Pros and cons of networked genset controls: Web exclusive

Having standby and emergency power systems connected to a networked controls system can provide monitoring and alarm functions should potential problems arise. However, there are differing opinions about connecting any kind of backup system to a network. Here two industry experts discuss the pros and cons of connecting these power systems to a network.

09/29/2012


Meet our roundtable participants:

  • Carlos Petty, vice president, group manager, Syska Hennessy Group, New York
  • Kenneth Lovorn, PE, president, Lovorn Engineering Associates, Pittsburgh  

Q: Discuss your firm’s involvement with standby and emergency power systems that are connected to a networked control/automation system.

Carlos Petty, vice president, group manager, Syska Hennessy Group, New YorkPetty: It has been our experience that projects based on an intelligent building solutions model require experienced engineering consultants that can bridge the gap between IT and facility-based systems.

Lovorn: We have designed numerous emergency power systems for hospitals, data centers, and other critical loads, but none of them were intended to be connected to a control/automation system.

Q: To what extent are the standby and emergency power systems with which you work associated with a control/automation system network (e.g., remote annunciation, alarms, BAS, genset control, other)?

Petty: Many of our international projects originating in Korea, China, or in the Middle East require the design of an intelligent building management system and a command and control center (CCC). Emergency power systems operating health status and alarms are typically monitored. Remote control of generators is typically not done. The CCC houses a unified monitoring station, which replaces the requirement for an individual dedicated station serving emergency power and building automation while drastically improving functionality and overall performance of each system by integrating them into an enhanced IT infrastructure.

Lovorn: With the exception of remote annunciation provided by the generator manufacturer, we strongly discourage connecting these systems to a BAS. 

Q: In your experience, what is the state of the art regarding networked controls for standby or emergency power systems?

Petty: Controls for standby or emergency power systems have evolved due to the rapid growth of technology, coupled with the national initiative to move the U.S. electrical grid to a Smart Grid model. This has propelled manufacturers of standby or emergency power systems to adapt and quickly create opportunities to meet new control and data power optimization applications such as utilities and demand response programs, where power generating equipment is considered part of a total energy management movement in the digital age.

Q: What insights does your firm offer regarding how these networked controls for standby or emergency power systems are best applied?

Petty: When connected to an IT communication network, emergency power systems can capitalize on the advancements of the IT world: high-bandwidth cabling practices, allowing for information data exchange using a common cabling infrastructure based on Ethernet technology.

These systems are best applied for projects where multiple sites exist and real-time asset management is required. Active visibility into real-time equipment health data (oil pressure, battery voltage, fuel level, ac current, ac voltage, low voltage, and low fuel, for example) will help to predict failures and will provide automatic notification when equipment maintenance is required to maintain equipment at its optimal operating level.

Projects such as data centers, manufacturing plants, and health centers are candidates for this application due to the critical nature of maintaining high reliability and uptime.

Kenneth Lovorn, PE, president, Lovorn Engineering Associates, PittsburghLovorn: Generator systems are used as backup power systems for the operation of critical loads in a facility. The more connections there are to external systems, the more opportunities are created to have a single point failure. Without having some method of total electrical isolation of the monitoring system, every additional auxiliary contact, voltage connection, or other monitoring methodology is another opportunity for that system to fail.

Q: What are the advantages of networked control/automation systems for standby or emergency power?

Petty: Traditional emergency power system equipment functions as an independent system. New state-of-the-art emergency power systems are now capable of supporting standard Internet protocol communications. This advancement allows multiple emergency power system sites to be monitored instantaneously and remotely. Essential standby and emergency equipment operating parameters can now be recorded automatically without the need for additional personnel.

When coupled with logic-based analytical software, these new emergency power systems are capable of automatically interpreting collected data, reaching viable solutions, providing instant notification, and automatically implementing the appropriate corrective actions, if required.

Lovorn: The big disadvantage of networked control and automation of an emergency system is the increased risk of a failure that is caused by the monitoring system. While we are certain that these monitoring systems are designed to minimize the chances that they could cause a problem with the emergency generation system, as long as there is an electrical connection between the emergency system and the monitor, there is an opportunity for a system failure. 

Q: In your experience, what percentage of the installed standby or emergency genset base employs networked control/automation systems?

Petty: Less than 10%, but growing. 

Q: What are the code implications of networking controls and monitoring? There are some code requirements in National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 110; which affect what you’re doing?

Petty: NFPA 110: Standard for Emergency Power Systems requires the recording of key operating health statuses on a monthly basis. Typically, this is done manually via pen and paper by several facility personnel. The recorded data depend on each of the individual data loggers. We believe that facility personnel are better used for visual inspections of each standby and emergency power system. An important part of regulatory compliance initiatives for emergency power systems is to maintain special accreditation or state licensing for the use of these systems. Automating the recording of this data through a networked monitoring system provides consistency and time-stamped electronic records. The network system should be considered as a secondary source of reporting.

Q: Does this replace the code-required monitoring and alarms, per NFPA 110? What is the power supply for the network system?

Petty: Most standby and emergency power systems have dedicated annunciator panels that are used to display system status conditions configurable to the standards of NFPA 99/110. These panels can be mounted local to the equipment or remotely, usually at a 24-hr manned engineer site location. Information obtained from emergency generators connected to a communication network should be considered in addition to these monitoring panels. Local authorities having jurisdiction are responsible for the final code interpretation. However, the application of networked emergency power systems does help in automating weekly and monthly written compliance reports required by NFPA 99/110. 

Q: Is there a code-required wiring method for this system? Share your experience.

Petty: The network communication cabling system should be considered “in addition to” as a reporting system only. Cabling and cable connector standards must conform to ANSI, Electronics Industries Association, Telecommunication Industries Association, and the International Standards Organization. 

Q: How many points or which points of the system should be monitored? In addition to the EPSS, would you want to monitor transfer switches and other emergency system components?

Petty: The following points should be monitored for Level 1 EPSS applications based on NFPA 110:

  • Engine run
  • Common alarm
  • System shutdown
  • ATS test switch status
  • ATS to normal
  • ATS to emergency
  • Loss of utility
  • Not in auto
  • Low fuel switch
  • Fuel level
  • Engine hours
  • Oil pressure
  • Coolant temperature
  • Exhaust temperature
  • Battery voltage
  • Battery charger dc current
  • ac voltage phase A-B
  • ac voltage phase B-C
  • ac voltage phase C-A
  • ac current phase A
  • ac current phase B
  • ac current phase C
  • Frequency
  • Real power
  • Real energy
  • Power factor
  • Low fuel threshold
  • Low battery voltage threshold
  • Time delay to transfer
  • Time delay to retransfer
  • Time delay to stop (cool-down)
  • Load kW percentage (calculated).


No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
2016 Product of the Year; Diagnose bearing failures; Asset performance management; Testing dust collector performance measures
Safety for 18 years, warehouse maintenance tips, Ethernet and the IIoT, GAMS 2016 recap
2016 Engineering Leaders Under 40; Future vision: Where is manufacturing headed?; Electrical distribution, redefined
SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
Safety at every angle, Big Data's impact on operations, bridging the skills gap
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
Applying network redundancy; Overcoming loop tuning challenges; PID control and networks
Driving motor efficiency; Preventing arc flash in mission critical facilities; Integrating alternative power and existing electrical systems
Package boilers; Natural gas infrared heating; Thermal treasure; Standby generation; Natural gas supports green efforts

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role of plant safety and offers advice on best practices.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me