HomeRegional NewsAfricaAutomated schemes offer peace of mind during power outages

Automated schemes offer peace of mind during power outages

An automated transfer of source (ATS) is a tool that automatically transfers a power supply from its primary source to a backup source when it senses a failure or outage in the primary source. This digitalised solution makes it a powerful tool for utilities and end-users alike.

The article appeared in ESI Africa Issue 2-2021.
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Backup systems play a critical role in maintaining power supply when short-term low voltage network problems arise. However, with the increased frequency of power outages, backup systems have moved over to medium voltage networks. It is this network challenge that has seen a rise in the need for ATS schemes.

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.

This is the case in South Africa. In recent years, South African businesses, households and industry have had to become accustomed to loadshedding for a variety of reasons. These can include fuel supply problems, poorly maintained generation plants, and delayed introduction of new generation plants coming online to meet rising demand.

As the occurrence of loadshedding has increased over the years, backup systems have become ever more necessary on 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.

Digitalisation of backup solutions supports the economy

Working with a local partner, Lucy Electric South Arica has seen the opportunity to assist customers with the supply of ring main units (RMU) 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 scheme has a further enhancement that activates tailored, on-site shedding of non-essential load to 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 overall safety of the system.

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.

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, backup generators and battery storage.

The local customer, not just the utility, can now manage the 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 countries with high levels of power outages and load reductions. ESI

About the company
Lucy Electric is a leader in secondary power distribution
solutions with over 100 years’ industry experience.
Specialising in high-performance media voltage switchgear
for utility, industrial and commercial applications, we
enable the safe and reliable distribution of energy to
homes and business worldwide.
www.lucyelectric.com | @Lucyelctric

Lucy Electrichttp://www.lucyelectric.com
Lucy Electric are experts in secondary distribution solutions, enabling the safe and efficient distribution of electricity to homes and businesses across Africa. Our experienced engineers work at the forefront of the design and implementation of automation projects, from concept to deployment, and we use our engineering excellence to design and manufacture best-in-class automated switchgear products and services. With over 100 years’ experience in the electrical industry we understand the challenges our customers face now and in the future. We work in partnership with them to provide tailored solutions which add value, making it easier for customers to manage their network distribution, reliably, economically and sustainably.