With the current upheaval at Eskom, the spotlight is once again on the utility’s ability to effectively provide electricity to meet the country’s needs.
Eskom’s failure to keep pace with growth has led to an unstable supply of electricity into the national grid, and the quality of the power supplied is intermittent.
A number of businesses have therefore decided to follow the adage “better safe than sorry”, and have installed Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) to protect their operations. “Plans exist for the provision of additional power stations but the problem persists in the meanwhile,” says Gary Jameson, country manager of Eaton Power Quality. “This is further compounded by poor maintenance of the existing electrical grid infrastructure, major electrical cable theft by the underprivileged, a very high incidence of severe electrical thunderstorms and several other types of everyday incidents that lead to power outages.”
Graham Beyleveld, GM: Meissner at Eaton Power Quality’s largest distributor in SA, adds that power failures strike all electricity-dependant businesses without preference. “Nedbank, however, took the decision that it could not allow the irregularity of power supply to compromise customer satisfaction levels, and therefore opted to put UPS's into a number of branches as a show of commitment to service excellence,” he says. “The UPS's were to be installed in key branch sites, identified as such by Nedbank, in major commercial centres in cities and towns across the length and breadth of South Africa.”
In addition to other criteria, one of the bank’s main requirements was that the company supplying the UPS's would have an infrastructure that could not only install and commission the units, but also support and maintain them in the future. At the start of the project, the bank required that Meissner deliver each UPS to each individual branch and then follow up with a trip to the branch to commission the machine once the electrics were in place. “As Eaton's sole Powerware agent in South Africa, we were selected because we have a long and successful track record with Nedbank spanning over 20 years,” explains Beyleveld.
The project involved over 400 Eaton UPS's, comprising 24 x 9120 6kVA's, 29 x 9155 10kVA's, 3 x 9355 10kVA's, 68 x 9355 15 kVA's, 181 x 9355 20kVA's and 96 x 9355 30kVA's. The UPS's were on-line double conversion units, with each providing between 15 and 30 minutes back-up time. The total value of the project was over R32-million.
Beyleveld says that one of the biggest challenges Meissner had around the project was the result of the security in the branches. “Some sites could not get the machines into the desired position because the ‘Man Traps’ (single pedestrian security doors) were too narrow.” He adds that some sites had not been correctly surveyed by the independent consultant, and the sites had only single phase supply available where a three-phase UPS had been requested and delivered, and there were instances when electricians failed to complete the electrical site works before the commissioning technicians arrived. “The distances traveled were, in such instances, 200 or 300 kilometers one way.”
However, Beyleveld says that overcoming challenges such as these are simply “part-and-parcel” of a project of this size. “Through careful negotiation and the excellent working relationship between ourselves and Nedbank, we were able to reach satisfactory solutions to the problems, and achieve a very successful outcome.’’