Trends In Major Power Distribution In Large Data Centers, the Rebirth of the 'Loadcenter' Unit Substation Concept

This series of "Cut the Copper" blogs is in direct response to questions I’ve received from many young engineers on the staffs of various data center owners and their consulting engineering firms I’ve recently met.


You should know before we begin that I’m a highly opinionated old guy who’s been around the electrical industry for a very long time. What I’ll be writing will likely trigger controversy—the story will be light on theory, and heavy on practical experience. I expect to see agreement from about half the electrical industry, and strong disagreement and some hate mail from the other half. But, in any case, you might agree that the history is interesting, so let’s begin the story with some background.

Liquid-Filled Medium Voltage Distribution Transformers and “Loadcenters”

For the first 35 years of the U.S. electrical industry, everyone could see that the good old mineral oil filled distribution transformer was a wonderful apparatus—except when it failed catastrophically with a ruptured tank and a good supply of oxygen and an ignition source—in which case it became a lethal ball of hot, orange flames and dense black smoke. To be installed safely indoors, oil-filled transformers had to be placed only inside enclosed fireproof vaults. 

That all changed in 1935 when Monsanto Chemical Co. acquired a small chemical company named Swann Chemical Co., who had developed a new electrical insulating fluid compound having the name “Askarel.” The liquid had all of the desirable properties of mineral oil for use as an insulating fluid in transformers, including high dielectric strength, good thermal conductivity, and low coefficient of expansion. But, beyond that, it was an inert, synthetic chemical product that could hardly be ignited under any circumstances—its chief benefit was that it was essentially non-flammable, in addition to possessing all the other good properties you’d want in a transformer insulating fluid. 

Monsanto began to market the product to the electrical industry under the trade name Aroclor. The electrical industry giants back in the day, GE and Westinghouse, immediately recognized the potential of this new liquid, and began purchasing it for use in capacitors, transformers, lighting ballasts, and other products. GE marketed the product under the trade name Pyranol, and Westinghouse marketed the product under the trade name Inerteen. The new products containing those liquids were hugely successful and much appreciated in their respective markets.

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 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...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

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.