Here’s a look at experts views on what engineers can expect to see in terms of future developments in energy management.
Electrical power makes up nearly half of all energy expenditures and electricity consumption is projected to double by 2030. Newer developments and devices provide more efficient energy consumption and safety practices that reduce risk. They also deliver renewable energy solutions that foster sustainable growth and protect the global environment. With a holistic approach to energy management, energy challenges are being turned into opportunities. Here’s a look at what is coming in terms of future development.
Pioneering circuit protection and vacuum technology
Doug Schuster, VP and general manager of Eaton’s Power Components Div.
Circuit breakers and vacuum interrupters play an integral role in providing reliable power for nearly every application. Low-voltage molded case circuit breakers protect against overloads and short circuits in conductors in alternative energy, commercial, industrial, mining and military applications. For high-stress currents in demanding industrial and utility applications, vacuum interrupters are used in medium-voltage circuit breakers and circuit protective devices to provide central control and protection of equipment and circuits.
The shift from mechanical to electronic controls has been shown to improve efficiencies by following the flow of data. The trends of compact design, plug-in accessories, increased voltage ratings, Arc Reduction Maintenance Systems, and communication modules will continue to deliver efficiencies. Newer devices monitor events happening at the breaker, while making it simpler to adjust with programmable software.
Electronic trip units meet a broad range of monitoring and protection requirements. Some of these units feature curve shaping, zone interlocking, arc-flash reduction and diagnostic features. Further, they enable better coordination with equipment and breakers, integrate with motor control centers, and can interface with building management systems—like data centers—remotely.
Building on the knowledge that developed the first molded case circuit breaker, direct current circuit breakers address the need for increased voltage ratings and streamline compliance to code requirements in solar applications.
Additionally, alternative energy and smart grid applications are propelling circuit protection innovation. In solar and electric vehicle applications, circuit breakers need to interrupt direct current, where it is not as easy to interrupt an arc, as in traditional alternating current circuits. On the other hand, in wind turbine applications, it is important to have enhanced diagnostic capabilities—to improve system safety, reliability and efficiency.
Using solid-insulation technology, vacuum interrupters are encapsulated in epoxy resin material to increase the dielectric strength of the vacuum interrupter. Environmentally friendly protection equipment is helping to meet worldwide demand for reliable power.
Safety is critical
Clayton Tychkowsky, SVP and general manager of Eaton’s Commercial Distribution and Control Assemblies Div.
In recent years, research and development has yielded advances in electrical safety and much of that research has focused on preventing arc flash events. These events are often violent and can generate temperatures four times that of the sun.
The Eaton FlashGard® Motor Control Center is an arc flash preventative low voltage motor control center with features to help protect personnel and equipment from the danger of arc flash.
Arc flash is caused by an electrical arc due to either a phase-to-ground or phase-to-phase fault that releases explosive energy. Factors contributing to this fault include dropped tools, accidental contact with electrical systems, build up of conductive dust, corrosion, and improper work procedures.
A strategic approach to arc flash safety involves education, a robust safety program and state-of-the-art equipment engineered to help prevent personal injury and property damage. For example, low voltage motor control centers (MCCs) are being designed to help protect equipment and personnel from the danger of arc flash. MCCs lower the probability of creating a short circuit phase-to-phase or phase-to-ground, minimize the likelihood of electrical shock, and reduce incident arc flash energy during maintenance.
What makes a motor control center arc flash preventative?
Key strategies to help safeguard employees against injuries from electric shock, arc flash burns and arc blasts include:
•Multiple insulation and isolation features.
•MCCs that can be disconnected and reconnected to a vertical bus with the door closed. Maintaining a closed door during these operations increases operator safety should an arc flash event occur.
•Safety interlocks ensure that doors cannot be opened and units cannot be removed from the structure while the stabs are connected to the vertical bus.
•Visual indicators that report the position of the isolation shutters and stabs. This provides maintenance personnel with additional assurance that dangerous voltages are not present inside the unit when service is required.
Smart Control for better efficiency
Matt Lorenz, VP and general manager of Eaton’s Industrial Control Div.
The next generation of control and automation devices is redefining the energy savings that can be achieved in motor control applications and transforming how engineers design machines and control panels using smaller, smarter controls.
The first automatic motor starter was developed more than a century ago, laying the foundation of the modern motor control industry. That technology was used to build the Panama Canal and usher in a new era. Since then, advanced motor protection technology has been engineered to improve energy efficiency, and yield more efficient, finely tuned motor and pump controls.
For variable speed applications, new advanced algorithms are improving the energy efficiency of variable frequency drives systems and protecting motors and surrounding assets. Further, they are yielding added energy savings over the already drastic 10 to 50% improvement resulting from installing a drive.
Beyond achieving energy savings, the next generation of control solutions is fundamentally changing how machinery and control panels are designed, reducing labor and materials costs and making processes lean. With smaller, smarter machines, OEMs are able to get equipment to market faster.
With the Eaton SmartWire-DT system, there is no need to cut, strip, tin or ferrule, label and install each wire. Reducing these steps also reduces panel-building time by threefold.
State-of-the-art components are more compact and lighter than traditional approaches. For example, the SmartWire-DT panel wiring system makes for a smaller, cleaner panel design by replacing the myriad of wires found in the control circuit into a single cable that connects motor control components to a PLC. The SmartWire-DT system removes PLC I/O points for starters and pushbuttons by incorporating them into the wire.
Construction and commissioning time can be drastically reduced with smart style panel wiring systems and intelligent, easy-to-use HMI software. Labor savings derive from the simple process—just layout the first wiring harness, duplicate and snap into place. HMI software enables on-the-fly editing without the need to restart.
Renewable energy to power a brighter tomorrow
John Vernacchia, renewable energy segment manager at Eaton.
New technologies and solutions for alternative and renewable energy sources—like wind and solar power—will help meet tomorrow’s energy challenges. Compact and advanced power protection and switching solutions withstand the power surges and transients typically found in harsh wind farm applications. For example, environmentally friendly vacuum technology is sought after in high-duty cycle switching applications for wind turbine power flow. Equipment using vacuum interrupters is engineered to reliably switch high voltage and high ampere currents, and requires no cooling or ventilation systems.
Beyond advanced technologies and equipment, some manufacturers can provide a range of services in both wind and solar applications. Design, build, startup, commissioning, turnkey and grid connection construction services shorten construction time, improve reliability and increase operator safety. Further, power system and arc flash studies optimize operations and enhance long-term safety practices.
Wind farms are demanding equipment with a smaller footprint to fit inside the wind turbine nacelle or tower.
In terms of solar power, innovations in a wide-range of balance of system solutions are making solar power more economically viable and are reliably converting sunlight into clean energy. Solar inverters—for residential, commercial and utility applications—maximize energy harvest, operate reliably in harsh environments and adhere to high safety standards. Additionally, to protect and connect photovoltaic panels to the inverter, dc switching systems are available for reliable and efficient switching of solar dc circuits that meet the latest safety requirements of both UL and the National Electric Code.
Filed Under: Factory automation, Automation components, Energy management + harvesting, Green engineering