ABB explains that events on the grid – such as adverse weather or switching on large loads – can lead to common voltage fluctuations or ‘sags’ in the network. These have little to no effect on normal electrical equipment, but can seriously affect sensitive electronics and data collection processes.
ABB explained: “These power quality issues were a big challenge for the Sir Francis Crick Institute, whose 1,250 scientists perform cutting-edge research into cancer, neuroscience, physiology, ageing, and homeostasis – finding new ways to treat, diagnose, and prevent human disease. The laboratory was opened in 2016 to provide the best working environment for its researchers. That means that all scientific equipment – from advanced microscopes and high-performance computers to fridges for storing samples – must consistently function at peak performance, day and night, all year round. However, power disturbances were causing significant disruption. Scientists feared equipment would drop out of service at a critical time, potentially losing data or delaying research programmes.”
Lee Downes, Senior Project manager for the Facilities & Infrastructure Team at the Crick, said: “Being able to provide our research teams with the highest quality environment means they can have the confidence to proceed with their vital research. So, we started to log both the equipment failures and the electrical supply anomalies, and were soon able to determine that problems occurred with a sag incident.”
Early this year, the Institute’s Facilities team called on Sentridge Controls, a UK automation and control specialist and long-term ABB partner, to propose a solution. The company analysed the equipment failures and the electrical supply anomalies and quickly identified that problems were occurring due to voltage sags. Despite the local grid meeting the UK’s high standards for power quality, the sensitive nature of the scientific equipment required additional support.
Sentridge Controls’ solution included eight ABB PCS100 AVC-40 Active Voltage Conditioners (AVC) rated at 225 kVA, along with low voltage bypass switchboards. The AVCs regulate the incoming electricity supply to keep voltage within a very tight quality window. Voltage sags and flicker are now counteracted within milliseconds so that sensitive equipment now functions normally, and the Institute’s research is not affected. ABB said: The Institute’s system draws the extra energy needed to make up the correction voltage directly from the utility supply, eliminating the need for expensive batteries and the associated maintenance costs. It includes advanced control software, and a reliable converter platform, and works at more than 98 per cent efficiency.
“Thanks to the AVCs, even in extreme conditions, a voltage sag up to 40 percent would be corrected automatically – avoiding costly downtime and loss of valuable data or research,” said Phil Tomkinson, General manager at Sentridge Controls.