By: Allan Evora
Who are the best candidates for an EPMS system?
Depending on the level of detailed information your facility needs about your power, you may not need an EPMS system at all. To avoid overspecification and wasted money, let’s talk about the best candidates for an EPMS system.
In our experience, typically the facilities that deem power or energy to be critical, and/or a significant expense, are best candidates for EPMS systems.
Within the industries Affinity Energy works in, those EPMS system candidates tend to be:
- Data Centers: The U.S. Department of Energy estimates data centers will consume 4% of total U.S. energy consumption by 2020. Data centers are a HUGE spender of energy. Whether it’s the corporate data center of a financial institute or a colocation data center with multiple tenants, any data center has critical software applications that don’t function under the loss of power.
- Central Energy Plants: All central energy plants can benefit from an EPMS, but especially medical campus central energy plants. Because there is a life safety factor involved, with critical procedures and potential health ramifications, an EPMS can help energy plant operators stop any issues that could cause downtime.
- Airports: At any given moment, more than half a million people are in the air. Airport runway lights and control towers are critical to the safety of each person, making an electrical power management system a high-priority tool for airport power continuity.
- Industrial & Manufacturing Facilities: Because manufacturing plants are such energy hogs, it’s difficult for owners to implement energy conservation control strategies without the data gleaned from EPMS. The reasoning isn’t just about energy conservation and cost savings, though. With the heavy machinery running at many plants, the loss of power could jeopardize safety and put employees at risk.
RELATED: Learn EPMS basics
Just because you have smart devices, doesn’t mean you should specify an EPMS system
Often times, an EPMS system is specified purely because facility equipment already has the smart devices. In the engineer or owner’s mind, “Why not just supply the computer and run the cable?”
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. An EPMS system with higher-end qualities means a costlier infrastructure. The ability to extract the info, visualize it, and analyze it will take more significant investment than one that doesn’t.
Not to mention, if the owner hasn’t made a provision for an EPMS system in his or her process, it’s never going to be used…. ultimately a giant waste of money.
If your facility came with the smart power quality and sequence of events recording equipment, but you don’t have the resources to analyze it, interrogate it, or make actionable decisions based on it, an EPMS investment is a bad investment.
For example, many new commercial office buildings come with the ability to do power quality and sag/swell, but the level of sophistication and availability of technical resources that understand electrical distribution are significantly limited.
To reiterate: just because you have a smart device, doesn’t mean you should spend the money to integrate that device.
Do I have to install an EPMS system if I need power quality data?
Smart devices have the ability to store the last several events within the device, sometimes up to 30 days’ worth of information.
You don’t have to integrate your high-end power meters into your online EPMS system. You can decide to install meters and then extract the data from devices on a case by case basis.
This is the way one of our medical campus central energy plant customers has decided to use the high-end Schneider Electric meters built in to their facility. Nobody collects the data from them, and they’re not integrated into the EPMS system. However, if our customer ever had a power quality event and wanted to understand what happened on a detailed level, they could extract the device information by plugging the meter into a laptop. It’s the economical best of both worlds.
Are you required to have an EPMS system in order to analyze high quality power data? No. But it sure is convenient.
Still want an EPMS? Avoid EPMS overspecification
When I start specifying and designing EPMS systems, I try to understand the end user and how they plan to use the EPMS system This is important because not all end users need a high end EPMS system. They might be able to get away with a SCADA system instead.
Unfortunately there tends to be a lot of overspecification when it comes to EPMS.
Here are three situations I generally recommend:
1. Get an OEM EPMS
If you need higher-end energy functions, such as waveform, sag/swell detection, transient detection, and harmonic analysis, it probably makes sense to integrate a proprietary EPMS. Most OEM EPMS systems like Schneider-Electric's Power SCADA Expert, GE's EnerVista Viewpoint, or Eaton's PowerXpert support open protocols like Modbus and DNP or APIs like OPC, so third-party integration is definitely possible. A word of caution: the number of potential service providers with systems integration expertise will be more limited when compared to option #2.
2. Just use SCADA
If you don’t need advanced analysis such as waveform capture or sequence of events recording, and you’re just looking for basic electrical parameters, you should use an open SCADA system to be the basis of your EPMS. You can save yourself a lot of money and a lot of complexity. Additionally, you will most likely have more options for sourcing both the software and the systems integration services, which may be important if you wish to solicit competitive bids.
3. Use a hybrid EPMS/SCADA solution
If you don’t want to commit to a certain manufacturer but still need higher-end electrical analysis functionality, utilize an open SCADA solution like VTScada or Wonderware. Then, specify intelligent electronic devices that display advanced data in a web browser. Or, use standard IT protocols such as FTP to save the waveform and SER data in COMMTRADE format that can be viewed using a COMMTRADE viewer. Your systems integrator can embed the web page or viewer in a frame so you can easily access the advanced data when needed.
Hybrid EPMS/SCADA case study
We have a financial institution data center customer using a Wonderware SCADA system that monitors over a dozen buildings and hundreds of power and environmental reliability equipment such as generators, automatic transfer switches, UPSs, air conditioning units, fire alarms, leak detection, etc. When the system was originally specified over 15 years ago, the owner understood the importance of being able to detect sags, swells, and transients and installed Power Measurement's ION power quality meters with disturbance detection.
Since we could not directly integrate the waveform and disturbance reporting to Wonderware, we installed Power Measurement Pegasys software. (At the time, it had an easy to use Windows client for advanced analysis.) An operator who wanted to view the advanced meter data merely had to click on a button in Wonderware. We scripted a command line to bring up the client software and give it primary focus on the system.
Over the years, we’ve updated the software to ION Enterprise and embedded its web client in a frame right within Wonderware. Today they use Power Monitoring Expert and the same simple methodology for accessing this advanced power analysis data.
And you know what? It works great. The end-user is still able to use the seamless proprietary software and hardware, but they can easily view it within their SCADA system.
Answer these questions before specifying an EPMS
If an EPMS system sounds like it’s for you, I recommend thinking about these questions as you put together your specification. Ultimately, they’ll help your system integrator create the best system for you, and avoid under or overspecification.
1. How will the power management system be used?
Quickly respond to abnormal electrically related conditions
Load profiling or capacity planning
Emergency power system compliance reporting
Power quality analysis (sags, swells, transients)
Load shedding or load management
Energy reporting (cost allocation, tenant billing)
Support engineering studies
Utility shadow billing (verify utility bill)
Equipment/building efficiency verification
Branch circuit monitoring
2. Who will be the primary users of the system?
Control Room Operator
3. How frequently will the system be viewed or interacted with?
As needed, based on system events
4. What features do you want as part of the power management system?
Remote notification of alarms and events
Custom graphics – Single lines or risers
Custom graphics – Frontal elevations
Custom graphics – Floor plans
Energy reporting and analysis
Device setpoint management
Power factor analysis
Sequence of event recording
Real‐time data (acceptable refresh rate ________?)
Interface to BAS
Interface to DCS
5. Select the types of systems to be integrated into the power management system.
High voltage substations (above 33KV)
Medium voltage substations (2.4 to 33KV)
Low voltage substations (below 2.4KV)
Motor control centers
Variable frequency drives
Emergency power systems
- Paralleling gear
- Automatic transfer switches
- Battery systems
Data center equipment
- CRAC units
- Power distribution units
- Static transfer switches
- Branch circuits
If you’re looking for a system integrator to help you answer these questions, give us a shout.
Allan D. Evora is a leading expert in control systems integration and president of Affinity Energy with over 20 years of industry experience working in every capacity of the power automation project life cycle. With a background at Boeing Company and General Electric, Allan made the decision to establish Affinity Energy in 2002. Allan is an alumnus of Syracuse University with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, graduate of the NC State Energy Management program, and qualified as a Certified Measurement & Verification Professional (CMVP).
Throughout his career, Allan has demonstrated his passion for providing solutions. In 1990, he developed FIRST (Fast InfraRed Signature Technique), a preliminary design software tool used to rapidly assess rotary craft infrared signatures. In 2008, Allan was the driving force behind the development of Affinity Energy's Utilitrend; a commercially available, cloud-based utility resource trending, tracking, and reporting software.
Allan has been instrumental on large scale integration projects for utilities, universities, airports, financial institutions, medical campus utility plants, and manufacturing corporations, and has worked with SCADA systems since the early ‘90s. A passion for data acquisition, specialty networks, and custom software drives him to incorporate openness, simplicity, and integrity into every design in which he is involved.