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5 Places Where Critical Power Plays a Crucial Role

Daniel McGinn  |

At Schneider Electric, Critical Power is about providing conditioned, reliable power to essential loads in the Industry and Infrastructure spaces, including power for assets like process equipment, facilities systems and critical appliances. These solutions take the form of UPS systems that eliminate the impact of power related events and disturbances.

The risks associated with power interruption are not always readily apparent. Understanding these risks and the cost of power related events in your facilities is essential. Costs can take the form of:

  • Lost business and production capacity
  • Idled workforce
  • Required intervention of maintenance staff
  • Damage to or loss of product and materials
  • Damage to process or facility equipment
  • Loss of facility and process information (data)
  • Possible impact on people (workers/customers) from inconvenience to compromised safety

An essential part of any comprehensive risk analysis for your facility and its systems is weighing these costs of power related events against the likelihood that such an event may occur.

The most obvious type of power event is a sustained outage but events such as transients, sags, spikes, dips and phase imbalances may also warrant protection. (See whitepaper #18 for more detailed information on other types of power problems.) The source for such events can be the utility grid but are often more local, originating within the facility.

Many facilities with systems deemed critical provide generator backup. While generators protect for events originating at the utility grid, Critical Power solutions provide layered system protection, closer to assets, protecting them from local events and, in the case of utility events, providing power during the time it takes generators to come on line.

While Critical Power solutions are often a complement to generators, they also serve many needs where generators are not typically present. In Industrial and Infrastructure applications, the purpose of Critical Power systems may not be to keep operations running during a sustained outage, but to provide a safe and reliable shutdown or to keep essential monitoring systems available.

The following are five examples of where Critical Power solutions can play a crucial role in Industry and Infrastructure applications.

1 – Industrial Control Systems

UPS Systems have always had a place in industrial control, particularly in critical systems requiring the highest availability. Safety Instrumented Systems (SIS) are a good example. However, SIS and other high availability systems often justify the use of a more layered Critical Power approach protecting devices and controllers locally. Also, modern control systems are, more than ever, becoming service oriented architectures that constantly provide system information for improved diagnostics and reliability. Keeping the brains of these systems alive during power events is more important than ever. Control systems (i.e. PLC, PAC, DCS) as well as system instrumentation benefit from Critical Power solutions.

2 – Facility Control Systems

Much like industrial control systems, controllers that feed modern building management systems (BMS) and energy management and control systems (EMCS) play a critical role. The controllers as well as building instrumentation and energy metering are only as good as the power feeding them.

3 – Industrial Networks & Communication

Modern industrial networks are supporting more and more information exchange compared to traditional systems. The combination of Ethernet and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has led to the need for networks that require both deterministic control along with plenty of bandwidth to carry critical data. Protecting these networks with Critical Power solutions is essential. The same can be said of field communication, where remote telemetry units (RTUs) and other wireless solutions are used in everything from 911 call centers to wide area industrial applications in verticals such as mining and utilities. Security systems are another important consideration, as they use an ever-increasing amount of network bandwidth, with video cameras delivering massive amounts of information to DVR systems.

4 – Control Rooms

Modern control room environments are more essential to continuous operation than ever. Critical control rooms exist in utility, manufacturing and transportation facilities to name just a few. These often represent an island of IT infrastructure (network and server) along with system monitors, workstations and elements of the control systems. Critical Power solutions are key to keeping these systems available during power events. A key control room variant is the security office which not only provides access control but also DVR infrastructure, which is only as available as the power supporting it.

5 – Critical Loads

Once the “brains” of your infrastructure are protected it is essential to identify the critical “mains,” meaning the power loads that are important to keep in operation during a power event. These vary by industry and are ultimately identified by best practices and risk assessments in a particular segment. Examples include operating theaters in hospitals, UV lights in water treatment plants, radar equipment for airports, booster systems in pipeline applications and emergency lighting systems – and many more.

In short, Critical Power solutions represent insurance: insurance for your process, insurance for your assets, insurance for your facility.

To learn more about critical power systems and how you can protect your facility, click here.


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