In today’s 24/7/365 business world, organizations rely on power to keep virtually every aspect of their operations functioning. Power outages—whether caused by lightning strikes, blackouts, aging electrical systems, or natural disasters—can potentially result in loss of perishable inventory, customer service disruptions, and reduced productivity.
A study by the Electrical Power Research Institute estimated that U.S. businesses lost $188 billion in 2001 due to power outages and quality disturbances. Regardless of the duration or cause, power outages can have disastrous implications on the finances and future of a company. For this reason, businesses of all types are beginning to recognize the value of bringing temporary portable generators online safely and quickly in the event of a power failure. Temporary power connection cabinets and systems should be an integral part of a facilities emergency planning.
Even power-critical facilities such as schools, hospitals, and municipal facilities that already possess back-up generation on the premises can benefit greatly by supplementing on-site generation with a portable temporary generator. Generally, back-up generators are only capable of supporting critical functions such as emergency lighting, or in the case of hospitals, life support systems. In the event of an extended power outage that lasts days or even weeks, applications not supported by the backup generator—such as heating and cooling systems, food services, and data systems—can become essential to their business continuity.
Fortunately, a number of new products are becoming available that give facilities the ability to safely and rapidly deploy and connect portable generators. A facility’s back-up power need is the determining factor in choosing which product would be the most appropriate fit. This is the stage where recommendations from a knowledgeable and trustworthy contractor like Power Products, Inc. is essential. Safety features and cost are among many factors that need to be considered. Ideally, power protection systems are installed when the utility power is normal so that the potential for safety problems associated with connecting a portable generator to a facility’s electrical system during lost-power conditions is reduced.
For example, critical mission facilities in the Southeast are now partnering with Power Products, Inc. and leading rental power providers to prepare for the annual hurricane seasons. As each hurricane season approaches, mobile or truck-mounted generators are staged outside each facility to support the on-site emergency generators. Using “plug-and-play” switchboard devices, the generators are quickly and safely connected to cam-type plug receptacles located on the outside of the switchboard when the outage occurs. These devises are sometimes called “generator connection cabinets”. This configuration permits rapid generator connection by eliminating guesswork, avoiding hazards associated with opening electrical panels, and preventing workers from running power cables through flooded, potentially dangerous conditions. The vast majority of the facilities that have implemented these precautionary measures reported that they were able to endure the initial impact of Hurricanes without losing power.
Incidentally, these same techniques also prepare the facility for other unscheduled power interruptions such as Utility failure, planned maintenance, tornados, accidents, winter storms, floods, etc. Many companies with multiple locations choose to stage one or more generators at a central location to serve any of the facilities that might experience a power outage. Then they can simply and quickly hook the cables into the generator connection cabinet and be up and running in no time!
In terms of product selection, large power-critical operations, such as hospitals, schools, municipal facilities, large office buildings, and grocery stores with electrical ratings ranging from 800 amps to 4,000 amps, should consider installing “quick-connect” switchboards that provide a connection point for bringing additional back-up generation on line. The switchboard, or generator connection cabinet, eliminates the need to modify a facility’s structure to accommodate generator cables or make additional field modifications to an internal switchboard. Once installed, the switchboard becomes a permanent connection point for temporary generators to the facility. By simplifying connection tasks, more time is freed up to focus on important situations that occur during power losses.
A similar product is available for smaller facilities that have back-up power needs. Ideal for equipment rated between 100 amps and 800 amps, safety switch products provide facilities such as convenience stores, retail establishments, restaurants, small offices and extended care facilities with a low-cost, reliable connection point during power outages.
An alternate method of generator connection and similar to the switchboard connect; safety switch products enable safe and rapid connection between temporary generators and the electrical distribution system in the event of a power outage. For example, Eaton offers a Quick Connect Double-Throw Safety Switch product that allows a rental generator to be plugged in to the switch via receptacles rather than having to open the switch—thus avoiding significant safety hazards. Once connected, the switch easily transfers the building from the utility feed to the emergency standby generator.
Another readily available option in power protection is a termination box. Serving as an intermediary termination point between the facility and the temporary generator, the termination box is intended for loads up to 2,500 amps and is designed as a heavy-duty, outside enclosure. The primary purpose of the box is to minimize the length of exposed conductors between the temporary generator and the facility. The box requires manual connection in the event of power failure, but it is an effective and cost-efficient way to power a facility in the event of an outage. Termination boxes are commonly used in locations such as telecom facilities, data centers, office buildings and institutional facilities. The previously described dedicated devises remain the best way to install a generator connection cabinet in any system.
For facilities requiring a continuous source of power, products such as automatic transfer switches provide constant and reliable power. Products such as these have the ability to detect when the utility power has been interrupted and automatically send a signal to the temporary generator. Automatic transfer switches are commonly used at facilities where power outages can have serious financial and productivity implications such as grocery stores, large office buildings, hospitals, and educational facilities. With the hurricane season soon to be here, facilities of all types would be wise to take preventative measures to ensure that their power will stay on in the event of planned maintenance, utility failure, natural disaster, or power quality disturbance. These power protection products will enable facilities to stay up and running and avoid significant financial losses associated with power outages.
Although simple in concept, these solutions are very site specific and require competent analysis to determine the best approach for each facility depending on the nature of the need and the power configuration in place. Also, the most cost effective approach is to engage one company to accomplish the complete design and installation of the components necessary. In addition, it is important to work with a firm who will be there in the future if problems arise or the facilities’ needs change.
Power Products, Inc. has the diverse skills necessary to manage projects on a design-build basis. We have installed many complex emergency power systems, worked with a wide variety of customers including consulting engineers, Public Utilities, electrical contractors and corporate clients. We have sold custom power systems and services to numerous markets including computer services, distributed generation, petroleum, marine, agricultural, mining, governmental, and OEM.
Planning and constructing a critical infrastructure has taken on new meaning as end users and building owners demand total reliability, rapid delivery and strict cost controls. We are experts in site evaluation and solving complex power problems for your facility in the most cost effective manner possible. Finding the right team of professionals to plan and execute your project has never been more important as power needs and complexities continue to grow.
Whether designing and construction of a world-class facility, or analyzing and reviewing your individual power requirements, we have the resources to assist you with all aspects of your mission critical power requirements. Our team focuses on the details around the development of your critical power needs so you can stay focused on your ongoing business. We never forget that our most important product is peace of mind to you, the owner. Contact us for a free discussion and evaluation of your critical power needs.