ACF Standby Systems Blog

Category archive: Brown Outs

Winter Back-up

When we think about the Sunshine State and electricity consumption, we are inclined to picture high demand for energy on a steamy July afternoon. It seems logical to pay special attention to safeguarding your business from power outages during the summer months. While it is important to make sure that energy demand on an exceptionally hot and humid summer afternoon doesn’t stop your workday, winter demand can be just as high.

As Floridians we get cold when the temperature drops much below 70°. You’d be surprised how many space heaters and electric blankets get turned on in our state, not just up north in Jacksonville but down south in Miami and Melbourne also. In fact TECO and Progress Energy, the utility providers for the majority of central Florida, report record single-day electricity usage records as being the result of a cold front in January of 2010, not one of our notoriously hot summers.

Winter Electricity Demand

As always, record demands can easily lead to blackouts. Power outages caused by high demand for energy tend to happen at the beginning of the day. Think about it: demand will be high all night when thermostats are set to warm the house along with other heating elements. Then everyone wakes up and turns on televisions, radios and hot water heaters that all need even more energy without turning off the heat. This surge in demand can cause the utility provider to scramble to supply enough power and often results in multiple power outages to start the day.

By the time the utility provider has mobilized their staff to fix the first outage, several others likely pile up, leaving some without power for the entire day if not longer. That is why electric companies make pleas to the community to limit consumption on a cold day. Think about it: power companies sell electricity for profit, so if they are asking you to use less electricity, they are basically admitting an inability to cover demand and warning that you will likely experience some form of disruption in power supply. Can your business afford to be put on hold for a day? Especially at a time of year where vacations are likely, so you need to get as much work done in a day as possible. Or at a time of year where your sales increase to the point that you become profitable?

The bottom line here is that at some point, your bottom line will depend upon your ability to produce electricity, at least for a limited amount of time. To do this you need to have a standby system or set of generators on hand that can handle your electricity demands. Don’t confuse winter months and lack of electrical demand. Yes, we are lucky enough in Florida to be able to turn the air conditioner off during many winter days. Don’t forget the peak days that create surges for the utility providers and ultimately everyone who needs electricity. We will leave you with a couple of facts.

Florida Energy Facts

  • Florida’s per capita residential electrical demand is nearly the highest in the country. Utility providers have to meet demand for both residences and businesses, so you are not always guaranteed service.
  • Electricity in Florida is dependent upon petroleum, so any interruptions in the gas supply chain can cause issues for our ability to do so much as turn on lights.

Sources:

U.S. Energy Information Administration

TECO Press Release

St. Petersburg Times

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Power Outage 101

A Little Pro-Activity Goes a Long Way

Power Outage 101

A lot of people are willing to gamble when it comes to backup power. They feel that power outages are rare occurrences that don’t really pose a significant threat. But ask anyone who operates a data or manufacturing facility that has lost power for say, more than five minutes, if power outages do not pose a threat, and you are likely to get a response that uses stronger words than “significant.” The truth is that power outages cost thousands of dollars for every minute that a medium or large facility goes without power, and that they are more common than most people tend to think.

Why Does the Power go out?

Let’s begin by reviewing the most common reasons for power outages. According to information from some actual power providers the top causes of power outages include:

  • Weather- Wind, rain, sleet, snow, lightning, you name it–common aspects of weather can cause electrical lines to be disrupted and transformers to go out. In addition to these occurrences you have to consider tornadoes, hurricanes (especially for those of us living here in Florida) and any other weather-related disaster that can cause a blackout.
  • Animals- Yes Mother Nature strikes again. Think about how many times you have seen birds and squirrels living on power lines or using them as travel routes. More often that you would think, a bird building a nest on a utility pole or a squirrel chewing into a wire causes hundreds of properties to lose power.
  • Automobile and Construction Accidents- Drunk, sleepy and distracted drivers have been known to crash into light poles. New development is also a fairly common reason that power is interrupted as workers unintentionally disrupt power lines and equipment.

These are the most common reasons for disruptions in power. While other factors can play a role, more often than not the culprit is on the above list.

What about Blackouts in the Future?

As our population grows in numbers and the use of electrically powered technology becomes an increasing part of everyone’s lives, it would be unrealistic to think that increased power outages are not going to be a probable side affect. More people, who all have increased demand for energy, will likely cause problems for utility providers. Currently the energy industry is looking into new ways to create electricity that is both better for the environment and able to meet upcoming demands. The truth is, those sources of electricity are largely in experimental stages and are not widely adopted. If you disagree, look at the bottom of your next power bill. It lists how your utility provider sourced electricity during the previous billing period. You will see that the majority of our power still comes from fossil fuels and coal, not new technologies.

Recently CNN reported on the findings of a team of researchers out of the University of Minnesota. These researchers studied power disruptions and blackouts. They found that over the past 20 years power outages that are not caused by natural disasters but do end up affecting at least 50,000 people are up 124%. This evidence shows that our demand for energy is currently increasing faster than the utility companies’ ability to provide power.

What Can We Do about It?

This is not the easiest question to answer. Some would argue more funding for research and development of new technologies, while others would back finding ways for each individual to use less power. In the end it will probably be a combination of both ideas. Regardless of what happens, everyone who values energy, or who values their business that needs energy to operate, can purchase insurance. The insurance we are talking about isn’t an intangible contract sold to you by someone who will likely try to argue you out of payment when you need it. This type of insurance is a tangible piece of proven machinery that when set up correctly can power parts of your business, if not the entire facility. The other benefit is that this “insurance policy” does not necessarily cost you more based on location. An identical standby system costs the same for a data center in Jacksonville as it does for a manufacturing plant in Orlando.

Sources:

Baltimore Gas and Electric

Duke Energy

IBM

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Why Buy Baldor

There are a lot of different brand names when it comes to backup power. Making a purchase decision for a generator or standby system means that you have to choose out the brand as well as the specific unit. While it is true that many manufacturers make quality products, not many manufacturers incorporate quality into their entire product line. One company might make great portable gas generators, but poor quality immobile standby systems. This is not the case with Baldor; they make products that they expect to put to work in the field. Product quality is a priority for this manufacturer.

Industrial Equipment

Many manufacturers make generators out of lesser quality parts. A lawn engine motor might work for a generator that only gets used twice a year for a couple of hours, but industrial equipment needs to be ready continually. Baldor knows this, so they make sure that the majority of their products are built around your need to work. They incorporate multiple exceptional features:

  • Magnetic grade lamination steel is used to construct the alternators, which helps control the voltage of the electricity and assists the unit in starting up.
  • A “dip and bake” thermal set epoxy varnish seals the units much better that a plastic or metal cover would. This means your generator will last longer even after it has been in the rain, wind and dirt.
  • An additional copper wire–the Inverter Spike Resistant Wire–helps the units run longer and actually reduces maintenance costs over time.
  • Portable units can provide at least 150% of their nameplate rating in short bursts, which means that you will have less issues getting your equipment up and running in the field.

A Committed Company

Have you ever noticed that the way a company feels about their business plays a big role in how well they operate and directly cues product quality? So have we. We have chosen to be a certified Baldor dealer throughout Florida because of the company’s commitment to making quality products. We carry their products in all sizes, from 2.5 kilowatt units all the way up to 2.5 megawatts. We have based our product line around Baldor because of their commitment to the industry. They think about their customers and product quality every step of the way. They can manufacture and deliver custom motors and drives in three weeks or less. This means that they are willing to give their customers exactly what they need in a reasonable amount of time.

Baldor representatives also spend countless hours every year talking to their customers. They want feedback so that they can continually improve and make sure that customers who depend on them for power get exactly what they need. We feel that customers should be provided the best products that are customized to their needs as well, so it made the decision to focus our product line on their gensets a no-brainer. When you are committed to your customers, your industry and quality you will surely rise to the top of your industry just as Baldor has.

Sources:

Baldor

USP&E

Generator Power.net

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Brown Outs Happen but They Shouldn’t Stop Business

A quality standby system will ensure that your facility remains up and running, no matter what happens with your utility provider. In some cases it is not an all-out blackout or total loss of power that sets your operations back; instead it is a brownout. A brownout is a time period in which a utility provider cannot supply electricity due to high demand. High demand can be exactly what it sounds like–an instance where too many people are using too much power–or it can be caused by the electrical supply going down due to damaged equipment. As Floridians we know that it doesn’t matter whether you live in Jacksonville or Miami–either scenario can happen.

Sometimes the problem is that too much power is being used. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that Florida is among the states with the highest per capita energy usage in the country. This is largely due to our need for air conditioning the majority of the year. On top of air conditioning, businesses have other electrical needs: lights, computer, printers, copiers and a variety of other electrical equipment. Combine this with residential needs and you might just have a recipe for a brownout.

Strangely, some of our largest need for electricity in a single day has come in the winter months. The winter of 2010 was one of the coldest for Florida. In January of 2010 the Tampa Electric Company reported single day usage of 4,742 watts. Considering that Progress Energy, a neighboring utility provider, was dealing with similar usage, brownouts occurred all over West Central Florida. Schools in both Hillsborough and Pasco Counties went without power for several hours. Had the schools had proper generator setups, students would not have endured outside temperatures inside classrooms on a day where lows in some affected areas were in the 20’s.

In other cases storms can cause brownouts. Fallen limbs and even lighting strikes can disable individual transformers, causing particular areas to go without power. Frequent storms involving lightning and wind affect every area of Florida. Business owners in Sarasota have just as much need for a standby generator as their counterparts in Port St. Lucie. Regardless of the storm, or the location, a good generator will keep your A/C running and your computer network intact. Customers out of state might not understand when you tell them that you cannot operate due to rain, unless of course you happen to be a baseball team.

As the population grows, our power needs will increase. Hopefully our infrastructure will develop along with the population, but that is not guaranteed. Certain areas, especially densely populated ones, may experience more and more brownouts in the future. It is our responsibility to be prepared for the future, whatever it may bring.

Sources:
ACF Standby Systems
TBO.com
U.S. Energy Information Administration

TBO.com

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