To deliver continuous, 24/7 energy to your business, you need to stay on top of power quality

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Power keeps buildings in business. Companies rise and fall based on the reliability of their electrical infrastructure – millions can be lost if a company’s datacentre loses power and its services or applications go offline. In critical applications, like hospitals, a power outage risks the loss of life.

It’s critical that every part of your electrical system delivers reliable power, 24/7. Yet this means your building or facility team needs complete access and visibility into every risk, and the ability to intervene in real-time to stop disaster from striking. There also needs to be a process whereby the information you collect can be turned into valuable, actionable insight that’s easy to make sense of.

To deliver holistic visibility and instant action, you need edge control. By computing close to the source – that is, the connected sensors of your business – you can analyse important data in real-time. Yet you need to also consider the human factor – a solution is needed that can communicate all this information, simply and clearly, to your building managers.

A state of emergency

Power is not always reliable. When a power failure limits a population’s access to electricity travel, work and life itself can grind to a halt. In every business, power reliability is a key component of emergency preparedness and operational efficiency. Typically, a single blip or hour of downtime can lose companies £4,250 ($5,600) a minute according to Gartner. Yet loses depend heavily on company size: when Facebook suffered a 12-hour server outage in March, the company was estimated to have lost around $89,130,432.

For vital services, however, power reliability is a matter of life and death. Hospitals demand extraordinary reliability from their power systems. Life-support machines, and ancillary infrastructure systems such as HVAC, communications, records management, and security, must all remain online or risk serious harm to patients.

In August 2003, the importance of power reliability was demonstrated when a power disruption impacted 55 million people in the US and Canada. Healthcare providers suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue from cancelled services, legal liability, and damaged reputations. Six went bankrupt before the end of the next year.

Many factors can combine to cause a power failure: from damage to power stations to short circuits in a building. However regardless of the cause, all create issues of power quality. Good power quality can be considered a steady and consistent voltage that stays within the appropriate range for the application it’s powering. The voltage powering a building’s lighting system, for example, would not be suitable for its electrical generator.

When power quality drops below or exceeds a safe threshold, power systems will trigger a failsafe that prevents further damage to the circuit. However, doing so usually kills the power. Power failures are not a force of nature, nor are they unavoidable. However, to prevent or mitigate them, energy and facilities managers need operational insight and systems visibility they so often lack.

Keeping the lights on

For a manager to have sufficient visibility across their building’s power infrastructure, they need a steady and reliable stream of data. In an age where business uptime is so critical to success, they cannot afford to wait for scheduled maintenance checks to resolve power quality issues. A surge can kill the power in seconds, so the building team must be able to respond instantly.

Only continuous, real-time data provides sufficient warning of power quality issues. Data should be collected at the source and delivered immediately to decision makers. This is only possible through the connective power of the Internet of Things (IoT). An IoT-connected energy sensor can record power quality at the source and alert the building manager of any fluctuations via the building’s SCADA system.

Schneider Electric’s connected PowerLogic ION9000 meter is ideal for detecting power quality issues. Part of the EcoStruxure solutions architecture, the meter features onboard power quality analysis and is able to send alerts when it reaches dangerous levels. The meter can record and collect quality data across a facility and can even flag the root causes of any power quality issue. This provides engineers with the insight to quickly locate and resolve the source of the problem.

With all this new data at your fingertips, you’ll need a way to order, organise and make sense of it as quickly as possible. Every building is a complex mixture of various circuits, each one with its own power quality requirements and levels that are constantly in flux. While many tools perform much of the analysis for you, it can still be very difficult to keep track of everything and know where to look when there’s a problem.

Fortunately, software can do much of the heavy lifting for you. Power management systems are out there that can convert all this information into a simple, easily understandable format. Building and energy teams can then use these reports to comprehend and resolve power quality issues quickly.

Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Power Monitoring Expert is a complete supervisory software package designed exactly for this purpose. The software collects and organises data gathered from your facility’s electrical network and presents it as meaningful, actionable information through an intuitive and easy-to-use web interface. Managers can then use this insight to move quickly, addressing quality issues before they can snowball into a power crisis.

To deliver continuous, 24/7 energy to your business, you need to stay on top of power quality. At a time when power quality correlates with business uptime and success, it’s paramount your building and facility managers have full, IoT-enabled insight into operations. To prevent power failure and restore operations, they then must be able to identify root causes and respond quickly and easily, aided by the latest tools and software. Data is knowledge, and knowledge gives you the power to change things for the better.