Founded by Catherine the Great in 1764, the Hermitage includes some 365 rooms in 26 exhibition halls whose décor is also considered a national treasure.


The colossal and majestic Winter Palace was built between 1754 and 1762 as the residence of Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great.

Precise control of the temperature, air quality and humidity in these 250-year old buildings is critical to protecting the art masterpieces as well as their opulent baroque interiors. Since only a small portion of the Hermitage’s complete collection can be exhibited at one time, control of many storage spaces beyond public access is also critical.

In 2012, the Hermitage began a major modernization project for the ventilation and air conditioning systems of several buildings including the Winter Palace, which was built for Russia’s monarchs. The Hermitage chose ABB motors and variable speed drives as part of the system’s air handling and energy management solution.

Ventilation and air conditioning systems include many motor driven devices such as fans and blowers. Variable speed drives help control motors by raising or lowering the amount of power they receive in order to match their speed precisely to the needed work load. In addition to providing the correct amount of ventilation, drives can improve energy efficiency by as much as 30 percent by preventing motors from working harder than necessary.

The Hermitage also wanted a system that could be quickly commissioned and integrate with its existing automation and building systems. ABB’s ACS880 drives can be easily configured through a single module which controls several slave drives to ensure the correct air handling parameters (air quality, temperature, etc.). The drive is programmed through a Russian-character operating panel with simple software that communicates through a built-in USB port. This ensures a user-friendly interface for the Hermitage’s staff, allowing them to quickly and accurately configure and commission the system.

The ABB drives have built energy efficiency analysis and optimization tools, allowing the Hermitage to set the correct environment while at the same time minimizing energy waste. Controlling the motor speed with drives rather than mechanical brakes also reduces wear and tear, extending their life cycle.

The Hermitage installed 31 ABB ACS800 drives and 15 ABB low voltage AC motors during the first two stages of the project. Analysis of the performance of these limited pilots alone reveal a potential to save more than $13,000 in annual energy cost and reduce carbon emissions by some 78 tons.

In addition to protecting its art and buildings, the improved system will help the museum maintain comfortable temperature and humidity levels for visitors and employees through warm humid summers and frigid St. Petersburg winters. The renovated system also results in less air conditioning noise, providing a better visitor experience.



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ABB drives feature built-in energy efficiency tools that allow museum staff to play a part in saving electricity while ensuring the right climate for artwork and visitors.

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