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The summer of 2012 has been a bear. Once again, many of the electrical grids across this nation were put to the test and many have failed. In the past, we have seen issues with keeping the lights on because of brownouts and blackouts ordered by utility companies to preserve power for critical needs — not to mention abrupt storms with high winds that took down power lines.
To remain productive and profitable during a power outage like the ones we have experienced this summer, we know it would be nice to have a power generation system on site that could sustain the entire plant’s needs. Automatic outage detection and generator startup would be the cat’s meow when it comes to having the ready-to-go system. The problem is that a system like this is hard to justify in this day and age.
The alternative to having the luxury of a ready-to-go generation system at your place is to set your place up to be ready to have one. We have all heard of the outfit that gets in a jam, and then someone says, “Let’s get a generator and keep running.” This person usually doesn’t get it when it comes to knowing what it takes to connect an industrial generator. Industrial plants can’t just connect a 3,000-amp supply with an extension cord.
To prepare your plant, here are some things you might want consider for future power outage. First, you must know your demand requirements. The temporary power being supplied by the generator needs to be equal to and not less than what the utility connection is providing. In this case, more is not always better because your internal infrastructure is sized to handle a certain incoming voltage and amperage. Too much power can be damaging.
Second, you need to know how and where you can connect the generator so that the entire plant is serviced.
Third, you must have a way to connect. A plant that is considering a future generator connection should invest in a transfer switch. This is a device that is engineered to the plant's electrical demand and is external to the existing system servicing the plant. The transfer switch allows you to connect and disconnect a generator while being isolated from the permanent system. Once connected, the plant can switch back and forth as needed between permanent and temporary power.
The next thing to know is, where are you going to get a generator on short notice? Spend some quality time talking with the local supplier of temporary power and work out terms and conditions long before you will ever need to use it.
If your plant is in Tornado Alley, Hurricane Alley or brutal winter weather areas, consider leasing a generator for the risky seasons so that you know you will get power when you need it. When bad weather hits, generators disappear fast, usually taken up by the utility companies themselves.
And lastly, know where to source diesel fuel in those cases where you will need to run continuously for days.
When the skies get dark, the wind howls and the power lines hit the ground, be prepared to have your generator set for plug and play.