Motor manufacturers have been challenged in today's low carbon environment to target one of  the holy grails of the motoring community, energy efficiency. Two significant approaches have found their way into mainstream motoring, automated stopping of the engine when idling at traffic lights, and conserving the energy generated in braking to optimise the fuel usage and reduce carbon emissions. In fact the second approach even found its way into Formula 1 as a way to get a performance boost. Jeff Whiting of Mitsubishi Electric looks at how inverter drive technology, in the form of the regenerative drive, answers real issues in industrial environments, and indeed demonstrates a number of other operational benefits

Until a few years ago, when drivers stopped at traffic lights or a level crossing, they simply left their engines running. But now there are many campaigns to encourage switching off - in California it's already a legal requirement for commercial vehicles. But restarting an engine, even a warm one, requires an extra squirt of fuel, leading to extra CO2 and NOX, so regenerative technologies are being used to capture braking energy that was previously dissipated through hot brake discs and provide a carbon neutral kick start when the lights go green. A number of car manufacturers have automated this approach bringing clear energy reductions.

Historically in industry, an electric motor was started and left running throughout the shift. There was often a good reason for this as starting motors usually took a huge energy inrush until it got moving and built up its own resistance. This power inrush could be up to 12 times the working current of the motor and therefore motors are usually rated with a number of direct starts allowed per hour. Leaving the motor running seemed quite a realistic approach. However, fitting a motor with an inverter offers a much softer starting regime, and is far less restricted in terms of available starts. This really opens up the opportunity to only run the motor during operational requirements, and to save significant energy by switching the motor on and off.

A inverter drive offers even more energy ‘bang for its buck' by optimising energy used in the electric motor whatever the load, and also by running the process at lower speeds which can also save significant energy and therefore costs. The best savings can normally be made when running a fan or pump, as a slight reduction in speed can really impact the power consumption. Maybe this isn't a realistic goal of Formula 1, and wouldn't attract much of an audience, but it is well known that a smooth driver uses far less petrol than a boy racer. Uncharacteristically, Jeremy Clarkson and his Top Gear colleagues demonstrated this sometime ago by driving large cars from Paris to Liverpool on a single tank of petrol. By maintaining a steady, moderate speed, avoiding stop/start driving, rapid acceleration and hard braking, fuel consumption was kept in the optimum range and the total mileage proved to be way beyond what is normally achieved.

The savings gained by using inverters in real terms are both financial, affecting a business' bottom line and ecological in the reduction of CO2 used. In fact it has been calculated that the CO2 savings made by the inverters sold in the UK each year relate to the CO2 used by 100,000 Business cars doing normal mileage.

An inverter doesn't just save energy or allow a process to be optimised for changing loads and requirements. There are many types of industrial processes driven by motors. Some of these applications bring a number of other challenges which are easily addressed by today's high performance inverter drives. Typical of these is where energy in the process overhauls the power of the motor. To keep the process under control, this energy must be dealt with, and if possible used to power other parts of the production cycle. This was the principle of the Kinetic Energy Recovery System used for a short period of time in Formula 1 racing, but finding a far more appreciative audience in today's high efficiency and hybrid cars. Normally, under braking conditions, the weight of the car generates heat in the brake disks. With the latest technology, KERS uses this condition to capture the energy and release it during the driven part of the journey, thereby reducing fuel consumption.

Consider an escalator at a deep London Underground station at rush hour. The ‘up' escalator will be working hard to lift maybe a hundred people over a considerable height. The ‘down' escalator will be carrying just as many people - and it will be creating energy as they descend. In power terms, the motor requires power to be fed into it to drive the loaded escalator upwards, whereas when descending, the motor has a load driving it, making the motor act as a generator. Under these conditions the power has to be controlled for the passengers need to descend in a safe manner. This is generally done by using an inverter to ensure safe control and a measured stopping function. Without this, an uncontrolled stop could have huge repercussion with people thrown every which way - mainly downwards into a big heap of limbs and bodies. People could be hurt and the legal repercussions last for years.

To achieve this continuous control under all load situations, an inverter has to shed this extra energy somewhere. There are many mechanical ways to collect some of this energy - counterweights, winding sprints, etc - but most of them are fairly crude and only partially effective. As this generated energy is in the form of electricity, it is general to dissipate it in that form. In the past, vast banks of braking resistors were used to dissipate the electricity into heat. This could become a considerable fire risk anywhere, but doubly so in a dusty, hot underground machine room. However, a specially designed regenerative drive, such as Mitsubishi's Regenerative A701 drive, controls the load under all conditions and sheds the excess power by converting the kinetic energy into electricity and pumping it safely down the mains or even sharing it with other drives by connecting their power reservoirs together. The energy generated during the lowering stage can be dissipated and lost, or captured and reused. By contrast, a regenerative drive captures all of the energy and feeds it back into supply mains giving welcome savings in electricity bills.

The basic requirements of a soft start-up and stop can be programmed into a regenerative drive quite easily. Throughout a normal day's operation of the escalator, the drive will still be minimising the energy used. As you can imagine, during rush hour the escalators are fully loaded with people rushing to get to and from work, yet for most of the day there will only be a trickle of people using them.

A typical energy strategy would be to operate at full loading with optimum transfer speed to get the rush hour passengers through as quickly as possible, and then to slow the escalators slightly for the rest of the day where the speed requirements are not so prevalent. The use of a reduction in transfer speed will bring an immediate energy gain, which will be further enhanced by the inverter's innate capability to shed excess power when there are fewer people on the escalator. The next stage in the developing strategy takes its lead from the stop-start strategies beginning to appear in today's high efficiency vehicles. As previously stated, using an inverter means the motor can start and stop the escalator quickly and safely when required. Maximum savings will occur when there are no passenger requirements and the escalator can be stopped. Implementing controls which sense approaching passengers means the inverters can start the escalators and bring them up to speed before a passenger arrives to step onto it.

Industrial electrical engineers have long known of the energy saving benefits of inverters, and although they might not be in a position to teach the likes of Button, Hamilton and Schumacher a thing or two about fast driving, regenerative drives show they know a lot about efficient recovery and use of kinetic energy in the real world.

The provision of fuel-powered generators is an integral part of the construction of modern  buildings such as hospitals, data centres, prisons, banks and modern schools and academies. They rely on this emergency fuel supply in the event of a power failure, to ensure they can continue to operate vital systems. Yet despite this, these systems are often not given enough consideration at the outset of a project. Caroline Bowie, PLX brand manager at Durapipe UK, discusses the benefits of using plastics in power generation

In a culture where electrical power is fundamental for day to day living, power cuts have shown how, within a modern day society, we are left utterly helpless and vulnerable when denied electrical power. Power failures have the potential to cause widespread catastrophes and as a result, the need for a high performing emergency power supply is absolutely essential.

Unfortunately, whilst we enjoy the benefits of extensive technological advancement in the 21st century, we are still very much reactionary when it comes to problems that occur. For instance, we often hear after an incident it could easily have been prevented should a certain measure have been taken beforehand. What is more, we frequently see that whilst the problem may have been a technical failing - our own legal or health and safety regulations were not what they should have been leading up to the problem.

Power cuts are by their very nature unexpected, meaning emergency power systems need to be regularly checked and updated to ensure they will perform to the required standards, should they be called upon in an emergency. As a result, it is essential the utmost thought is given to the specification of these systems at the outset of a project, as they have the potential to prevent large scale problems in the event of a power cut.

However, due to careless installation or low performing systems, emergency power generators themselves have also been known to fail leaving buildings without a back up plan and in potentially serious danger. One incident occurred in a Los Angeles hospital in 2008: due to the faults with the emergency power supply, 200 patients were left without power for nearly four hours. This included 24 patients who had been reliant on ventilators, some of the patients being new born babies. Although the situation was eventually resolved, the situation would not have reached the worrying heights it did, had a suitably performing emergency power system been in place.

Fuel powered generators are popular systems to use to provide power if the main power source fails. They function through a pipework system transporting fuel to a emergency generator, which will then provide a temporary power supply whilst the main system is repaired or replaced. There are two typical pipework systems that are used to provide the fuel supply, underground pipework systems or imperative fuel flow systems.

For fuel supply applications, it is important that contractors specify secondary containment (pipe-in-pipe) systems due to the potential safety hazards caused if fuel was to leak into the atmosphere. Secondary containment pipe systems are becoming compulsory for many pipework applications, and are the preferred solution for fuel conveyance. However, Durapipe is keen to stress not all secondary containment pipe systems are the same and they all offer different performance and installation capabilities.

Traditionally, steel pipework has been specified as the preferred pipework solution to provide the generators with the fuel they need to function, although frustratingly, these pipework solutions are also known to sometimes fail. A common cause of flawed systems can be fuel not reaching the emergency generator, meaning it has no way of functioning. This can occur for several reasons, including complete corrosion of the pipework, where the fuel or the environment has penetrated the pipe or there is clogging of the pipe bore, resulting in fuel not flowing at a consistent rate.

In some steel pipework systems, the presence of limescale in the inner bore can contaminate the fuel, which will then result in long term damage to the generator itself. These issues highlight the need for rigorous and frequent quality control checks, on pipework systems that cannot offer a long term product performance.

The difficulty with steel, is although it has been felt to be a durable pipework solution for certain applications, the lifespan of this durability is limited and has shown no signs of improvement. This provides concerns for emergency fuel solutions, as although the hope is that it will never be called upon, if it is, it needs to perform. Contractors need to be aware with an estimated fuel carrying lifespan of just over five years - steel is a solution that cannot guarantee performance capabilities over a long period of time, and corrosion may prevent it from performing when it needs to.

In terms of the installation process, this can be lengthy with traditional metal systems such as steel. Whether these systems run under, or over ground, it requires skilled installers to fit the pipework. In the case of installing underground pipework systems, hot works permits are needed, which can result in an extremely complicated and timely installation process. Considering these issues raises the question of why innovative materials, such as plastic, are not being readily exploited by contractors and specifiers.

Plastic, is an example of a reliable alternative material that can be used to provide pipework solutions for emergency fuel supply. Lightweight and easy to install by nature, plastic pipework eradicates the complex installation properties associated with metal competitors. Plastic systems simplify the installation process for contractors, as they do not need a skilled welder to install the system due to the innovative electrofusion jointing system. What is more, they do not require the use of hot works permits when being installed, which greatly speeds up the installation time as well as saving contractors money on labour costs significantly. These sorts of economic savings can be extremely beneficial for contractors in a time when project timings and budgets are continuing to be ever narrower.

Plastic pipework system, PLX from Durapipe UK, is an example of a viable pipework alternative that can be used for emergency fuel applications. Manufactured in a robust polyethylene material, the secondary containment (pipe-in-pipe) system provides good resistance to long term stress cracking and is suitable to carry a wide variety of fuel based liquids. Additionally, its durability gives it a design life of 25 years - making it suitable for use for applications such as emergency fuel supply, where it is imperative to install a system that does not have to be regularly maintained or replaced.

Alternative pipework solutions that build on the performance quality of steel whilst addressing its limitations are available to contractors and need to be more readily explored in the initial specification process. In an industry continually looking for higher performing and more reliable products, it calls for a reassessment of just how well traditional materials such as steel, are working within the emergency power generation sector and why alternatives are not being explored at the outset of projects.

Our resident grumpy old man, John Houston, this month turns his attention to the   conundrum that is energy pricing

There are a few certainties in life - aside from death and taxes. Policemen and women do get younger; if you call British Telecom, you'll get put through to any country other than Britain; and energy prices always only ever go up.

Except that in real terms energy prices are actually falling.

In current terms, the price paid for all fuel and light has fallen by 7% between Q4 2008 and Q4 2009. Domestic electricity prices, including VAT, fell by 8.2% in current terms in the year to Q4 2009.

Domestic gas prices, including VAT, fell by 6.0% in current terms in the year to Q4 2009. The price of coal and smokeless fuel increased in current terms by 1.9% but the price of heating oils decreased by 4.5% between Q4 2008 and Q4 2009. Compared to Q3 2008, heavy fuel oil consumers in Q2 2009 have seen prices fall by an average of 17%.

Domestic electricity prices, including VAT, fell by 1.7% in real terms in the year to Q3 2009.

Domestic gas prices, including VAT, rose by 5.9% in real terms in the year to Q3 2009.

Yet, paradoxically, over the same period, electricity consumers saw prices rise by an average of 8%.

Gas consumers, however, saw prices decrease between Q2 2008 and Q2 2009 by an average of 24%.

The entire picture of energy prices becomes blurred when one looks at how energy is purchased, even by domestic consumers. For example, 2009 figures show an average standard credit bill increased by £56 compared to 2008. Average direct debit and prepayment bills increased by £45 and £42 respectively.

However, 2009 figures show a standard credit customer with a non-home supplier, on average, paid £44 less than a customer who had not changed supplier. Equivalent savings for direct debit customers were £52.

Another factor that confuses the real picture is electricity consumption has risen - how many TVs do you have, how many computers, domestic appliances et al? From a low of less than 5% in 2003, energy expenditure now accounts for an all time high of nearly 7% of average domestic budgets. This is accounted for in part by price hikes, but also must be a result of increasing consumption.

All of the above cloud the energy issue. If we are assured energy costs are climbing and that this is one imperative to make savings, how does one reconcile the news real prices are actually falling - albeit not, in the main, being passed on to the hapless consumers?

I understand the need to conserve energy - I've blathered on enough in this column in the past about that. I do also believe carrot-stick-carrot is the best way to incentivise people to change habits - in other words: tempt them with discounts; penalise them with costs; tempt them with offers (grants etc.). 

If, for example, the government (whichever is elected post-spring) were to decree domestic electricity users were to be penalised to excessive consumption, I might applaud that. However, it seems the only parties currently benefitting from the price rise: costs reduction ratios are the energy companies. I appreciate it takes time for a drop in real energy costs to permeate down to enable reduced domestic prices, but if one is a grumpy old man one could suggest that the time taken rather favours the suppliers.

So, against a backdrop of falling energy costs will we see a trend towards lower bills? I rather doubt it. In spite of my rant here, it might not be a good thing for wholesale drops in prices. The long term outlook is for declining energy resources and greater levels of greenhouse gas pollution. What I would like to see is some of the current extra profit generated by the cost:price differential to be channelled into building future energy reserves.

Note: All figures quoted here are taken from the Government Department of Energy and Climate Change as of February 2010. All prices are adjusted using the customary GDP deflator.

Since 1975 Eland Cables has worked hard to provide exceptional service in the supply of electrical cables and cable accessories. Today, we are an international success story with a reputation for competitive prices, high quality products and dedication to customer satisfaction.

From commercial headquarters located in London, Eland is focussed on understanding the industries it serves and the needs of its customers. Eland carries an extensive range of cables; from control, coaxial, instrumentation, PVC flexible, tri-rated and industrial cables to mains armoured, high temperature, railway, signalling, telecom and bespoke cable solutions.

For Eland Cables, a commitment to cable means investing time and money in both our technology and our people. From our purpose-built Distribution Centre in Doncaster, North East England, and our website - a huge information resource, with searchable technical information on over 100 cables and ‘Cable Genius' articles - to a friendly, efficient voice at the end of the phone, we believe in going that extra mile to get results.

Customers come to Eland Cables knowing that quality - in both products and systems is a top priority, not an optional extra. Our dedicated quality assurance team operates a quality management system approved to BS EN ISO 9001. Link-Up Supply Chain Management status and Achilles Utilities Vendor Database certification also demonstrates not just a commitment to quality, but to making a difference to your business.

In addition to providing test certification and batch traceability on all cables and accessories, a culture of continuous improvement drives every employee in the organisation. That's why, Eland Cables became one of the first cable suppliers in the UK to achieve BS EN ISO14001 environmental management accreditation.

Whatever your industry and whatever your individual needs, Eland Cables has the expertise and extensive portfolio to fulfil your cable requirements and provide exceptional service.

Those who do business with Eland Cables come to expect a different experience - a company that delivers, time and again.

Why choose Eland Cables?

1. We're a one-stop-shop.
Get the cables and accessories you need from one
supplier - at a competitive price.

2. We believe quality comes as standard.
You should never have to compromise. Eland supplies cable approved to British and International standards, including HAR, IEC, UL, DIN, VDE and CSA.

3. Our service is fast, friendly and reliable.
Eland Cables is only as good as the systems it uses and the people it employs. We value experience, knowledge and energy - that's why our project management is second to none.

4. Your business is our business.
A high order fill rate in excess of 90%, on time deliveries with a 98.58% average in 2009 and a first-class stockholding facility for ‘just in time' call off orders mean we take your deadlines as seriously as you do.

5. Information is power.
With Eland Cables' searchable online cable resource www.eland.co.uk, it has never been easier to access the specifications you need and using 3D models you can strip the layers of each cable, rotate and zoom in to explore core configurations.

6. We look after our people as much as our customers.
We're proud of our inclusion in the ‘Sunday Times Best Companies to Work for' in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

7.  We believe small touches make a big difference.
From out-of-hours delivery to bespoke cables, we understand the peace of mind a bit of flexibility can bring.

Product range:

- Tri-rated cable
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- Profibus and Profinet cable
- Telephone cable
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- Coaxial cable
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- Belden alternative cable
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Tri-rated by Eland

Eland Cables now offers an unrivalled Tri-rated Cable range -14 colours and 18 sizes - at the some of the most competitive prices ever seen.

Eland Cables' Tri-rated Cable range is approved to BS6231, UL and CSA standards. Eland provides flexible purchase options with stock available in 100m reels, 500m drums, cut to length and barrels.

Visit www.triratedcable.co.uk  for more information or call 0207 241 8771

Steve Gallon, Managing Director of Electrical Enclosure company FIBOX, comments on the future, and explains how innovation and consistency of service will impact on the market post-recession

With 2010 heralding the dawn of a new decade; this year offers many challenges and opportunities for electrical product manufacturers to self-examine, introspect and outperform the decade gone by. While the beginning of the last decade saw the industry's R&D departments adopting positive attitudes toward innovative technology; the end of the decade saw many of those company's finance directors putting the brakes on innovation and adopting large scale cost-cutting measures and implementing huge rationalization programmes in order to ride-out the effects of the recession.

It wasn't that these companies didn't recognise the importance of innovation, but in reality, investing in innovation was not possible. For them, the recession meant financial resources and extra facilities for investing new ideas were just not available, so instead, their focus was on making more effective use of the scarce resources that they had.

Having been in the industry more years than I care to mention, I ?see the notion of ‘if it's not broken, don't fix it' as committing industrial suicide and instead recommend ‘demand, challenge and probe' become the new paradigm.

If there is one thing history has taught us; it's that as the financial situation returns to somewhere near normal, wealth increases and markets stabilize, the demand from customers will change and therefore in order for those surviving manufacturing companies to prosper, they will be the ones that have looked to the future and continued to innovate.

Right now the ability for the industry to innovate is not just critical to success. It's simply a prerequisite for survival. 

So, what is innovation? Conventionally innovation has been best explained as the initial recognition of a market need and the development of a unique or novel way of fulfilling that need by producing a commercially viable product or solution. However, in today's market, as the current manufacturing industries emerge from the deepest recession since the Second World War, innovation must go further than purely identifying a need. It's about responding quickly to challenges, adopting new ideas and moving fast to seize opportunities.

However, innovation needs to be encouraged at all levels and in all elements within an organisation to be truly effective.

From a corporate standpoint, the most important thing for Fibox, was to emerge from the economic downturn, stronger and fitter than before and in a position to drive strong growth as volumes increase.

Companies who will achieve this best are those that have continued to innovate. It is not good enough for a company to hope to grow ahead of the market solely on the basis of old products. The companies that will show greatest growth potential in recovery are those that emerge with new products and improved services.

The fact Fibox sees innovation as the most important driver of future growth is based on its ability to develop new products for new markets and gain sustainable competitive advantages within them. Yet, innovation is not something it reserves for product development: It is really applied creativity. Given this definition, all Fibox employees are encouraged to rethink processes, streamline job tasks, implement productivity measures, and continue to think creatively.

Innovation in management is important too, because this dictates the speed of production and ensures the development of suitable ideas make it through to commercialisation.

With this in mind, Fibox has continued with its policy of integrating its product innovation programmes in conjunction with its customers' demands, suppliers' needs and specialist distributors' call for specialist and bespoke products complete with specific components.
A lot of the interesting innovation happens when you work in close partnership with people in organisations who are your suppliers or who are your customers and who can perhaps help you in getting products much faster to market.

This ‘open' innovation policy not only creates added value for the company but is a prerequisite for our future innovation capabilities and helps us to inject new impetus, into discovering new market opportunities and develop new ideas and technologies.

By collaborating with our customer partners, correctly evaluating R&D progress and product roll-outs also have important implications for the company beyond any particular initiative. We regularly introduce our key product development personnel to meet with distributors and customers, because unless they are clear what client customers demand; their innovations will have no value for the end user. Innovation, based on the specific needs of customers, is faster, cheaper and a more dependable approach.

Innovation of service has a role to play in the modern marketing mix too. As mentioned before, innovation is based not only on applying cutting edge technology in a novel way; but as about all round creative thinking.

When Dell developed its first products, its innovative idea was not totally product based; it was its web based distribution methodology that set it apart. This new approach allowed Dell to emerge rapidly as a market leader with a range of ‘me too' products.

The art of ‘two-way' communication is an innovation in itself and continues to emerge as a powerful tool in the strategic arsenal of many leading companies.

In order to make company information and product innovations public, expert journalism is required. As such, technical, business and above-the-line promotion in carefully selected media vehicles are adopted. Furthermore, when innovations are professionally presented, it evaluates them and presents them to the customer in a comprehensive way.

In tandem with professional external communication, the contribution of internal communication to the commercial success of our products and revitalised service innovations cannot be overstated. This is especially true when it comes to delivering straight talk. Shielding employees from bad news is condescending and akin to treating them like children; it implies they are not ‘grown up' enough to handle harsh decisions. So why do some companies do it? One reason is because they feel employees will feel totally dejected and then underperform. But we have found just the opposite; tell people what they need to know and they will reward you with solid performance.

Over the last few years, Fibox has implemented firm communication plans, supported by updates on intranets, texts, and even blogs, not to mention, emails, to help employees know how the company is performing. It is important to listen, it doesn't make any sense to spend all time and effort to find and appoint the best people around, if you are just going to ignore their input.

Therefore, from a Fibox point of view, innovation is about encompassing the company's total creativity, novel thinking, original design and often, but not always new technology.
At Fibox we believe this 360° attitude to continued growth is based on innovation of product in combination with innovation of service through precise and well-timed use of technology will be key to our success in the new decade.

With the government placing so much emphasis on carbon emissions rather than  energy savings, the focus appears to be shifting away from technological solutions and moving towards environmental considerations. But is this right? Anecdotal evidence suggests businesses view carbon saving as too distant an issue, as they don't see immediate results. Whereas, energy savings can produce efficient, tangible results on a company's bottom-line. So should the emphasis be more on energy savings? David Lewis from Schneider Electric discusses

When the government signed up to the Kyoto Protocol, it immediately set the tone for emphasising the UK would be judged on its carbon emissions. The Climate Change Act (which the UK adopted in 2008) sets a target for the country to reduce carbon emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

To help meet this target, the government has implemented a number of policies focusing on the reduction of carbon. This abundance of legislation aimed at encouraging businesses to lower their emissions includes the recently introduced Carbon Reduction Commitment, the Building Regulations, the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive and The EU Emissions Trading Scheme. However, most of these regulations address thermal and insulation issues, rather than encouraging and rewarding businesses to economise on energy use by the intelligent application of technology to bring about energy efficiency, which would engage engineers and contractors within the specification and installation process.

In addition the majority of businesses see reducing carbon emissions as an environmental concern that should be tackled by bigger organisations and those responsible for energy generation - looking at the way energy is produced as a means to lower emissions. The need to reduce carbon is seen as a distant issue and one that does not always rate highly on a business' agenda when compared to surviving the recession, growing the company or expanding into new markets. Coupled with this, very few companies actually closely monitor their carbon emissions and don't see savings on a daily basis. This view could lead to despondency.

Changing the focus away from carbon emissions towards energy efficiency is the quickest, cheapest and cleanest way to reduce energy consumption, meeting Kyoto targets for greenhouse gas emissions while presenting an opportunity for contractors to add value to their business proposition and stimulating growth and job creation through greater use of energy efficiency technologies. Energy usage can be lowered by effective control, but those with influence in industry, business and the government need to focus on making energy efficiency a critical target.

For example, achieving economies in energy usage is readily possible in electricity generation and distribution and the way it is used. Contractors could be improving the efficiency of the network and maximising the available capacity to consumers by installing low loss transformers, checking the integrity of the cabling, installing active harmonic filters to reduce harmonics, variable speed drives to control electric motors and utilising low and medium power factor correction.

While controlling energy can be a complex task, by understanding the business' current situation, developing a strategy, implementing plans and constantly reviewing progress, it is possible to achieve maximum results. This will deliver cost savings, eliminate waste, improve profits, provide a positive message that can be communicated to customers and create a ‘feel good' factor. Through experience Schneider Electric knows, by using a four-step approach, ‘Measure, fix the basics, automate and monitor and improve', tangible energy efficiency and monetary gains can be made - a message all those involved within the industry, including engineers and contractors, can communicate to customers.

As the ability to meet targets is unlikely to succeed by simply persuading people to act differently or deploying new energy saving or energy efficient technologies, it's important to tap into the aforementioned key motivators that will drive an organisation to adopt measures and reduce the amount of energy it consumes.

Manufacturers are continually developing more efficient products but it's really the overall energy performance of a system that counts. This is because if an energy saving device is left permanently on standby, it can be less efficient than a higher consuming product that is always switched off when not in use. So, it's vital all elements in a system combine to bring about the maximum energy efficiency possible and contractors are well aware of the extensive range of integrated solutions available.

To do this though, there needs to be a greater understanding of how power is used, in order for a business to take advantage of the technologies available to manage and save energy. Coupled with this, businesses need to realise energy consumption can also be reduced by using electrical control technology, which is where an informed engineer can help make a difference.

Apart from building management systems, there are advanced heating, ventilation, lighting and air conditioning controllers that can all contribute to maximising efficiency. Energy audits by qualified experts are readily available as a stepping stone in the process but there needs to be a will by an organisation to undertake such auditing. Therefore, the challenge for contractors is to build a better understanding among their customers about what can be achieved and how to achieve it.

There are many factors influencing businesses' attitudes and opinions towards carbon reduction but by shifting the focus to energy efficiency, the increase in energy costs and the rising social conscience makes it a more appealing issue for businesses to buy into. But like any corporate vision, the commitment to energy efficiency starts at the top. As businesses grapple with the need to fundamentally change the way they view energy, that leadership is vital and there is a role for contractors to play in influencing this. No longer is energy an overhead cost, a minor company expense that is only marginally controllable. Energy should be viewed as a risk and one that can be managed and controlled through energy efficiency.

Steve Ruddell, UK energy spokesperson for ABB, explains the incentives available to  industry to invest in variable speed drives, in an effort by the Government to curb CO2 emissions

In recent years there has been an influx of regulations applied to the manufacturing industry that have a major impact on energy use. In 2001 the Climate Change Levy was introduced, followed by Climate Change Agreements. Then in 2005, the EU ETS came along followed in 2008 by the Environmental Permitting Regime. And more recently, the government launched its Carbon Reduction Commitment or CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme which is due to begin widespread implementation in April 2010.

The CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme was announced in the Energy White Paper 2007. It will apply mandatory emissions trading to cut carbon emissions from large non-energy intensive users in the private and public sectors. A recent report from the Environment Agency indicates the scheme has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions up to 11.6 million tonnes per year by 2020 - the equivalent of taking four million cars off the road.

CRC is designed to drive energy efficiency and carbon saving by giving organisations a financial incentive to do so through emissions trading, and combining this with Corporate Social Responsibility incentives through publishing organisations' performance in a league table.

The scheme targets organisation's annual half hourly metered (HHM) electricity use, if that's at least 6,000 Megawatt hours (MWh) they'll qualify for the scheme - or typically those that spend £500,000 a year on electricity.

All large energy users, from government departments to big-business, have to take part in the scheme from 1 April 2010.

Organisations only need to report emissions in the first year (2010/11), then in following years they will have to buy allowances matching their emissions from energy use and then surrender them by the end of the year. In the second year (2011/12) extra weighting will be given to organisations 'taking action early' to improve energy efficiency.

Organisations which use 'on-site' renewable energy like wind turbines or solar panels, by publishing the increased carbon savings from such measures, will get increased 'recognition' under the CRC.

Methods to reduce energy consumption
To reach the CRC levels there are several energy saving initiatives that can be introduced such as insulating buildings to a high standard, fitting low energy lighting, controlling building temperature to an agreed standard and fitting voltage optimisation technology. Other more detailed measures include compressor upgrades, compressed air leak survey, compressed air zoning, warm-up cycle timers, rapid roller-doors, computer linked roller-doors and smart metering. But undoubtedly the biggest impact on energy saving can come from applying variable speed drives to many of the electric motors used throughout industry and commerce.

In manufacturing, nearly 60% of immediate energy savings can be achieved by looking at more efficient motor/drive systems, according to the manufacturers' organisation, EEF. It is still a little known fact 65% of all energy used in industry is consumed by the electric motor. And yet only about 5% of this installed based has a variable speed drive to control the motor speed depending on the demand. With some 10 million motors installed throughout the UK alone, the potential savings are huge.

Record, report and reduce
Presently, many organisations are busy measuring and recording their actual energy consumption and carbon dioxide emission usage. This is an excellent start, especially if you are one of the heavy-users caught by the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme - this is simply a prerequisite. But it must be realised this is only the start.

Ultimately, the only way to look good in the government's league table will be to cut consumption. For this, all of the aforementioned methods can be introduced especially the use of variable speed drives.

ABB offers industry a free half-day energy appraisal, during which a qualified engineer will take a look at the most energy intensive applications and indicate the energy savings that can be made. The results can be staggering. Of course, an energy appraisal is only one element that companies need to consider. As a guide the EEF recommends the following:

Know where you stand
Understand what's being used and what's being wasted across your business - and what it's costing you.

Prioritise action
Prioritise the actions you'll take based on the payback each will deliver.

Make plans
Underpin your resource efficiency programme with clear objectives and targets.

Monitor and review
An environmental or energy management system will help you stay focused and make sure standards of performance are attained and then maintained. Certification to ISO 14001 or BS16001 demonstrates commitment for continuous improvement by the organisation.

The Big Business Refit
For those organisations with an energy bill less than £500,000 per annum, The Carbon Trust has launched The Big Business Refit, in which it is encouraging industry, through interest-free loans from £3,000 to £500,000, to invest in new technology like variable speed drives and energy efficient electric motors.

In addition, the Carbon Trust is now investing an extra £15m in funding to help manufacturers become more energy efficient, with a new scheme, called the Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator. It is designed to spark a ‘low carbon industrial revolution' by helping manufacturers find new energy efficient processes by which to create their products with.

Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator
Diverse manufacturers such as Britvic, Highland Spring, Tarmac and Tesco have joined trade bodies such as the Food and Drink Federation and Dairy UK in backing the new programme.
The programme is expected to reduce energy costs for manufacturers by more than half a billion pounds and to cut carbon emissions by more than three million tonnes. It will also increase the capacity of these manufacturers to respond effectively to the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.

Through the Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator, the Carbon Trust aims to transform the traditional sector-specific processes that underpin British manufacturing. In partnership with industry leaders, the organisation will identify and demonstrate new, lower-carbon solutions that can be replicated widely across each sector.

Dr Mark Williamson, Carbon Trust director of innovations, said: "More than a quarter of the UK's carbon emissions come from industry and we've got to find new opportunities to reduce them. The way to make truly substantial cuts is to get to the very heart of manufacturing. By rethinking the way manufacturers operate from the ground up we plan to spearhead a low carbon industrial revolution that will not only reduce emissions but will also increase demand for innovation, generate jobs and cut costs."

Clearly, there has never been a better time to take a closer look at what the motors in your plant are doing for you.

The task faced by today's electrical wholesaler is by no means an easy one. Growing  environmental concerns, the current economic climate and ever-changing regulations, have made it even more important for wholesalers to provide their customers with easy access to the newest and smartest innovations. In order to meet this demand in the most competitive way, it can be all too easy to make price the deciding factor when choosing a product. However, the quality and safety of any goods can only be ensured by going back to the start - guaranteeing raw materials and manufacturing processes are not just effective, but completely ethical. Here Steve Havell from Newey & Eyre, talks through his recent visit to the Far East in search of lighting solutions

China is just one of the countries we have visited to seek out the best solutions for our customers and we have years of experience working closely with many of the world's leading manufacturers. We regularly investigate all the latest groundbreaking technologies from suppliers, as well as their manufacturing processes and ethics - ensuring they meet our high, exacting standards.

Investigating innovation - research and development
Innovation is the watchword for the modern electrical wholesaler. At Newey & Eyre, we are fully committed to remaining at the forefront of technology and constantly trying to improve our offering. So, we take time to look at all the products our manufacturers have in the pipeline, so we know what they will be bringing to market over the coming months.
"During a recent visit to China, I also attended the Hong Kong International Lighting Fair - one of the world's leading exhibitions when it comes to experiencing the latest green solutions. The event showcases the latest lighting ranges from the world's top quality brands - providing an insight into which products will be coming into the UK.

Ethical product lifecycle and quality assurance
As we are all aware, the continued outbreak of cheap, counterfeit, products created from substandard components remains a major problem for the UK electrical market. Looking at new lighting technologies, for example, counterfeit options tend to carry a risk of a shorter lamp or projector life and, worse still, can even represent a danger to users. To guarantee consistent quality, we demand rigorous product testing and packaging procedures are in place, ensuring only top quality products leave the factory.

Subsequently, there is the delivery process to consider. It is imperative to ensure this is managed effectively and procedures are in place to enable full traceability. For example, some more unscrupulous manufacturers may attempt to supplement the volume of good quality products with substandard goods, so thorough analysis is crucial.

Safety first
Health and safety in the factory is imperative and as wholesalers, we have a responsibility to ensure products are manufactured in a safe working environment.

As a starting point, asking a senior representative at the factory to demonstrate the sort of checks they have in place to help maintain the globally recognised standard ISO9000 certification is key. This measures an organisation's quality management and covers all major processes. This includes monitoring systems to ensure they are keeping adequate records, as well as regularly reviewing individual procedures and the quality system itself for effectiveness.

Employee welfare and training
Working for a company that takes corporate social responsibility very seriously, we always have an active interest in the employee welfare at our manufacturers' facilities. The best approach is to explore the company culture and work ethic, as well as training programmes and staff benefits, to examine how effectively they are passed onto employees. We also request to see the staff canteen and accommodation, speaking to as many employees as possible along the way to see things from their perspective.

Another good indicator for a contented workforce is to look at the employee relationships, how leaders manage their team, ownership of the equipment and the general morale. After all, a good team spirit typically denotes a good working environment and, in turn, a good quality end-product.
From factory floor to market
Just as we utilise product literature and the internet to promote our product offering to customers, manufacturers also see the internet as a big opportunity to grow their business. Although informative websites act as universal tools for us to seek out new producers, it is the responsibility of wholesalers to look further into a company's credentials and take steps to verify their claims.

While it's important to see how the manufacturers bring their own products to market, it's also crucial to understand how they ensure the products are delivered to us. This gives us confidence to guarantee quality products are delivered on time and as promised, to our customers back in the UK.

Working together for a brighter future
Sustainable success cannot be achieved by one company alone. The future of our planet must be tackled on a global scale, with all countries coming together to discover and support the efforts of the most promising manufacturers, innovators and individuals, so we can accelerate the transition towards a sustainable world. By approaching this in a truly ethical and effective way, we as wholesalers can build solid working methods today, which may make all difference in the future.

Long before most electrical apparatus fail, signs of trouble appear and can be detected  by oil tests!

The condition of generation, transmission or distribution transformers can be determined by the analysis of electrical insulating oil. These fluids circulate as a dielectric and coolant and can be sampled, in most cases, while the equipment is energised. With outages minimised in modern times, this is a key attribute.

Oil testing can detect developing apparatus problems such as, local overheating at a loose connection or electrical discharge between turns, so problems can be managed and catastrophic failures prevented. Oils and other insulating materials degrade during their life as a result of heating, oxidation, and in more serious cases, from discharge activity. Accelerated or excessive degradation of the oil can be detected, but more important is to detect abnormal conditions or faults that can result in failure of the apparatus.

There are a variety of tests that can help detect problems with the insulating materials and the apparatus. Because diagnostics from oil data is so good today, condition-based maintenance is possible. With good knowledge of the condition of transformers, attention can be focused on problems so they are managed to minimise out of service time while reducing risk of a catastrophic failure. By understanding the true condition of transformers and how they age, proper maintenance can be used to extend the life of such important assets. To use oil tests effectively requires accurate data, background information as to where the sample was taken, nameplate information, and a good understanding of the diagnostics.

Oil Quality Testing
Colour (ASTM D 1500, ISO 2049): Insulating liquids darken with the presence of oxidation byproducts and foreign materials and are an indicator of ageing.
Dielectric Breakdown Voltage (ASTM D877 or 1816, IEC 60156): A low value indicates the presence of contaminants such as water, dirt or other conducting particles in the insulating liquid.

Interfacial Tension (ASTM D 971, ISO 6295):  Monitors the progression of oxidation and detects contaminants such as soaps, paints, varnishes and byproducts of insulation ageing.
Acidity / Neutralization Number (ASTM D 974, IEC 62021-1): Monitors the progression of oxidation by detecting acidic compounds which accelerate deterioration of the solid insulation and are precursors to sludge formation.

Visual (ASTM D 1524, IEC 60296): Visual inspection identifies foreign material in the insulating liquid, which may lower its dielectric strength.
Power Factor or Dissipation Factor at 25°C (ASTM D 924, IEC 60247): High values indicate the presence of contaminants like carbon, polar compounds, metal soaps and byproducts of oxidation.

Water Content (ASTM D 1533, IEC 60814):   Excessive moisture is one of the primary causes of low insulating liquid dielectric breakdown strength. High water content may be detrimental to the transformer under a variety of conditions. Reporting results in concentration (ppm) and percent relative saturation gives more effective interpretation of results
Specific Gravity or density (ASTM D 1298, IEC ISO 3675): Helps identify different types of insulating liquids.

Diagnostic Testing
Dissolved Gas Analysis (ASTM D 3612, IEC 60567): The single most important test you can perform to detect problems and head-off potential transformer failures. It monitors gas generation in transformers for advance notice of developing faults to properly manage risk. It's a good way to detect thermal and electrical problems and determine their severity.
Furanic Compounds (ASTM D 5837, IEC 61198): Since the paper is the most important dielectric component of the transformer, having the ability to assess its condition is a must. When the cellulose breaks down, furanic compounds are generated and can be used to detect accelerated ageing and localized problems.

Metals-In-Oil (Various methods): Dissolved and particulate metals such as copper, iron, zinc, and lead can be detected and can be indicators of incipient-fault conditions, potential bearing wear from pumps or other wear metals from vibration of components.

Keep up to Date
Corrosive Sulphur - There are sulphur compounds in oil that can be corrosive resulting in the formation of copper sulphide on conductors and in insulating paper. On conductors the copper sulphide is too resistive and causes overheating. In the paper copper sulphide is too conductive and can results in a dielectric failure. Copper sulphide particles can bridge insulation gaps resulting in dielectric failure in the oil.

Paper Quality Testing
Degree of Polymerization of Paper (ASTM D 4243, IEC 60450): This test provides a measure of paper ageing, and correlates with important physical properties like resistance to tearing and bursting. This is a critical factor in estimating the real ageing of the main transformer insulation. This test does require a paper sample so is used opportunistically when internal inspections are needed.

Doble Engineering Company
For accurate and reliable oil testing and professional diagnostics by a team of chemists and engineers come to Doble Engineering Company. We can help with creating a cost-effective test programme and diagnostic services. Specialised testing is available to analyse problems beyond the typical tests. When transformers develop problems Doble is there to help with you with the testing, assessment, and action plan.

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tel: 01483 514120


In the same way a blood test can provide a doctor with a wealth of information about  their patient, taking an oil sample enables service engineers to learn a great deal about the condition of a transformer. This can play a key role in the effective management of a vital network asset for extended life and enhanced reliability. Liam Warren, ABB's general manager power service explains

The oil in a transformer acts as both a coolant and insulation for the internal components. In doing this it bathes almost every internal part. As a result, the oil contains around 70%  of the available diagnostic information for the transformer. The challenge is to access this information and analyse it effectively to provide an early indication of a developing condition such as tap-changer arcing.

Obtaining a representative sample
The data generated from an oil sample is only as good as the sample itself. A poorly drawn or contaminated sample can invalidate the test results or even lead to a misdiagnosis. At ABB we have recently upgraded our sampling procedure to use the TFSS (Turbulent Flush Sampling System). This compact, self-contained system provides several benefits including:
- promoting turbulent flush
- standardizing flush volumes
- producing a representative sample
- preventing sample contamination
TFSS ensures the sample is representative of the oil inside the transformer, rather than any contaminates that might have settled into the valve.

Transformer condition assessment (TCA)
Traditional oil-testing programmes utilise only a few diagnostic parameters, leaving a vast amount of potential oil-based information unexplored. Yet surveys of failed transformers reveal many failures can be attributed to problems that could have been properly managed with an early diagnosis through a more detailed analysis of the insulating fluid.

ABB bridges this gap by working with a leading test laboratory to provide TCA (transformer condition assessment). TCA offers a comprehensive assessment of the dielectric and mechanical state of the transformer including:
- Dissolved gas analysis (DGA)
- Insulating fluid quality analysis
- Particle analysis
- Furan analysis

DGA - a view of operational condition
Hydrocarbon (mineral base) oils are frequently used as insulating fluids in high voltage power equipment such as transformers because of their favourable dielectric strength and chemical stability. Normal degradation of the oil usually occurs due to oxidation. This is generally a slow process. However, under the influence of an electrical or thermal fault, the oil can degrade to form a variety of low molecular weight gases that dissolve in the oil (such as methane, ethane, ethylene, acetylene, hydrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide).
The composition of the breakdown gases depends on the type of fault, while the quantity depends on its duration. Hence by dissolved gas analysis (DGA) it is possible to distinguish such transformer fault processes as partial discharge (corona), overheating (pyrolysis) and arcing.

DGA involves two steps - extraction and chromatographic analysis. In the first step, the gases are extracted by subjecting the oil sample to high vacuum. The volume of the extracted gases is measured and a portion of the gas is transferred to a gas chromatograph.

The great sensitivity of the chromatographic process enables low detection limits for each gas - at the parts per million level. The remarkable sensitivity and precision of this method ensures a high measure of reliability for the diagnostic interpretation of DGA data.
Based on the dissolved gases in the transformer oil it is possible to indentify faults such as corona, sparking, overheating and arcing.

Corona - is a low energy electrical fault that results from the ionization of the fluid surrounding the fault. Typically, this is characterised by an increased level of hydrogen without a concurrent increase in hydrocarbon gases.

Sparking - is an intermittent high voltage discharge that occurs without high current. It is characterised by increasing levels of hydrogen, methane and ethane without a concurrent increase in acetylene.

Overheating - can arise from a variety of causes, such as overloading, circulating currents, improper grounding and poor connections. It is characterised by the presence of hydrogen together with methane, ethane and ethylene.

Arcing - the most severe fault process, involves high current and high temperatures and may occur prior to short circuit failures. It is characterised by the presence of acetylene.
Faults involving cellulose insulating materials, such as impregnated paper, wood and pressboard, result in the formation of carbon dioxide and possibly carbon monoxide. In load tap-changers, thermal problems are characterised by elevated levels of ethylene.
Interpretation of DGA data can be a complex process because of the large number of equipment parameters and operating conditions that affect gas formation. It is important to take into consideration the operating philosophy and past history of the transformer. Establishing baseline values for a transformer against which future DGA tests can be compared is a very effective diagnostic testing procedure. Monitoring the rate of gas generation makes it possible to assess the progress of the fault process.
Insulating fluid quality analysis - a view of how the transformer is being managed
There are a number of routine tests on the insulating fluid that provide a useful indication of how well the transformer is being managed in service. They cover a number of key parameters including PCBs, moisture, acidity and dielectric strength.

PCB content
Although not related directly to the transformer performance, it is still important to identify the presence of the chemicals known as Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) in the insulating fluid. PCBs were very popular in the late 1950s/early 1960s as an alternative to mineral oil thanks to their excellent insulating properties. They are however highly toxic and have been outlawed for many years. Unfortunately, PCBs were in service for long enough to cause some cross-contamination with mineral oil stocks and it is relatively common to find some background traces in older transformers. No immediate action is required at levels below 50 ppm. At levels between 50 to 500 ppm the transformer needs to be taken out of service when possible so that it can be flushed and re-filled with fresh oil. At anything greater than 500 ppm immediate action is required.

An increase in the oil's moisture content can degrade its insulating properties and result in dielectric breakdown. This is especially important when a transformer is subjected to fluctuating temperatures, possibly when in intermittent operation, as the cooling down process causes dissolved water to come out of solution, reducing the insulating properties. In addition, cellulose-based paper is in common use as insulation for the transformer windings and the presence of excess moisture can damage this paper.

Increased acidity not only cause the oil to attack the many copper components in the transformer as well as corroding the steel tanking, it also degrades the paper insulation. Acids can also cause the formation of a sludge that blocks ducts and cooling galleys, resulting in less efficient cooling - resulting in further degradation of the oil. As a general rule, the oil must be replaced when the acidity exceeds 0.5 mg/g KOH.

Dielectric strength
The dielectric strength of the transformer oil is a measure of how effective an insulator it is. Factors that can cause a significant reduction in dielectric strength include the presence of contaminants that result in an increased content of free-ions and ion-forming particles, such as water, oil degradation products and cellulose insulation breakdown products.

Particle analysis
One of the major advances in extracting a higher level of diagnostic information from transformers has come from the identification of suspended and sedimented  particles found in the oil. When the DGA analysis indicates the presence of a possible fault, particle analysis will provide corroboration and pinpoint its location. For example, in one analysis the DGA results suggested that heating gases and carbon oxide gases were present, indicating a hot spot. The microscopic analysis confirmed the hot spot condition with the presence of charred paper in the oil.

Furan analysis - a view of remaining life
In general, the life of a well maintained transformer with no serious operating defects will be determined by the condition of its insulating paper. As the paper degrades it produces organic compounds known as Furans. There is a direct relationship between the amount of Furans produced and the strength of the paper insulation. Furan analysis can therefore provide a useful estimate of the transformer's remaining service life.

Oil sampling becomes most useful when carried out on a regular basis so trends may be identified. So it is useful to take a benchmark sample when a transformer has been energised or an oil treatment performed and to then take further samples at regular intervals so that any variation in quality can be measured in order to monitor developing faults.

The battery of sophisticated analysis techniques available to monitor the quality of the oil form a valuable diagnostic tool that provides an indication of the general condition of a transformer, how well it is being managed and how long it can be expected to function before requiring a major service or replacement. Perhaps most importantly, it can be used to anticipate severe faults, enabling preventive action to be taken before they occur.

Originally, UPS systems were implemented as a standalone, monolithic design. In  today's business climate, where pressure on and demand for quality electrical power has become much greater, modular UPS systems have become increasingly popular. Alan Luscombe of Uninterruptible Power Supplies looks at how this topology has evolved, and why users like it 

The advent of modular topology has arisen from the conjunction of three factors: The technology developments that have made it a practical proposition, the technical and commercial benefits it bestows, and the changes in the business environment that have made those benefits important.

Enabling technology
Modular topology ultimately owes its existence to advances in the semiconductor industry. The monolithic double conversion on-line UPS systems that first appeared in the seventies were referred to as transformer based UPSs. They used a rectifier to convert incoming raw AC mains to a DC voltage, which was used to charge the UPS backup battery and to feed an inverter for conversion back to a clean AC output waveform. However an output transformer was needed to step up the inverter output to the level needed for the critical load.

By the mid nineties however, advances in power semiconductor technology and the arrival of the insulated gate Bipolar transistor (IGBT) allowed a different, transformerless approach. In a typical design, an IGBT based DC converter boosts the rectifier output to a much higher level, allowing the inverter to directly produce an AC voltage sufficient to drive the critical load. 

Many UPS advantages derive directly from transformerless design. These include greater efficiency, higher input power factor, lower input current harmonic distortion (THDi), reduced capital and operating costs, lower audible noise and enhanced battery life. But elimination of the transformer also yields very significant reductions in physical size and weight. For example a 120 kVA system footprint shrinks from 1.32m2 to 0.53m2, while the weight is reduced from 1200Kg to 370Kg. This scale of reduction and cost saving allows a different, modular configuration in which the critical load demand is met by a number of smaller UPSs operating in parallel rather than one large monolithic unit. This modular topology offers further improvements in efficiency as well as great benefits in resilience, availability, uptime and easier maintenance.

An ever more demanding business climate
The arrival of these benefits is very timely. Even when businesses mainly used computers as internal tools to automate commercial, manufacturing and engineering functions, losing data processing capability to a power outage or transient voltage spike would still have been serious. Today, when enterprises must typically support 24/7 online transactions with external customers and suppliers, such a power event would be catastrophic or even fatal in business terms. Accordingly, ever since technology rendered modular systems possible, their development has been driven hard by customer demand for the highest achievable power availability. Similarly, the improved energy efficiency of modular systems is of vital importance to users facing continually rising energy costs together with increasing legislative and social pressure to cut carbon emission.

A modular configuration example
We can see how users can best access these benefits by looking at a typical example. Suppose a data centre has a load requirement of 80kVA, and because of its critical nature, a redundant UPS configuration is essential - i.e. a configuration that will continue to deliver power even if one UPS unit fails. Such a requirement could be fulfilled by two 80kVA standalone UPS cabinets sharing the load. If either cabinet should fail, the other has sufficient capacity to support the 80kVA load until the faulty unit can be repaired.
Alternatively, a single rack containing three modular rack mounting 40kVA UPSs can be installed. This is also a redundant system, because if a single 40kVA module fails, the remaining two modules together have a capacity of 40+40=80kVA - enough to drive the critical load. In fact both systems can be referred to as N+1 redundant systems, where N is the number of UPS units required to meet the critical load demand; one in the standalone example and two for the modular systems. The extra ‘1' provides the UPS installation's resilience, as a single UPS unit failure will be invisible to the load. Extra redundancy or resilience can be provided if the load warrants. Systems with N+n redundancy can be built, where n is the number of redundant modules.

The first and most obvious advantage of the modular system is that it is smaller, with an implementation in a single rack rather than two cabinets. This is an important saving for modern data centres where floor space is at an increasing premium.  However, there are also many further benefits, of which energy efficiency is one. Each UPS unit in the standalone example supplies half the load, 40kVA, during normal operation so is therefore 50% loaded. By contrast, each 40kVA module is more heavily loaded at 66.7% of its capacity. Because UPS efficiency increases with loading, the modular units run with 96% efficiency compared with 91% for the standalone units. This improved efficiency not only reduces direct energy cost; it brings further savings through reduced cooling costs. The total energy savings in this example would amount to £16,700 over five years - or possibly more, depending on electricity pricing.

Increased availability is another benefit. Each UPS unit's availability can be defined as a ratio between its mean time betweenfailures (MTBF) and mean time to repair (MTTR). And, whereas a standalone unit takes typically six hours to repair, some modules can be simply swapped in less than half an hour. This reduced MTTR gives a ‘hot swap' module an availability of 99.9999% (‘six nines') even before allowing for the resilience provided by the N+1 configuration. This level of power protection is key to users, but cost savings accrue as well. Inventory cost for specialist parts is reduced, and the need for highly skilled on site technicians is eliminated.

During the UPS installation's operational life, scalability can emerge as a further advantage of modular topology. Suppose transaction traffic growth increases our example's load from 80 to 110kVA. A brief effort in slotting another 40kVA module into a spare rack location will restore the system's N+1 redundancy status, without degrading the UPS loading too severely and with no interruption of power to the load. The UPS remains ‘rightsized'. Further growth in load demand can be conveniently accommodated by further modular increments of the UPS system capacity. The rack's capacity for further modules is known as the UPS system's vertical scalability. If this should become exhausted, horizontal scalability can be achieved through the addition of further racks.

By contrast, adding another standalone 80kVA standalone unit always means having to find more floor space, laying more cabling and carrying out a nontrivial installation exercise. The gap between the load kVA and the UPS units' rating would also widen, to the detriment of the UPS system's energy efficiency.

Lifetime savings and benefits
A modular system can cost more than a standalone installation in terms of initial capital cost. But this will be offset by the modular system's reduced operating costs, especially when factors such as initial transportation and infrastructure costs, spares and maintenance are taken into account. In addition to reduced costs, the modular approach offers a smaller footprint, greater flexibility, easier manageability, inherently greater availability, and scalability throughout its operational life.

Now the future of the Machine Safety Directive has been agreed, system designers and machinery manufacturers need to decide how to proceed in future months. Paul Considine of Wieland Electric puts the case for embracing the new standards

Following months of speculation, confusion and reversed decisions, the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) has opted for a two year transition period where machinery manufacturers can either comply with EN 954-1 or EN ISO 13849-1. Consequently, the new Machinery Directive will not be fully implemented until 31 December 2011.

This provides designers of machine safety systems with something of a quandary. Do they continue with EN 954-1 for as long as possible - on the grounds it is easier and cheaper to work with? Or do they make the switch to EN ISO 13849-1 (or the alternative EN (IEC) 62061) now? In my view, it makes sense to embrace the new standards as soon as possible, and there are several reasons for this. And, as is discussed later, new technologies can be employed to make compliance considerably easier and more cost-effective than many people realise.

In this respect, it's important to consider the reasons for introducing the new Machinery Directive in the first place - as well as the implications of carrying on with the old standards.
EN 954-1 is being phased out because it hasn't kept pace with the changes in technology that have been applied increasingly to ensuring and managing machine safety. In particular, EN 954-1 focuses on calculated risk using a simple category system, whereby system behaviours are set against categories.

The issue here is the wider implementation of programmable electronics in safety systems means such a simple system is no longer appropriate. So essentially, the new Machinery Directive brings the regulations into line with what is already current practice. In addition, the new systems that comply with EN ISO 13849-1 or EN (IEC) 62061 will be able to provide information on the probability of failure, enabling potential problems to be nipped in the bud before they become actual problems.

Given the general recognition EN 954-1 is no longer suitable for many applications, there is clearly a health and safety issue to be taken into account. This, in itself, is a good reason for adopting the new standard as safety must be of paramount concern to all companies.
Because of this, end customers that understand these implications are likely to insist on machines that comply with the new Directive, so to some extent that will determine the route forward for many manufacturers. Added to this, even when the end customer isn't fully acquainted with all of the facts, I would argue specifiers and suppliers have a responsibility to provide accurate advice on the options open to them.

There are also other commercial reasons for taking on the new standards as soon as possible. In the past where European regulations have been phased in, different EC members have responded in different ways, so adopting the new regulations will increase the likelihood of acceptance throughout Europe. Ultimately, this could also have a bearing on CE marking.

In fact, CE marking is an important consideration, as any alterations to the system in future may require it to be CE marked again. If it is compatible with EN 954-1 after this standard has been withdrawn in 2011, such alterations will doubtless be more complex and expensive. It's also important to note that, although the Directive applies principally to new machines, any modifications to existing machines will also be covered by the same requirements as cover new machines. Therefore, just as a new machine should be accompanied by a Declaration of Conformity to the Machinery Directive from the manufacturer, so any company carrying out such modifications may also have to issue such a declaration.

This is because the requirement applies to any organisation that ‘places a machine on the market' - and in this context modifying a machine counts as placing it on the market. So, along with the Declaration of Conformity, there needs to be a technical file that can be made available to the authorities on request.

Consequently, adopting the new standards will ‘future proof' the system against such difficulties.

Looking beyond Europe, it's also important to bear in mind that EN ISO 13849-1 and EN (IEC) 62061 are both international standards - in contrast to EN 954-1. Thus, for end users with global facilities that want to standardise across their estate, this will be an important consideration.

Staying safe
Returning to the important issue of safety, this is where I feel most of the benefits come from adopting the new standards. It is accepted within the new Machinery Directive that zero risk is not achievable in the real world, but arriving at an acceptable residual risk is feasible. In practical terms, this means safety control systems must either be designed to ensure the probability of functional errors is acceptably low - or any errors should not bring about a loss of the safety function if the former cannot be achieved. And that's where the harmonised standards come in.

EN ISO 13849-1 takes its core from the familiar categories in EN 954-1:1996 by examining complete safety functions, including all the components involved in their design. However, it goes beyond this qualitative approach to include a quantitative assessment of the safety functions, based on a performance level (PL) that builds on the category approach.
The components and devices that make up the system require the following safety parameters:
- Category (structural requirement)
- PL: Performance level
- MTTFd: Mean time to dangerous failure
- B10d: Number of cycles by which 10% of a random sample of wearing components have failed dangerously
- DC: Diagnostic coverage
- CCF: Common cause failure
- TM: Mission time

The standard also describes how to calculate the PL that can be achieved when several safety-related parts are combined into one overall system. Any deviations from EN ISO 13849-1 are referred to IEC 61508.

As noted above, EN ISO 13849-1 will be operated in conjunction with EN 62061, which is a sector-specific standard under IEC 61508. Based on quantitative and qualitative examinations of the safety-related control functions, it describes the implementation of safety-related electrical and electronic control systems on machinery. It also examines the overall life cycle from the concept phase through to decommissioning.

In EN 62061, the performance level is described through the safety integrity level (SIL) and the safety functions identified from the risk analysis are divided into safety subfunctions. As a safety-related control system is made up of several subsystems, these safety subfunctions are assigned to the actual devices (hardware or software) that are the subsystems or subsystem elements. The safety-related characteristics of these subsystems are described through the SIL and Probability of Dangerous Failure Per Hour (PFHD) parameters.

Cost effective compliance
There can be no doubt, therefore, the new regulations will make a significant contribution to improving safety in the workplace, in line with modern systems and working practices. At the same time, it's just as clear they bring with them a higher level of complexity and potentially increase the workload of those who are responsible for managing safety. However, as mentioned above, there is an opportunity to deploy newer safety system technologies to ease this burden without compromising on safety.

For example, in ensuring safety systems are operating properly at every level, higher efficiencies can be introduced by ensuring that all levels, or sub-functions, can be addressed through the same system. This is also more convenient.

In addition, such technologies can be very effective in ensuring that any downtime resulting from safety shut-down is kept to a minimum. This can be achieved by integrated fault diagnosis into the system that is responsible for safety-related control functions. So, rather than faults being traced manually by engineers before they can rectify them, the diagnostics can narrow down the search and often resolve the problem without calling in specialist engineers. And even when specialist input is required, the faster fault tracing means they spend less time on site, thus reducing costs.

Of course, electronic monitoring systems have been available for some time but they have tended to be expensive so that the return on investment calculation didn't stack up in many situations. Now, though, there are low cost systems employing advanced technologies that won't break the bank yet will provide continual monitoring of every aspect of safety - from post-top emergency buttons to light beams on conveyors - as well as facilitating fast location and diagnosis of faults. Furthermore, they operate from a centralised computer so that all of the information is readily accessible at any time.

Over and above these benefits, the same system can be used in the early design stages to simulate operation before the safety system goes live, so many potential problems can be designed out in advance.

All of which boils down to a smarter way of doing things that not only ensures legislative compliance but also offers ongoing time and cost savings. So it makes a lot of sense to take a fresh look at the technologies available and how they can be implemented to best effect.