Designing facilities with power quality in mind.
By: Allan Evora
With more electricity consumed within plants and more wireless low-powered sensitive devices integrated, electromagnetic interference (EMI) impacts on equipment will continue to increase. A result of electricity and magnetic fields, EMI occurs due to an electromagnetic field created by motors or from current carrying conductors at different voltage levels in close proximity. That field can influence sensitive electronics to experience abnormal operation.
Power-quality issues like EMI are influencing the design of automation devices and systems. It is imperative that facilities are designed with power quality in mind upfront, to avoid the issues that come down the road.
Case study: Industrial LED lighting
Did you know when high bay LED lighting was first installed in many industrial facilities, they experienced a high rate of failure? One of the primary reasons was because manufacturers did not research to understand the voltage disturbances and harmonics that can be present in many industrial settings. Their initial assumptions were that lights needed similar protection to outdoor lighting which was primarily surge suppression.
These early failures proved costly. Although the manufacturers provided replacements and even addressed the need for more robust drivers in their lights, owners were still stuck with the labor cost to replace all failed lights and most likely even the ones that hadn’t failed. It was only a matter of time.
An industrial plant with PQ meters may not have prevented this scenario; however, by being proactive about PQ, they have been able to create an environment in which the LED lights were less prone to fail. This would have allowed the owner to replace the lights on their own terms rather than being forced to replace them when they started failing.
Here are a few solutions facilities are using today to mitigate the risks of power quality.
If you have a high level of electromagnetic interference, avoid copper cabling and wireless devices. Most automation equipment uses copper for communications, which can have the potential to carry damaging current and voltage levels. Instead, look at installing fiber optic cabling. Optical transfer of information is immune to electromagnetic interference and won’t contribute to the problem.
IIoT opens doors in power quality that were previously closed due to high cost. Now, instead of being another expensive point on a PLC or SCADA system, IIoT helps capture power quality data in a more cost-effective manner.
If a facility is already leveraging IIoT to count parts or measure temperatures, that same technology can be leveraged to count power quality disturbances and be brought directly into an IIoT enterprise level operations dashboard. SCADA and PLCs can be bypassed altogether.
For those hesitant to become involved in measuring power quality, IIoT sensors are a great way to get your feet wet. With a low cost IIoT digital input sensor, you could record whenever the power factor drops below a threshold, or monitor how often you detect a sag/swell or transient. By correlating with equipment, you might be able to predict causation or failure in certain equipment.
Power quality meters
The cost of power quality has come down substantially over the years. The other thing that has greatly improved is the usability of the software. If you really want to get down in the weeds, detailed waveforms and harmonic spectrums are still available, but solutions like Schneider Electric’s Power Monitoring Expert (PME) have made power quality as easy as viewing your PQ dashboard in a red/yellow/green color scheme.
When it comes to power quality, if you are not currently monitoring and tracking PQ key performance indicators, you are taking a significant risk. It is not a question of if, but when a PQ event will strike.
What is even more amazing is that an event may not even be related to something within your facility. It may originate from outside your facility. But without the necessary tools (PQ meters) how will you know?
According to research by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the U.S. experiences losses related to poor power quality in the range of $119 billion to $188 billion per year. Don't let your facility become another statistic.
Now go back and read part 1: 4 Major Power Quality Issues in Industrial Facilities and part 2: Detecting Power Quality Events in Industrial Facilities
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.