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Schools & Universities Utilize Stationary & Portable Generators for Backup Power




Over our 40 year history, Diesel Service & Supply has purchased and sold standby power generators to numerous universities. Schools facing evolving power needs must consider common challenges with codes, utility costs, and the appropriate type of generator(s) for their specific needs.

Campuses are a major consumer of power, and most have many generators. One local school we work with has nine generators onsite, and they are planning to add more. Power generators are becoming a standard practice for supporting multiple classroom buildings, dorm facilities, libraries, campus centers, sports complexes, theaters, and more.

Campus Emergency Power & Life Safety Systems

Football Stadium University of Ohio
Large universities and college campuses today consist of multiple buildings. Each building can have a separate emergency power requirement. Some buildings only need power for life safety systems and do not require operational power. These can range from dormitories to libraries and theaters. Life safety systems are designed to protect and evacuate the building population in emergencies; including fires, acts of nature, and power failures.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is devoted to eliminating death, injury, property, and economic loss due to fire and electrical hazard through industry standards and publications. The National Electrical Code (NEC) sets the regulations for electrical wiring, over current protection, grounding, and installation of equipment.

Both work in conjunction with one another. NFPA issues emergency power requirements which a building must meet based on its intended use. NEC sets the installation requirements for the physical system. Regulations and standards change as technology changes. In addition, comments from members are used to update requirements to avoid repeating first-time failures because of equipment maintenance or configuration.

All colleges and universities must adhere to these standards and regulations. Extra levels of difficulty are added with older buildings that have aging electrical infrastructures. An increasing number of students, weather, and infrastructure failures all contribute to the loss of power. Power will fail. The geographical area of the failure combined with the amount of infrastructure damage and accessibility to affected areas are all determining factors for how long utility power will be out. 

Some Academics Require Additional Backup Power

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is an example of a university that has a hospital on campus that provides patient care. Hospitals have many systems that cannot tolerate power interruption for any amount of time and require advanced backup power systems. When power fails:
  1. Uninterruptible (UPS) assumes the load for a brief time while the generator starts
  2. Generator starts and UPS surrenders load to the generator.
  3. Switchboard is configured for loss of utility power, and circuits with critical power requirements are automatically configured
When utility power is restored, the generator surrenders the load to primary power from the utility company. As a campus increases capabilities to support advancements in technology, the emergency or backup power must make the same advancements. This document will explore some colleges that have had issues and present some solutions to solve the issues.

Operational Requirements Demand Backup Power Improvements

University of Berkeley Campus
Universities that have been in operation for extended amounts of time must keep the building's emergency power package up to current specifications and regulations. NEC 2017 700.3 (F), requires all colleges to install a method to connect a temporary power source to the emergency grid while maintenance is performed.

At the beginning of the maintenance, the temporary generator is connected to the manual transfer switch. The manual transfer switch is moved to the temporary generator position. If power is lost during primary generator maintenance, the temporary generator will assume the load. Once the primary generator maintenance is complete, the manual transfer switch is moved to the primary generator position, and the temporary generator is disconnected. 

Colleges are required to start and run diesel generators periodically. If a diesel generator has extremely black smoke or a thick dark substance dripping from the exhaust pipe, it can have a wet stacking problem. Diesels that are not operating under load have low exhaust gas temperature and produce unburned fuel vapors which combine with carbon. This will shorten engine life by years and reduce maximum power capability. 

NEC 2017 700.3 (F) and the requirement to start and run generators are imposed requirements to existing systems. Adherence updated requirements ensures safety and well-being of students, staff and contractors. However, there is added expenses in parts, installation, maintenance, and testing. 

If curriculum update (lab addition, extra equipment in the existing environment) requires power support when utility power fails, the existing system must be able to meet demands or must be updated. Often, new equipment must be installed to interface with the campus systems. Installation, maintenance, and testing all required experienced technicians.

Generator Source is a sister company to Diesel Service & Supply. With over 35 years of generator experience, we offer generator maintenance, testing, deinstallation/installation, and troubleshooting/repair services. Our services are now available to a nationwide audience. To contact us go to Generator Source. For a list of completed projects go to Project Profiles.

Load Testing Reduces Wet Stacking

Generator Load Testing can Eliminate Wet Stacking
Running a generator without a sufficient load or in an unloaded condition causes unburned fuel in the exhaust system. The accumulation of the unburned fuel and carbons causes a black sticky liquid at the muffler. Some universities are designed with a generator for each building to supply life safety system power and backup power for critical systems. Campuses require the maintenance force to start and run the generator each week for a predetermined amount of time.

Frequent load testing the generator is not a requirement, but it does force maintenance to clean the exhaust system of each generator engine. Building commitments may not allow generators to be loaded using the installed emergency system. Prior to the latest NEC ruling, the following steps would need to be completed:
  • Connect standby generator to the emergency grid and place in automatic operation mode
  • Disconnect emergency generator from the gird
  • Connect cables to generator and load tester
  • Start generator and operate at varying loads for specified hours recording operating generator parameters
  • Disconnect cables from generator and load tester 
  • Connect emergency generator to the grid
  • Disconnect standby generator from the grid
  • Return emergency generator to automatic operation
Normally this type of test is conducted on a quarterly or semi-annual schedule. The process is standard, but the testing steps can take most of the day. When the testing time frame is reduced to a weekly schedule, the workload increases to the point maintenance force must be increased to complete simple testing.

Installing the NEC required 3-way switch at each location saves much disconnection and connection time. Now the standby generator is connected to the 3-way switch, switched moved to standby position, cables connected to generator and load tester, generator load test, disconnect cables from generator & load tester, move 3-way switch to primary position and place generator in automatic operation.

Reducing complicated and time-consuming steps in the testing process saves time, which allows the maintenance staff to complete load-testing at less than a quarterly or semi-annual schedule. Proper scheduling of testing can reduce or eliminate wet stacking issue completely. Clean up is a dirty and time-consuming process. 

Standby Generator Options

Portable Generators for Rent or Purchase
Universities that have critical power requirements have more rigid testing requirements than those that support life-support systems only. All colleges must supply a standby generator when performing maintenance to the emergency generator. The standby generator must meet emergency and/or standby power requirements for the building(s).

The NEC required switch supports the requirement to supply a standby generator while performing maintenance on the installed emergency generator. Basic maintenance steps are:
  • Connect standby generator to 3-way switch and place in automatic operation mode
  • Move the switch to standby position
  • Tag out and secure generator
  • Perform maintenance
  • Remove the tag out
  • Move the switch to the installed emergency generator position
  • Place the emergency generator in Automatic operation mode
Smaller colleges that do not have multiple generators or only supply power to campus-wide life support systems may elect to rent generators during scheduled maintenance. Purchase is a good option for large installations. The type of generator depends on the needs of the university.

Portable generators are a popular rental solution for smaller campuses and for universities that have multiple generators. These are complete generation units ready to be connected to the grid and assume the electrical load. They are manufactured in all sizes to accommodate any need. 

A permanent generator can be installed and hard-wired into the required 3-way switch. Purchasing and installing a standby generator offers many benefits. One large standby generator can serve a single emergency generator application. Smaller generators can be installed in a building that has independent emergency generators. Redundancy is one of the greatest advantages of an installed standby generator. If the emergency generator fails, the standby generator can be brought online by moving the 3-way switch. This eliminates the need to rent or move and connect a portable generator.

Diesel Service & Supply has a large inventory of pre-owned and new generators. All preowned generators must pass a 31-point inspection prior to sales. We can often arrange for shipping within 24 hours of purchase. To view our inventory, go to Generators.



 
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