How digitizing your critical power distribution delivers a fast and massive ROI

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In the previous two posts in this series, we’ve looked at the hidden risks that make managing critical power facilities so challenging. We’ve also seen how trends in digitizing electrical power distribution networks mean you no longer have to ‘work blind’. Connected smart devices sharing data with cloud or facility-based software and mobile apps help shine a bright light on risks while revealing opportunities to improve safety, reliability, efficiency, and compliance.

Let’s have a closer look at how digitization helps deliver these benefits and, in turn, delivers a potential massive ROI against the cost of upgrading your infrastructure.

Optimizing safety

A digitized electrical system can include wireless thermal sensors in strategic locations to continuously sense for abnormal temperature rises. Personnel are alerted to any thermal problem before it results in an electrical fire destroying equipment or injuring people.

In hospital operating rooms that depend on isolated power to prevent shocks, connected sensors detect insulation faults so that electricians can be alerted immediately to provide assistance.

In the event of a power outage, smart circuit breakers deliver critical information to mobile devices, helping personnel restore power quickly and even perform remote control from a safe distance. Power forensics help operations teams isolate problem sources, using accurately time-stamped events from connected devices to visualize event timelines. Advanced capabilities, such as patented Disturbance Direction Detection from Schneider Electric, help quickly determine how disturbances have propagated through the electrical system and whether they originated from inside or outside the facility. All of these tools help teams find root causes faster and restore power quicker.

Improving reliability

Personnel can stay connected 24/7 to the power distribution system, being alerted when any conditions deviate from normal so they can take action before an outage occurs. Constantly monitoring load trends enables active load management, preventing overloads and disruptions, as well as revealing unused capacity.

Intelligent software continuously analyzes breaker co-ordination, generating an alarm if any deviation to settings is detected that may result in undesired consequences. This can help maximize the long-term performance and reliability of the electrical system.

Sensitive equipment needs to be protected from issues such as harmonics, voltage sags and swells, flicker, transient voltages, or brief interruptions. A fully digitized power distribution system helps prevent these by providing early detection of conditions before they exceed levels that harm equipment.

To avoid premature switchgear aging in extreme or outdoor environments, wireless thermal and humidity sensors will continuously monitor conditions. If they exceed defined thresholds and durations, maintenance teams can perform required maintenance to help avoid corrosion, equipment failure, and downtime.

Cloud-based analytic platforms enable all of the conditions above to be monitored and analyzed by in-house teams or outsourced advisory services.

Boosting efficiency

Accurate ‘shadow metering’ and energy analytics will verify that a facility’s utility bill is accurate, both from a metering and bill calculation perspective. Uncovering billing errors can deliver a significant payback.

Energy analytics can also support energy cost allocation to departments or processes, helping encourage efficient behavior, while benchmarking and comparing energy performance across buildings can uncover inefficiencies and waste. Normalizing against weather, production level, etc. will ensure accurate comparisons. Savings can be accurately validated after the initiation of retrofits or other programs.

A digitized power system can also boost cost savings and uptime by helping manage onsite energy generation and storage. Advanced analytics and microgrid control systems can provide predictive asset management, taking into account weather, energy pricing and other drivers to optimize when to consume, store, or sell energy back to the grid.

Digitization enables predictive, condition-based maintenance, helping identify when equipment needs servicing. This can save time and cost while catching risks that might otherwise be missed. An example is circuit breaker aging analysis, integrating condition reporting from smart breakers and environmental data from temperature, humidity, and corrosive gas sensors to help give a more accurate picture of breaker health and maintenance needs.

For facilities challenged with limited or shrinking resources, outsourcing some facility management tasks can be a smart, efficient strategy. Digitization and data sharing are powerful enablers for third-party analytic and advisory services.

Simplifying compliance

Energy analytic platforms simplify energy efficiency certification processes, as well as carbon reporting for meeting regulatory compliance. They also make it easy to showcase energy performance to stakeholders or the public.

For organizations like hospitals that are required to regular test backup systems, some analytic platforms provide automated generator compliance, test, and maintenance reports to help save time and avoid human error.

It’s critical to validate that power quality meets the standards for reliability of your most sensitive equipment and that your power provider is meeting contract obligations in that regard. In a digitized power system, advanced power meters provide PQ compliance monitoring, while analytic software aggregates compliance data from across the facility. Teams can track trends and identify the source of risks, inside or outside the facility.

With all of this connectivity, digitized power systems also become another infrastructure vulnerable to cyberattacks. Many solution providers are now adhering to strict cybersecurity best practices. This should be made a top requirement in your choice of solution.

As you can see, the benefits of digitization of the electrical distribution infrastructure in critical buildings and facilities are almost limitless. In fact, the nominal incremental investment can be expected to reap a very large and fast return on investment, typically paid for in less than 2 years.

This has been the final post in this series. To learn more, download our white paper ‘Bringing critical power distribution out of the dark and into a safer, more reliable, and efficient future’. Schneider Electric is leading the digital transformation of power distribution. For more information, visit the EcoStruxure™ Power web page.

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