In recent years the biggest emphasis in the pharmaceutical and medical sector in energy management was on energy efficiency. ISO90001 certification became an important trend in the industry. The requirement of the standard for constant usage energy traceability (to demonstrate improvements) increased demand for dedicated metering and energy power monitoring systems. More processes and machines were and are being connected to energy systems, allowing better efficiency results.

Years of energy saving initiatives have however created new challenges for operators of industrial networks and processes. Introduction of non-linear loads such as: VFDs and energy saving lighting, as well as the installation of non-detuned PFCs started to pose new threats to the quality of power supply. Harmonics, transients and reduced immunity of the sensitive devices to those issues started to become more of a problem.

Reliability over energy efficiency

In 2016 industry started to focus on the quality of supply and more often was investing in reliability projects than energy saving initiatives. After all, it’s all about keeping the process going. Power quality analysis, harmonic filtration, transient protection, upgrades of PFC units were much more often on the agenda of engineering managers.

Even the power metering systems, installed purely for energy (KWH) monitoring, are getting expanded to cover the power quality aspect. Providing trending and alarming is necessary to correctly troubleshoot when the lights go off.

One can also notice a change in the design process. More and more we are seeing the implementation of studies ahead of process expansion or addition of new utility services on the networks. Site wide protection coordination and load flow analysis is becoming compulsory at many facilities. Any expansion of the site or new design project has to be incorporated into the software model, to verify the suitability of design and new equipment, as well as to assess implications on the adjacent loads.

Electrical accidents

Despite advances in awareness of electrical safety across the industry, 2016 saw a number of electrical accidents take place. It seems electrical safety awareness in the industry is still a significant issue. The phenomenon of arc flash is still a very ambiguous term for many engineers and electricians. Luckily the process of arc flash analysis and awareness training initiated a couple of years ago by US companies is getting noticed across the wider industry. In 2016 we saw that arc flash is not only being addressed by industry or the utilities sector.  The Health and Safety Authority has also recognised the need to address the gap in current legislation and has undertaken a lot of work in the area this year. Gradually we’ve noticed increasing numbers of arc flash enquiries involving studies, risk assessments, procedures and of course awareness training, coming through.

Solar incentives

Utilities and renewable developers in Ireland were gearing up for the introduction of solar incentives in 2016 and a lot of land acquisitions have been made. Unfortunately, no suitable legislation was put in place last year, therefore large land based solar installations are not in development yet. It will be interesting to see how this develops in 2017. Preliminary assessments and feasibility studies are in high demand however, as many developers want to be ready to go when the light turns green. It is a positive trend to see that more industrial customers are deciding to invest in roof top solar installations, which seem the more reasonable solution from a return of investment perspective at this point of time.

Harmonic limits

The introduction of new harmonic limits by EirGrid created new challenges for the renewable sector in Ireland this year. Wind farm developers are obliged to carry out a very strict harmonic analysis to demonstrate wind farm compliance before the connection can be made. The previous approach with a ‘last minute’ assessment is not suitable any more, as a  requirement for a harmonic filter can substantially delay the delivery of the entire project. Harmonic filters need to be budgeted for in advance due to the changes in grid compliance and harmonic studies are carried out at earlier design stage more often.

Michael Sopocko is a Chartered Engineer and Engineering Director at Premium Power. He provides quality supervision of electrical system design, power quality studies, arc flash, PMS integration and renewable energy design. To get in touch with Michal email