Universal control of power management systems

July 2017 Infrastructure, Security Services & Risk Management

The South African business and consumer communities have undergone a baptism of fire over recent years when it comes to understanding power management. Eskom’s load shedding and irregular electricity supply made people power management experts overnight and saw many organisations installing UPS and generator sets to manage their own power.

Fortunately, Eskom has avoided load shedding for some time and expects to keep the lights on for a while. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the electricity supply is perfect. Poor maintenance and old equipment still results in occasional unexpected power outages, and the power supply is certainly not stable. Surges and brownouts, mostly minor, are still the order of the day.

Companies with their own power management systems are therefore still using them and are ready to keep the wheels of commerce turning at all times. Unfortunately, even the best generators and UPSs are made up of mechanical and electronic components, which means they are liable to wear-and-tear over time.

Ruan du Toit, head of R&D, Master Power Technologies.
Ruan du Toit, head of R&D, Master Power Technologies.

Master Power Technologies (MPT) has installed many power management solutions across Africa over the past few years and understands the need to maintain equipment to ensure it delivers the service required over the long term. Ruan du Toit, head of the R&D department at MPT says the installation of a power management solution is only the first step in managing your organisation’s power.

“The systems we install are all from brands that produce high quality products, yet they will degrade over time if not cared for properly,” he explains. “Companies can handle this maintenance in-house by appointing someone with the right skills to keep the systems running. However, this is a time-consuming job and prone to errors, and it is only done at set intervals.”

To overcome the maintenance issues, MPT developed its Universal Controller (UC). The UC is a combination of hardware and software, a PLC and scada device in one, designed to continually keep tabs on power management infrastructures.

Remote monitoring

The UC is installed on a site and monitors the generators and UPSs 24x7, raising an alarm as soon as it detects something is out of the norm. These alarms are transmitted by TCP/IP to a control room or operations centre on site, or it can be sent to a remote centre where a company can manage all its sites centrally. MPT also offers a monitoring service where customers’ power management systems are monitored from the company’s Strijdom Park offices.

Du Toit explains that the UC monitors the manner and efficiency with which generators take over from the UPS when the power fails, as well as other operating measurements. These include the temperature, the amount and quality of diesel, the current and voltage, along with other readings.

It also monitors UPS systems, keeping an eye on system summary data, the batteries, mains failures and bypass relays. MPT also developed a battery manager which monitors banks of batteries in UPS installations. It will quickly determine if a battery is about to fail, as well as the charge levels, output capacity and so forth of each battery.

“Only one bad battery in a UPS will have a detrimental impact on the UPS as a whole,” explains Du Toit. “It is therefore worthwhile monitoring the batteries and replacing ones that are about to fail to support the longevity and performance of the UPS.”

The UC can also monitor fire panels, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems, and water levels (in case of flooding).

Easy, graphical display

All the information collected is transferred to a visual display in a monitoring centre, as well as an Android tablet. Du Toit notes that the measurements are colour-coded to allow operators to quickly and easily detect a problem. Companies can also compare measurements in graphs to indicate the overall health of their power management systems as well as fluctuations in performance over time.

When an emergency occurs, the system can be tasked with sending an SMS, or multiple SMSs to relevant parties, ensuring everyone who needs to know about a problem is informed immediately. For customers with a maintenance agreement in place with a service provider, they will be notified of the problem and know that the maintenance crew has the same warning and is on the way – depending on the service-level agreement.

The UC can’t avoid wear and tear, nor can it abolish the need for maintenance on costly power management equipment, however, it will constantly monitor your power management solutions to ensure they remain in optimal condition and are ready to deliver a constant flow of clean power, no matter what Eskom does.

For more information, contact Master Power Technologies, +27 (0) 11 792 7230, [email protected], www.kva.co.za

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