Understanding Backup Power, Effective Testing
Understanding applications can help managers ensure power system reliability.
Effective testing of UPS and generators can ensure that the facility operates effectively as designed and without operator intervention. While operators can perform some testing during facility operation, the tests can be intrusive and could interrupt power to the load. Thorough testing should occur following installation. Preferably, each system should undergo complete component and system-level commissioning.
Before the equipment is put in service, operators should put the equipment through its paces to ensure proper operation in all modes and conditions specified by the owner. Performing post-installation testing also enables operators to identify potential issues early and resolve them with the installing vendor instead of trying to resolve issues while supporting a live load, which can result in considerably less impact.
Specifying field-testing requirements for UPS and generator systems is as important as specifying power-quality and operational requirements for each. Detailed field quality control requirements provide guidance and assurance that critical systems operate at their designed capacity and reliability levels.
During the project design phase or when sourcing equipment for upgrades, managers, design engineers and the supplying vendor should discuss post-installation testing required by the specification. If the commissioning provider has been brought onto the project at this point, that input can also be valuable because agents allow for the continuity of knowledge and best practices from previous projects.
Ultimately, managers need to ensure testing requirements for generator and UPS systems are clearly defined before installation. Setting these requirements allows for the installing vendor and project team to plan accordingly for the way components and operations will be tested and to have the required materials and test equipment on hand.
To smooth out the testing process, managers need to identify the scope of the project team members and their responsibilities. For example, responsibilities that are often ambiguous and, thus, disputed include load-bank rental equipment, power-quality metering equipment, and infrared thermography.
Clearly defining these responsibilities, as well as testing expectations, can result in a more streamlined testing program. To identify issues early and assist in post-installation testing, managers also can require factory witness testing, where project stakeholders work to identify so-called show-stoppers early and help vendors work out ambiguous specification requirements or sequences.
John Lutz is director of mission-critical services for Horizon Engineering Associates — www.horizon-engineering.com — in Charlotte, N.C. A nuclear electricians mate in the U.S. Navy, John has more than 13 years of experience in the operation, maintenance and management of critical systems and facilities.