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Preparing for a crisis

David Tuffin, technical support manager, shentongroup, says that fears over future power shortages highlight the need to carefully consider your standby power and CHP needs.

Preparing for a crisis

According to a recent report from Ofgem, Britain is facing a future where energy prices will escalate and energy sources become unreliable. The report stated that a combination of a global financial crisis, tough environmental targets, increasing gas import dependency and the closure of ageing power stations are to blame for rising costs and uncertain supplies.

It is predicted that the Government will almost certainly fail to meet its renewable energy targets and even if the UK does cut its energy demand in half by 2050, the country will still need 16 new power plants between now and 2030 and an additional four by 2050.

The prospect of blackouts affecting, in particular, sophisticated IT and telephone systems, has put pressure on business and energy managers to implement an effective and robust strategy to ensure their business can continue to function when power cuts occur. Today it is not just large companies that need standby power systems, SMEs including care homes, shops, business premises and filling stations all need to be prepared for the inevitable power cut.

Most companies understand the need for power management systems and many have installed UPS systems believing that this will solve the problem of power cuts. However, as the problems with the country’s energy supply continue to multiply, power cuts are no longer lasting minutes but often hours and days at a time.

Typically, a UPS has just a 10-20 minute battery life, which will not allow a company to keep their business running if a power cut lasts longer than a few minutes. With more frequent and longer lasting power cuts occurring many companies realise that they need to support their UPS with a generator.

UPS and generator
Standby generators can provide an additional backup to a UPS. Installed as part of a standby power system, the generator takes over before the batteries of the UPS run out, smoothly transferring the network over as part of the SPS. When mains power returns, the generator will automatically switch back to conventional power after ensuring the power will remain constant.
Combined Heat and Power

Combined heat and power (CHP), offers a solution for controlling energy costs whilst improving the reliability of power and thermal energy supplies. CHP is the cogeneration of heat and electricity, in which the ‘spare’ heat produced, is turned into hot water. The principle is that a natural gas or biogas-fuelled engine drives a generator that produces electricity. Normally Wasted heat from an engine and exhaust is normally absorbed by coolant water through a high efficiency heat exchanger. This energy, stored as hot water, is then usable directly for central heating, hot water, or indirectly for air conditioning. As a rule of thumb, the production of 1-kilowatt of electrical power creates 2-kilowatts of usable heat energy.

CHP systems also provide a local power source capable of keeping critical facilities operating during power outages. When power outages occur resulting in a black out, CHP plants can be ‘islanded’ from the grid and continue to operate normally. Because they rely on natural gas, CHP plants will ensure power continuity in critical infrastructures such as hospitals, schools, airports, military bases and government facilities. In addition, CHP plants can improve the power quality during brownouts when computers and other sensitive equipment are affected by deviations in power quality.

Emergency callout service
A contract with an emergency callout generator company can negate the need for large capital expenditure and ongoing maintenance costs. Instead, a company will provide a standby generator on an emergency callout basis.

Emergency generator call-out companies are able to support any site that has either single or 3-phase mains electrical supply. Companies providing this service have a 24/7 control room, which arranges for a standby generator to be despatched from a local depot when a call is received from a subscriber. Generally, service levels are based on a target delivery time of 1 hour and a guaranteed commitment to a maximum of 3 hours

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