PacB Group // Backup Power Remains an Essential Precaution in South Africa


Backup Power Remains an Essential Precaution in South Africa

While there is no doubt that South Africa’s suppliers of networked power are making a substantial effort to supplement the production of the current, inadequate generation and distribution infrastructure, most consumers would be quick to comment that it simply amounts to bolting the stable door only after the horse has bolted. Although the existence of a critical power shortfall has been common knowledge for many years, the continued dependence by the nation’s domestic, commercial, and industrial consumers on backup electric power does tend to suggest that the efforts, currently underway, may be both too little and too late.

There are few citizens in our country who have not been inconvenienced by the effects of Eskom’s load shedding programme at one point or another. As a result, the sale of backup power generators to concerned homeowners and businesses, both large and small, shows little sign of slowing down any time soon.

Of far greater concern, however, is the possible impact of the mains supply on the nation’s industries if it continues to be unreliable. While a family may be forced to spend an hour or two without watching TV or to eat a takeaway dinner by candlelight, instead of enjoying a home-cooked meal, it is more of an inconvenience, but certainly not a disaster. For a busy factory, working to complete an urgent order, these interruptions could result in losses amounting to millions of Rands. If it is for an international client, it could also result in the loss of a lucrative overseas contract, and may even lead to redundancies, without access to a source of backup power.

However, outages do not only pose a threat to manufacturers, and a generator is not always necessary to ensure a supply of electricity in case of an emergency. Today, information has become as important as manufactured goods and often more so. Data is stored, processed, and retrieved with the aid of computers, which, in turn, are just as dependent on a continuous supply of electricity as a metal press, a robotic welder, or a conveyor belt.

An outage in a financial establishment or hospital could result in a wholesale loss of critical data. In such cases, a perfectly adequate backup option is to install an uninterrupted power supply or UPS. This type of device comes in a variety of forms. The most effective ones divert some of the mains AC power, while it is available, via an inverter, in order to convert it to the direct current required to charge a storage battery. When the mains power can no longer be detected, the UPS issues an alarm and stored power from the battery is then switched back through the inverter to keep any PCs, servers, and networks up and running, until they can be safely powered down by the facility’s IT staff.

However, backup power on an industrial scale is an entirely different ball game. It relies on the use of powerful diesel generators, with the capacity to match the output of the interrupted mains supply. Once again, some means to ensure a seamless transition between the two sources is essential, not to guard against data loss, but to prevent damage to the plant’s machinery, including the emergency generators.

The transition can be managed manually by a competent employee, but an automated system is a more efficient and safer option. A programmable control panel can be set to start balancing the two inputs prior to a planned mains outage and switch to backup power in time to avoid any interruption. The process is reversed when mains power is detected.

Our qualified technicians offer support and advice in the selection of the right power solution for your needs by calculating your power requirements.

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