7 power management strategies to help avoid unexpected outages

Stewart Gregory, VP of Power Products at Schneider Electric look at 7 power power management strategies that electrical professionals need to know about:

Large buildings and critical infrastructure have never been more dependent on reliable power. Outages are not only inconvenient, but they lead to lost revenue, bad service, and in some scenarios, loss of life.

Paradoxically, as we become more reliant on power, outages are at the same time becoming increasingly common. There are many reasons for this. Severe weather events have become more common, the transmission grid is aging, electrical systems are increasingly complex, and utilities are accessing more decentralized power sources. These factors are combining to cause more power disturbances than ever before.

To tackle an increasingly unpredictable supply, power infrastructures need to be more resilient. Do you know what your risk exposure is and how resilient your operations are? What would happen if you experience an unexpected power interruption? How would one minute or one hour of unplanned downtime impact your bottom line? If your business relies on clean, stable, reliable power, you need to monitor and maintain high levels of power quality, ideally meeting international standards like EN 50160 and IEEE 519.

To avoid costly downtime there are seven key methods building managers and power maintenance staff should look to deploy.

Electrical Distribution Monitoring & Alarming

A power management system gives operations and maintenance staff visibility of the status of the entire electrical system, helping organisations monitor and run reports on conditions like peak demand and loading of equipment like breakers, UPSs, transformers, generators, etc. Teams will receive alarms on any abnormal conditions or events, letting them see, analyse, and understand where failures of the electrical distribution network come from.

Breaker Settings Monitoring

Organisations need to be confident that electrical protection devices can fulfil their function, with protection coordination that reduces the impact of an outage. A power management system helps regularly check breaker configuration to prevent issues due to inappropriate or poorly coordinated circuit breaker settings.

Capacity Management

Power management tools will help power managers understand the capacity needs of their electrical distribution infrastructure, including supplying expansions or modifications of the facility environment. This can make sure that when upgrading the facility organisations will not be exceeding the rated capacity of equipment. This will help mitigate potential risks to the electrical infrastructure due to things like nuisance breaker trips or overheating that can cause fires.

Backup Power Testing

Business continuity depends on critical assets like motors, transformers and backup power systems. It is critical to ensure the reliability and availability of back-up power supply systems in the event of

unexpected power outages. Using accurate data from the electrical distribution system, a power management system can help. Automated routines test generators to ensure regulatory compliance, while helping save time, improve productivity and ensure accuracy of testing process and documentation per standards or manufacturer recommendations.

Power Quality Monitoring & Correction

Power quality issues can go unnoticed and have a major impact on operations and processes, leading to equipment damage, useful lifetime being degraded, or unplanned downtime. These hidden issues are more common than expected, with an estimated 15% of facilities operating with problematic power quality. 70% of power quality disturbances originate within facilities and cause 30-40% of resulting downtime incidents. A power management system has the analytic tools to help understand which power quality events could adversely affect operations. Managers can monitor and analyse persistent power quality disturbances, determining actions needed to correct issues. This might include the installation of power quality correction equipment, such as harmonic filters.

Power Control & Automation

Power management and power operation systems offer the ability perform manual and automated remote control of loads. This can simplify load shedding for demand control or demand response strategies. Automatic control schemes can also be used for power source transfers. This can support self-healing network reconfiguration to quickly isolate a fault and restore power.

Power Event Analysis

When a potentially damaging power event occurs electrical networks, staff need to be able to isolate it quickly. Power management systems give advanced tools that include alarm prioritization, sequence-of-events analysis, and disturbance direction detection that help perform efficient root cause analysis. Armed with this information, teams can immediately make the right decisions, use mobile app guidance tools to help restore power, and perform preventative actions to avoid similar future events.

Now more than ever before organizations need to focus on power availability and reliability. By combining the right processes with the best digital tools, they are able to reduce the risk of unplanned downtime, create efficient electrical operations, and eliminate frequent equipment failures. This will ultimately allow them to avoid unplanned downtime which risks customer loyalty and financial losses.

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