I'm writing a discussion paper on the potential energy efficiency benefits of integrating different manufacturing processes by co-location on the same site. One possible field for integration is in the coupling of motors to loads. Motors are not my field, but I know that motor efficiency (within a range of speeds) increases up to about 150 kW. Would it be more efficient for some processes (loads) to be driven by one powerful motor, operating at low torque but differentially connected to loads via efficient transmissions, than using multiple lower rated (and therefore less efficient) motors? Obviously the efficiency gains would need to be greater than total transmission losses!
That was common over 100 years ago. A single steam engine, or water wheel , or electric motor was connected by flat leather belts to a series of drive shafts on the ceiling of the factory. Each machine was connected by belt to a pulley on the ceiling ; pulley diameters were selected so that each machine ran at an appropriate speed. Speeds could be changed by slipping a belt to a different size pulley with out stopping . Belts were 6 to 12 in. wide .Some belts had guards some had only a railing . There must be books available but maybe not on the internet. I saw one in operation about 1960 ; my impression was that it was a dangerous pain in the butt system.
Some pros and cons of distributing power mechanically:
"Firms switching to electric power showed significantly less employee sick time, and, using the same equipment, showed significant increases in production."