Spice up electrical systems

Nov. 27, 2012
Sheila Kennedy says circuit breakers, switchboards and transformers get new charges.

Industrial electrical systems encompass everything from circuit breakers and switchboards to electric utility power transformers. Continuous operation is essential to keep the plant running. Recent innovations in power protection and control technologies are improving the reliability of circuit breakers, AC motors, and industrial vehicles, and technology is enabling new approaches to electricity voltage transformation and energy storage systems.

Critical power applications cannot tolerate downtime. Likewise, safety and property protection are crucial. The new Evolution Series Switchboard from GE Industrial Solutions ( enables zone-selective interlocking protection, while also allowing multiple layers of circuit breakers to operate as a single system.

“Historically, plants have had to sacrifice selectivity and risk losing power to the entire plant,” says Adam Mease, senior product manager for GE’s Industrial Solutions business. “GE’s new Evolution Switchboard is the first in the industry to provide simultaneous selectivity and arc flash protection through new circuit breaker technologies, known as I-ZSI and waveform recognition.”

Circuit breaker analyzers are designed to ensure that a breaker will operate reliably when needed. Megger’s latest circuit breaker analyzer series, the TM1700, has galvanically isolated inputs and outputs, allowing all relevant measurements to be performed in a single test without requiring new setup and reconnections. Its vibration analysis uses voice-recognition algorithms adapted for circuit breaker vibrations.

“The TM1700 fills a niche with circuit breaker analyzers, which had traditionally been cumbersome,” says Nils Wäcklén, TM1700 product manager for Megger ( “With the technician in mind, we designed the TM1700 to be simple and easy-to-use, along with offering ground-breaking technology.”

Recent advancements in transformer design have resulted in greater overload capacity and reliability in smaller, lighter units. Peak transformers from Cooper Power Systems, a division of Cooper Industries (, use Envirotemp FR3, a soybean oil-based dielectric fluid, which is biodegradable and less flammable than mineral oil alternatives. Peak transformers can accommodate heavier base loading and peak loading to at least 112% without reducing the insulation’s life. They can also support higher-temperature and varying loads without causing damage to the transformer.

Sheila Kennedy is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics. She established Additive Communications in 2003 to serve software, technology, and service providers in industries such as manufacturing and utilities, and became a contributing editor and Technology Toolbox columnist for Plant Services in 2004. Prior to Additive Communications, she had 11 years of experience implementing industrial information systems. Kennedy earned her B.S. at Purdue University and her MBA at the University of Phoenix. She can be reached at [email protected].
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“New technology has always driven changes in transformer design standards,” says Mark Thurman, president of Cooper Power Systems. “The proposed IEEE standard C57.154-2012, covering the design, testing, and applications of transformers operating at elevated temperatures such as the Peak transformer, is in its final approval process.”

AC drives control the speed of an electrical motor. Frenic-Mega, the Mega series AC drive from Fuji Electric (, is designed for applications that run 24/7. It features insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) technology, built-in customizable logic functions, an EN 594 safety input, and corrosion protection for harsh environments.

Fuji Electric’s Frenic-Mega series provides the industry’s highest-performance constant torque drive for three-phase motor applications,” says Terry Webb, engineering manager for AC Drives at Fuji Electric. “They offer expanded power ratings and flexible configurations that support 1/2 HP up to 1,000 HP AC.”

Corrosion buildup and associated costs are a major concern in heavy-duty vehicles. The new Sta-Dry QCMS2 plug/socket from Phillips Industries ( is designed to eliminate corrosion damage caused by road contaminants entering the vehicle’s electrical system. The electrical cable has a Sta-Dry seal at one end for a corrosion-free connection, and a quick-change plug on the other that is designed to be repaired in the field in seconds. The QCMS2 corrosion-free housing is connected to the cable with a special bonding process.

“Phillips Industries has been an innovator in the heavy-duty truck and trailer industry for decades,” says Ron Fay, technical support specialist at Phillips Industries. “Corrosion is the number-one problem affecting the electrical systems today and Phillips Industries is on the forefront of Sta-Dry technology.”

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An emerging development in the automotive market may have potential for industrial vehicles such as electric lift trucks. Meidensha and Sumitomo Electric Industries (SEI) are jointly developing a new electric double-layer capacitor (EDLC) that uses SEI’s porous metal Aluminum-Celmet for the electrodes. Celmet offers high porosity, lightness, greater electrical conductivity, and corrosion resistance.

Aluminum-Celmet is suited to lithium-ion and other rechargeable batteries that operate at high charge/discharge voltage, such as those used in electric vehicles, and it could improve their range. It has recently been adopted as a positive electrode current collector in nickel-hydrogen batteries for hybrid vehicles. Commercialization of the EDLC is planned for fiscal 2015 for the automobile industry.