By Tim Spearing and Phillip Fouche, Lucy Electric
Power continuity is critical for business and economic growth, and disruptions to the quality of supply on the distribution network can often lead to an interruption of power. For this reason, local standby generation is becoming a common requirement in countries where constraints on the supplier are frequent.
In recent years, South Africans have had to become accustomed to loadshedding for a variety of reasons. These include fuel supply problems, poorly maintained generation plants, and delayed introduction of new generation plants coming online to meet rising demand.
Backup systems have traditionally been used on low voltage networks, maintaining power supply during short-term network problems. However, as loadshedding has increased over the years, backup systems have moved over to medium voltage systems.
New solutions are needed to meet this challenge so that consumers continue to spend, businesses trade and the disruption from loadshedding is minimised.
How suitable products from Lucy Electric South Africa solve the challenge
Working with a local partner, Lucy Electric South Arica has seen the opportunity to assist customers with the supply of ring main units (RMUs) to handle the change over to a backup generator when the utility supply drops out. To achieve this, the RMUs identify when national loadshedding kicks in and send a data signal to the on-site generation source to switch on the backup power.
This automated transfer of source (ATS) scheme has a further enhancement that activates tailored, on-site shedding of non-essential load. The ATS ensure critical systems maintain power while on backup support. These loads are then reconnected in a controlled way when power is restored via the distribution network.
These systems are designed to consider time factors for response, cost of the project versus cost advantages over the long run, and the system’s overall safety.
Energy users, reliant on the strength and durability of their supply to trade, maintain business function and contribute to their local economies. They value this added resilience that they would previously have relied upon from their local utilities.
By coupling the basic functionality of a generator with the technology to monitor and reconfigure networks in real-time, this solution can bring the benefits of a smart grid to the private wires of business parks, shopping malls or leisure facilities.
Preparing the network for an increase in distributed energy resources
This solution presents future opportunities for decentralised energy, too, with the announcement by the South African President to allow up to 100MW of embedded generation without a licence.
With this new scope, the variety of renewable sources that can be added to the customer’s network places more control on the management of these networks, allowing a mixture of hybrid systems, including solar PV, generators, and battery storage.
The local customer, not just the utility, can now manage energy needs more cost-effectively. For Lucy Electric, this is a new development in how we use monitoring, working at the customer and the utility level. This development reflects the significance of the impact of national loadshedding and the need for larger businesses to find technical solutions to minimise this impact.
ATS creates new scope in the industry, and working with its partners, Lucy Electric continues to provide world-class cost-effective solutions for South Africa and beyond.