Power Loss, Efficiency Gain
Backup power is not the second string quarterback any longer, now that more and more businesses are realizing they have room in their roster for a permanent star player.
A backup is often a reserve, like a quarterback who comes to make a few plays when the top guy is injured, or an actor understudy who plays a role for a couple of nights because the star is sick. In the world of power, it seems to be increasingly popular for backups to take over the leading role permanently, especially when the user sees that the backup is more reliable than the traditional player—and even more economical.
Worldwide, there seems to be a trend for owners of buildings—public and private—to invest in onsite power that relies on itself, and not on an outside source. Some reasons for this could be termed political, such as threats to power supplies when terrorism or sabotage reigns, and some are economical, such as those businesses (like stores and supermarkets) which cannot afford a loss of power because it means a loss of business and even a destruction of inventory.
People still remember the disastrous effects of Hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans, LA, area. The flooding, wind, and other natural forces meant there was no power available for residential or commercial customers of the utilities there. Among the companies that went in with immediate help and solutions was Enercon Engineering. Many trailer-sized mobile power modules sent to New Orleans, and its neighborhoods were designed and manufactured by Enercon Engineering. They provided welcome temporary power in the extreme post-hurricane conditions, and they also started the owners of facilities thinking about the future.
Hurricanes, tornadoes, summer thunderstorms, and winter ice storms are not controlled by human hands or minds, and they will occur whenever it suits them. At home, in the office, or at the factory—the electricity goes off just when you don’t want it to. After the hurricane’s worst power problems had been solved, the owners and managers of facilities asked themselves how they could prevent those problems from happening again. They knew they couldn’t stop hurricanes; they couldn’t stop flooding—especially in a city like New Orleans where many neighborhoods are below sea level. But, they could invest in onsite power that would ignore Nature’s attacks.
For New Orleans, Enercon Engineering designed and installed a power generation unit, which sits above the highest-possible water line. It can also manage winds up to 150 miles per hour. The unit is standing by to power four huge pumps that will be used in the next emergency. The generator has a 16-cylinder engine (GE 7FDS16) that can operate continuously. It created 2.6 MW at 2,400 V and has automatic switchgear. It is sited in a residential neighborhood, so it is sound attenuated to 85 dBA (DeciBels Adjusted) at 3 meters. Enercon Engineering faced an interesting challenge for the installation of the power unit. It had to match the existing dimensions of the steel dunnage from the previous unit (which failed when needed). The enclosure and dunnage are positioned some 30 feet above the ground, and the individual panels of the installation had to be—and are—capable of being lifted by one person.
The physical space was challenging, too. The exhaust silencer and the remote radiator were installed on the roof of the enclosure to fit the available space. It’s a big unit, measuring approximately 420 inches long by 138 inches wide by 142 inches high, and weighing more than 162,000 pounds. That presented a shipping problem, as local roads were unable to accept that size and weight at a time when they were being repaired, along with other neighborhood infrastructure. The solution? Components that would normally be included in the final installation and shipped with it were designed and built to be shipped separately and positioned correctly together at the final site. Since installation, everything has worked together as it should, with no problems.
In a completely different part of the country and a different situation, Enercon Engineering has played a key role in helping a community with one of its most important facilities. St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, needed to update its standby equipment. It had benefited from Enercon switchgear and controls for about two decades, but today’s technology seemed to offer more. Enercon retrofitted the hospital’s existing microprocessor-based equipment. This included Evolution, Enercon’s equipment with a user-friendly operator’s interface with Touch Screen Controls and PLC-based technology. The switchgear serves four diesel-fueled generators rated 1,000 kW, each at 480 V, 60 hertz. Should there be a power outage, the switchgear programmable logic controller (PLC) automatically starts the generators, and the hospital’s critical loads are back up and running in about 10 seconds. The switchgear is NEMA 1 for indoor use, and there are separate floor-standing feeder breakers (two breakers, 2,000 amps each).
“At No Additional Cost to Taxpayers”
The White Oak Federal Research Center in Silver Spring, MD, is the headquarters of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In a new 20-year agreement, Honeywell has contracted with the US General Services Administration (GSA) to support the continue development of onsite utilities and energy infrastructure. It will be funded from the downstream energy and operational savings the work produces. Honeywell guarantees the savings so the project will not increase operating budgets or require additional taxpayer dollars.
“Through the agreement, we are able to invest additional funds at White Oak campus,” says Shapour Ebadi, director, Office of Campus Development for GSA, which manages government assets, including more than 9,600 buildings. “We’re guaranteed to recoup that investment, which demonstrates the benefits of this type of public-private cooperation.”
Compared with traditional construction techniques, the project is expected to save almost 80 million kWh of electricity per year (and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 24,000 metric tons annually). The new central plant will include two 7.5-MW dual-fuel turbine generators, a 4.5-MW natural gas turbine generator, two 2.25-MW diesel standby generators, and a 5-MW steam turbine generator. It will also have—as a backup if municipal water services are temporarily lost—three 2,500-ton chillers and a 2-million-gallon thermal energy storage tank. The plant at White Oak will be capable of producing up to 250,000 MW-hours of electricity each year, enough energy to power more than 20,000 homes. By leveraging the plant’s onsite generation capabilities, the US Government can avoid utility costs and generate revenue through incentives from PJM Interconnection, the independent system operator that controls the region’s electrical systems, for running on self-generated power, especially during hot summer days when increased demand usually strains the grid.
“Honeywell has been a part of White Oak since its groundbreaking,” notes Paul Orzeske, president of Honeywell Building Solutions. “We see the continued relationship as a testament to our ability to drive cost savings, and make the campus more efficient and secure. The savings from this latest contract will allow the FDA to maintain focus on its research and regulatory missions.”
Bridges and Footpaths to Independence?
In years gone by, whole armies would stop their invasions when they came across a river. In relation to a campaign of hundreds of miles, the few hundred yards of a river was of little importance from the aspect of size, but you had to get across. Even as recent as World War II, armies were halted when a bridge was blown up in front of them. Today’s power is like that. We use the power, day in and day out, and suddenly there’s an outage, like a river stopping all progress. If only there were a bridge available to prevent such potential disasters to our business!
One of the offerings of Active Power—headquartered in Austin, TX, with active locations in Japan, China, Germany, and the UK—is flywheel technology. This flywheel is a little bigger than the ones that used to be on toy trucks and things. Active Power’s flywheel is 4.4 inches high, 25.5 inches in diameter, and weighs 600 pounds. It spins (around 7,700 rpm) in a vacuum and it stores energy as motion (kinetic energy). When power is interrupted, inertia keeps the flywheel spinning, and it acts as a generator, converting the kinetic energy to electricity.
“As part of an uninterrupted power source [UPS] system, it bridges the gap,” explains Todd Kiehn for Active Power. The flywheel spins constantly in a vacuum, to avoid friction, and there are no permanent magnets or brushes, nor coils or magnets on the rotor. It draws power from the charger to spin accelerate the rotor, and, at full speed, only minimal power is used to maintain speed, while, at 50% speed, the system is ready to discharge. When direct current (DC) bus voltage is below a certain level, motoring is disabled and discharge initiated. Active Power’s CleanSource UPS systems can be single modules (of 130 kVA, 150 kVA, or 300 kVA) or Multi Module Systems from 300 kVA to 1,200 kVA, with paralleling capability for multi-megawatt systems. The systems are 98% efficient, as opposed to 92% for some of the best competitors with batteries, and they provide predictable, consistent backup power that is proven seven times less likely to fail than legacy UPS systems with batteries. The systems can deliver up to 60% savings in total cost of ownership by reducing power consumption costs.
For an independent continuous power system, one could consider the ActivePower PowerHouse. It includes the CleanSource UPS, a diesel generator, switchgear/ATS, a monitoring and analytics panel—all housed in a purpose-built enclosure. Plus, it’s scalable. One could select a PowerHouse that copes with 240-kW critical or 500-kW short-break, 480-kW critical/1,000-kW short-break, 720-kW critical/1,500-kW short-break, or 960-kW critical/2,000-kW short-break.
As everything is factory engineered and integrated, redundant designs are also available. ActivePower provides clear details (too long and well-explained to include here) of savings for using a PowerHouse structure, rather than, say, an electrical room (about 25%), and for savings in annual electricity expenses, carbon footprint, and measured reliability. A good example of a PowerHouse in action would be the one supplied to Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland. The university outgrew itself and moved to an innovative academic village. The university shoes a PowerHouse solution for its efficient and reliable power with a low carbon footprint. It’s a completely modular system, starting with a 500-kVA N+1 CleanSource UPS system; an 800-kVA standby engine; Gen START, which provides redundant starting power for generators; switchgear; and monitoring and controls software. The system was manufactured onsite, with minimal disruption for the new campus, and was positioned on the roof of the academic building to conserve space. Not surprisingly, that system has won awards for its efficiency and environmental performance.
More Than One Way to Fight Outages
Backup power is not necessarily an installation onsite, which has the ability to take over when the grid fails. Uninterrupted power can come from various equipment sources—like the flywheel technology mentioned above, like diesel generators—but it can also come from a concept—like storing power for later use, like controls that move power distribution from one way to another. They are all technologies, and they all deserve some research to see which is the best for your particular situation. One of the leaders in many industrial technologies is Eaton. One recent offering is a power system (the 9E), which is uninterruptible, a most efficient backup power device designed specifically for the information technology (IT) manager. Integrated with Eaton’s award-winning, intelligent Power Manager software, the 9E delivers affordable data center power management in a small footprint.
“With companies relying on IT more heavily than ever, data center capacity requirements are steadily rising,” comments Chris Loeffler, Data Center Applications manager for Eaton. “Unfortunately, so are the costs associated with data center building and operations. The dilemma is how to design and plan for the future without compromising the ability to meet business goals. How can an IT manager practice restraint while maximizing effectiveness?”
“Today, UPSs are helping to maximize uptime while being extremely energy-efficient and scalable,” notes Loeffler. “New UPSs maximize efficiency by operating in multiple modes, changing their operating characteristics to adapt to the electrical conditions of the moment. By engaging internal components only as necessary, these multi-mode UPSs can achieve exceptional efficiency, up to 99% across a broad load range. Replacing legacy UPSs with the latest energy-efficient technology is one way to reduce maintenance and energy costs and ensure power reliability to a greater degree.”
In a 1-MW data center, a 10-year-old UPS could be wasting 120 kW or more of utility power and dissipating a lot of added heat. Replacing that vintage equipment with new, high-efficiency UPSs can free up to 120 kW of power to support new IT equipment and reduce the burden on cooling systems. Replacing just one 550-kW UPS from a redundant UPS configuration with a high-efficiency model could save more than $40,000 in power and cooling costs each year, while eliminating 190 tons of carbon dioxide emissions ad netting substantial utility company rebates.
“The best news is that manufacturers have dramatically improved the efficiency of power protection systems, reducing the costs and environmental impact of powering businesses,” asserts Loeffler. “With today’s advances, IT managers can get more done in less space with smaller equipment and position their companies to meet IT goals with maximum cost-effectiveness.”
There’s more to controlling your power than a backup unit in the yard. “Beyond power quality and availability, the distribution of that power also plays a vital role in the performance of mission-critical equipment,” observes Dave Proli, Engineering Manager at Marway, a company whose power distribution products have enjoyed remarkable success in many public and private markets for several years. “Today’s power distribution units [PDUs] offer a wide array of options from standard off-the-shelf units, commercial off-the-shelf units [COTS], COTS-modified, or a custom solution designed to meet the needs of a particular application. For some applications, selecting the right power distribution scheme is vital to overall performance, longevity, and uptime.” Proli suggests that it’s important—before diving in and selecting a PDU—to understand a variety of power challenges, as this can determine what type of power distribution is needed.
- What type of power conversion does the system require (facility/configuration versus equipment needs)?
- What type of power receptacles is required?
- What type of control and monitoring capabilities is needed?
- What type of power conditioning is required?
- What kind of noise and transients is present in the facility power?
- How stable is the facility power; do I need to worry about brownouts and blackouts?
- How sensitive is my equipment to the issues listed above?
Stable power, free of noise, is paramount in order to perform functions optimally and reliably. Mobile power sources and some power utilities will not deliver clear signals. Even the clean power supplied by a developed nation’s power utility will become degraded within a facility.
“Since signal problems are introduced to power lines throughout a facility’s wiring,” advises Proli, “it is beneficial to add power conditioning at points throughout the facility. An effective place to do this is at the power distribution points near the end-use equipment with a PDU. Whether an off-the-shelf, modified or a complete custom power design is required, today’s PDUs offer a smarter, lighter, and more cost-effective solution over PDUs of the past. A combination of power performance, packaging efficiency, and reliability are key attributes to consider when choosing power distribution systems.”
Storing energy for later (or emergency) use is a well-tried and popular backup technique. A leader in that field of equipment is International Battery. “We believe that large-format, high energy density, Lithium-ion batteries provide advanced energy storage for a myriad of applications, including backup power,” advises David McShane, vice president of Sales and Business Development at International Battery. “In fact, NASA awarded International Battery a contract to build an energy dense storage system for an auxiliary power unit [APU] to maintain backup power for critical ground operations. Since its successful test at Kennedy Space Center [in 2009], NASA has ordered several more units for deployment. Key considerations were International Battery’s high energy density rating and chemistry safety.”
For maintenance and management, a comprehensive Battery Management System (BMS) is deployed along with the battery modules. The BMS is designed specifically for large-format cells and provides increased safety and performance through individual cell monitoring and continuous cell balancing. In terms of maintenance, the system’s graphical user interface information can be communicated remotely or via an SD card, allowing service technicians to identify any issues with the battery’s charge status. With a pullout drawer, the unit is definitely service-friendly.
“International Battery’s individual cells are 10 to 50 times larger than those commonly labeled ‘large format’ today,” says McShane. “Employing fewer cells than lead-acid batteries to store the same quantity of energy lowers the cost of integrated battery systems and improves performance. Having an order of magnitude reduction in the number of cells also enables a reduced number of battery interconnections, and that improves the reliability of the battery pack and provides a much higher value proposition.”
What Do We Look for Before Setting Up a Backup System?
“Building managers face increased demands for a clean, stable supply of electrical power, but building electrical systems are not free of disturbances,” advises Brian Bills, director of Business Development at Alliance Micro, a channel partner of Emerson Network Power, a group with unparalleled experience in all things electric. “Voltage spikes, brownouts, electrical noise, and blackouts are all too common, due to a wide range of faults both inside and outside of the facility. A variety of equipment from computers and communication systems to test equipment and manufacturing processes require the electrical supply to be free of disturbance if the equipment is to operate reliably and without interruption.”
What’s a building manager to do? “In order to specify correctly and choose a backup power system for a facility, the following list and questions will help you consider many important, basic factors involved,” suggests Bills.
- Start by gathering information.
- What is the maximum possible load (kVA)? Consider future growth; is this figure calculated or measured/actual? The building manager’s best bet is to have a survey performed and have the existing load and other required data measured.
- What is the Power Factor (PF) of the load: Is it lagging or leading? Traditional loads are typically lagging, but some of today’s new equipment (like blade servers) can create a leading PF. This will have an impact on the calculation of the size of the load (kilovolt-ampere rating), as well as the efficiency of the UPS.
- What, if required, is the level of redundancy? How critical is the load? For highly critical loads, the use of multiple modules in paralleled UPS systems allows the failure of a single unit without dropping the load.
- What is the battery backup time? If the facility has generators, a 15-minute run time is usually sufficient. This allows time for the engines to start up and “receive” the load via transfer from the UPS in an outage. Without engines, a 30-minute runtime is typical as this allows time for an orderly emergency shutdown of the supported critical systems during an outage.
- What is the size of the generator? Know the UPS power factor to calculate the size of the generator.
“During the UPS sizing selection process,” counsels Bills, “the building manager will want to keep in mind that the more closely the UPS capacity matches its load, the more efficiently the UPS will operate and save the facility energy costs.”
It is also important to have details of the loads to be supported.
- What is the Voltage/Frequency: does the equipment (load) need a voltage or frequency different from the building’s power source?
- There are different types of loads. Can some of the equipment being supported cause problems? Motors or compressors (A/C systems) can draw high inrush currents during both startup and normal operation. These characteristics must be taken into consideration when sizing the UPS. These types of loads are typically not supported by the UPS. Computer equipment, which is a typical UPS load, can exhibit similar problematic behavior with inrush currents, neutral currents, and harmonic distortion (more to consider when you are sizing your UPS). Single-phase loads should be evenly distributed on the output of a three-phase UPS to best utilize the UPS rating.
And, some final advice. “Before starting a facility upgrade, remember to touch base with your power and cooling professionals to learn firsthand about the latest products and technologies, and to ensure a safe and effective installation,” concludes Bills.
After the Emergency? Getting Going Again
Sometimes even the most careful preparations cannot compensate for damage done by an outage, storm, or other natural disaster. About a year ago, when Kentucky was struck by an ice storm that wreaked havoc on many communities, the recovery was made more acceptable because of a service provided by a company called Agility Recovery. This company provides generators to substitute for lost power, but it also provides much more practical assistance that seems worth mentioning in this article on backup choices.
After that ice storm, Agility Recovery provided emergency generators for 21 cities and municipalities, generators that supported storm rescue and recovery efforts and powered city halls, civic centers, more than 900 command centers, community shelters, and water plants. With their critical resources up and running, public officials could concentrate on the safety and health of their constituents. In total, this disaster recovery program benefited almost 400 municipalities in Kentucky.
Basically, for a monthly fee, Agility provides power generators, office space, technology, and satellite connectivity for phone and Internet access. In other words, this service keeps the continuity of your operations. The program is called ReadySuite, and the monthly cost varies according to the amount of equipment, space, etc. expected to use. As with most good services, customers can plan and determine the extent of recovery wanted before investing in anything.
Author's Bio: Paul Hull is a frequent contributor to Forester Media publications.