The U.S. electric grid loses power 285 percent more often now than in 1984 and endures more blackouts than any other developed nation, costing Americans as much as $150 billion per year. At the same time, our industrial systems are becoming more connected and information driven.
Why the increase in power outages and what can be done to ensure high-availability, quality power?
Outdated and aging infrastructure is frequently cited as one of the biggest threats to our energy supply, so new technology and power redundancy is needed to help keep the lights on and systems up and running.
Smart grids and microgrids are emerging solutions that are becoming more widely implemented to counter some of the energy infrastructure challenges. They also enable the use of alternative energy sources and storage. These solutions are a good start — enhancing the bulk power of electrical distribution systems and providing reliability against severe weather, security against cyberattack and flexibility to accommodate fuel diversity and the new renewable generation.
But in order to deliver sustainable, resilient, efficient and clean power, plus meet the growing energy demand overall, a more targeted adoption of critical power solutions in the form of uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems is required.
Providing standby power is standard for UPSs, however, they do much more — acting as a buffer layer between the grid and the critical load to ensure that clean, high quality power is delivered to the loads on a consistent basis. They operate at a very low level, close to the load, and at a high level, incorporated into distribution systems.
In the case of utility events, UPSs provide power during the time it takes systems to properly shut down or generators to come on line. Consequently, the impact of power related events and disturbances for assets like process equipment, facilities systems and critical applications is eliminated.
In the of case of a sustained power outage, a UPS can allow systems to continue collecting information, including context on what caused the outage, empowering operators to use that information for improved operations and an effective restart.
Deploying and integrating UPSs into industrial environments is evolving rapidly in many areas as we adopt technology trends such as the Internet of Things. The critical portions of an industrial process that require full power UPS remain the same, but the need to protect the availability of system intelligence responsible for control and monitoring is quickly changing. Intelligent assets should be protected as follows:
- Local Protection: Distributed UPS located near critical loads or intelligent devices.
- Power Integrated Protection: Central UPS integrated with power distribution equipment to protect multiple critical loads or create a central, high-availability power source for control systems and intelligent devices.
- Network Integrated Protection: As plant, control and device networks converge it is important to treat the network itself as mission critical. This should include central UPS protection at the network infrastructure level combined with additional local protection for distributed switching equipment and IP powered devices.
So even in an era of aging infrastructure, high-availability of any industrial IoT enterprise is achievable by leveraging critical power solutions. Read more about the IIoT: The Industrial Internet of Things: An Evolution to a Smart Manufacturing Enterprise.
Editor’s Note: This blog is based on an article that original appeared in Industrial, Maintenance & Plant Operations.