Your facility is adding new equipment this year, and you are tasked with upgrading, installing, and maintaining the existing substation with minimal downtime and a very limited budget. How do you do it?
Apply these five recommendations to your new substation upgrade and deliver on-time and within budget, while keeping your workforce safe and your boss happy.
Order a Fully-Integrated Substation.
Instead of purchasing separate primary and secondary equipment and protection from different suppliers and being left with a complicated puzzle to put together, consider ordering the entire substation (primary disconnect and protection, transformer, secondary disconnect and protection) as a fully designed, tested, integrated unit. The integrated equipment should save the most footprint space, greatly limit field modifications, and reduce overall installation time significantly. Supplier costs for integration in their own factory is usually a small fraction of that same work performed in the field. Plus, installing as a single unit generally saves overall downtime.
Customize Equipment to Match Existing Conduits.
Nothing blows up a substation upgrade budget faster than discovering the new substation won’t match the existing cable conduits and must be moved remotely. That usually means a new electrical house, long cable runs, additional protection, more difficulty for personnel to operate and maintain, and of course, more money. Instead, consider primary and secondary equipment designed to match up with existing conduit locations, and only upgrade the cables themselves. This will greatly minimize the interruption to regular production as you prep for the new substation to arrive.
Consider “Life-Cycle” Cost as well as Initial Cost.
Just like your vehicle, your house, or any engineered piece of equipment, you’ve learned that lesser quality on the front end usually results in much greater cost down the road, whether it be increased maintenance to repair, sooner-than-expected replacement, or lost-productivity cost. Save yourself time and headache by selecting a manufacture reputation for reliable product, backed by a warranty and service crews, as well as engaged customer service with a vested interest in your company to make things right.
Package Equipment and Preventative Maintenance Together.
If you know you will need to service this equipment for the next 30+ years, you could reduce your overall cost by having the same supplier package both the product and the maintenance contract together, as a “volume discount.” They should be able to provide DGA analysis of the transformer, clean and lubricate the switchgear, test the protective relays, and provide routine IR scans and partial-discharge testing. As a bonus, the supplier that designed and built the equipment would be the best one to maintain it.
Keep Arc Flash Safety in Mind!
Most substations that step down medium voltage (13.8 kV or 4.16 kV) to 480/277V often end up having some of the highest arc flash incident energy levels on the low-voltage bus. Most substation transformers are protected by medium-voltage fuses, sized for maximum fault currents. During an arc flash event on low-voltage bus, the resulting arcing currents are 50-70% lower than what the fuses are sized to clear, allowing the arcing event to endure and increase incident energy levels exponentially. This is a very common problem in a large number of substations, and is oftentimes repeated on new substations designed today, resulting in increased risk to personnel, equipment, and productivity . However, this risk can be mitigated by ensuring the medium-voltage protection on the substation is sensitive enough to detect the lower arcing currents, and provide fast clearing times to reduce arc flash energy and associated dangers, as well as require a more manageable level PPE.
If you’re looking for a supplier that can provide all of these cost-saving benefits, contact Southwest Electric. Our engineering staff is dedicated to application-specific customized designs, our manufacturing facilities are known for quality procedures and attention to detail, and our trained service crews are experts in analyzing issues and providing solutions. We truly are your one-stop, integrated package for all your transformer, switchgear, motor, and substation upgrade needs. Give us a call or email, and we’ll be happy to discuss your needs.