Power Distribution and Management

What is a Power Management System, and How Does It Help Optimize Uptime and Efficiency?

This is the third post in this blog series, looking at ways that intelligent solutions are helping facility teams optimize power and energy performance while meeting business and sustainability goals. In my first two posts, Improving and Sustaining Energy Performance Takes the Right Strategy and 3 Important Steps Toward Sustained Energy Performance and Savings, we talked about improving energy performance. In this post and the next, we’ll dig into the benefits of improving power system performance using power management systems.

Power Management System

So, you might ask: Why do you need to manage your power? The answer is simple. It is because electrical systems are getting more complex. There are more loads and processes that are more power sensitive. There are more types of loads and more types of distributed power sources. Many types of facilities are also getting larger or increasing in power density and criticality. All this means the need for comprehensive monitoring to stay on top of real-time electrical conditions throughout your power distribution system.

What Exactly is a Power Management System?

Power management systems help ensure the safe, reliable, efficient, and compliant operation of your electrical distribution systems, including the assets connected to it. They can help you:

  • Avoid electrical fires and prevent shock
  • Recover from outages more quickly and safely
  • Improve uptime by avoiding unplanned outages
  • Find ways to reduce energy costs
  • Optimize maintenance and get more life from electrical assets
  • Simplify the process of acquiring and maintaining compliance to standards, regulations, and legislation for things such as energy management, carbon emissions, and power quality

Who uses power management systems? Any facility that depends on their electrical distribution infrastructure to deliver high quality power at all times to keep their operations running. And, in fact, any business that wants to remain competitive and operationally efficient. This can range from large and critical facilities (e.g., hospitals, data centers, airports, telecom, etc.) to industrial plants and commercial buildings or campuses.

What Does a Power Management System Look Like?

A power management system is founded on a digitized power distribution network, including connected devices and sensors that collect data from key points across your electrical infrastructure, from your facility’s service entrance, across all feeders, down to final distribution and loads.

Real-time power information can be acquired from stand-alone power metering devices or from devices that have embedded metering capabilities such as protection relays, breaker trip units, motor control units and variable speed drives. You may already have a large number of these smart devices in place, ready to be connected and used as part of a more complete, fully digitized solution.

All of your important electrical assets can be monitored, including transformers, medium voltage (MV) and low voltage (LV) switchgear, generators, transfer switches, power control panels, distribution panels, motor control centers, uninterruptable power supplies, and harmonic filters. A wide range of data can be continuously gathered 24/7, supporting monitoring and analysis of real-time power conditions, power quality, how efficiently energy is being consumed, and the health of equipment.

Operational information about the power system is provided with situational awareness in mind through a variety of easy-to-use web applications including electrical mimic diagrams, power events analysis, power quality and electrical equipment trends, reports and dashboards. The user interfaces of a Power Management system are highly specialized and engineered for specific Power Management functions. Even though electrical power data can be easily shared with other systems such as building management, SCADA, industrial automation or enterprise energy management systems these other systems are not designed to support facility management teams for the purpose of Power Management. They are simply not designed to provide the operational intelligence required for the real-time operation and maintenance of electrical assets and the power distribution network as a whole.

How Does It Help Your Facility?

The newest power and energy management systems offer deep functionality to cover a range of important applications relevant to all types of facilities. In recent years, there have been significant advancements in power and energy analytic tools, while providing greater ease of use for facility teams. This means operations and facility teams can reveal and respond to opportunities and risks faster.

Here’s a brief look at the types of applications your team would typically use a power management system to address:

  1. Electrical system health and efficiency. Continuously monitoring whether the three phases of power are balanced on all parts of your distribution system will help you maximize efficiency, avoid overloads, and identify any potential faults in loads like motors. Monitoring for excessive neutral current can identify grounding problems and wasted energy. Power factor is another parameter that should be measured, since a low value indicates energy is being wasted. Since it can also incur a penalty on your utility bill, you may need to take corrective steps, such as installing a capacitor bank.
  2. Capacity management. Analyzing historical trends will help identify circuits that are more heavily loaded or, worse, at risk of tripping breakers due to overloading. This is especially vital when operating a critical facility with backup power systems, such as hospitals or data centers. You can also discover if you have extra, unused capacity in some circuits that can be used to address load balancing or to cost-effectively support dynamic environments where facility or process expansions are common.
  3. Equipment monitoring. Though some power quality problems can come from the utility grid, many come from within your own electrical distribution system. As facilities modernize to improve energy efficiency, the addition of LED lighting, VSDs, and automation equipment can produce harmonics. Identifying and mitigating excessive harmonic distortion can help you avoid problems for sensitive equipment and improve energy efficiency.
  4. Power event analysis. Electrical distribution networks regularly experience power disturbances that travel extremely quickly through the system and are short lived. Advanced power quality monitoring devices capture these disturbances at distributed points in your system, while power management analytics help you quickly follow the sequence of events to isolate and respond to root causes.

Only a purpose-built power management solution can capture, upload, and make sense of the electrical system data required to support these important applications. Generic SCADA, building management, and manufacturing software platforms do not have the analytic and visualization tools required. In my next post, we’ll look at the industry and technology trends that are influencing power management, and the choices you can make to ensure your power management solution is future ready.

Schneider Electric offers extensive power management capabilities and solutions that help digitize your entire electrical infrastructure, connecting your facility teams to the data and insight they need to uncover risks to equipment and uptime, and to find opportunities to continuously improve system safety, reliability, efficiency, and sustainability. To learn more about EcoStruxure Power, check out our website and eBrochure.


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