Power Quality & Facility Downtime Investigation

Power Quality Damage & Facility Downtime

Electrical and electronic equipment typically has certain specifications relating to the required level of power “cleanliness”. There are industry standards with which utilities must comply as well. When supplied with electricity not meeting these standards and specifications, anything can happen. Consequences range from barely perceptible changes in equipment operation, to catastrophic destruction, often accompanied by costly business process interruption (consequential damages).

The topic is often regarded as a nebulous one because the event itself initially goes unnoticed. However, an autopsy of a piece of electronic equipment damaged by a lightning spike (or other power anomaly) will often reveal a trail of destruction, sometimes microscopic, that tells the story of the incident. Latent effects can even occur months or years after repeated exposure to power quality events.

The photo to the left shows a metal oxide varistor destroyed by a power surge. This is a sacrificial component that manufactures use to “take the bullet” for sensitive downstream electronics. This kind of damage can also be very useful for timeline reconstruction in insurance claims. For example, it can often be concluded whether flood damage or electrical damage occurred first.

Mission critical facilities such as data centers, labs, clean rooms and securities trading facilities often invest in power protection much more sophisticated than simple surge suppression to protect their operations. Redundant uninterruptable power supplies (UPS), onsite diesel or natural gas generators, and robust precision HVAC systems are employed to provide statistically superior power and cooling availability. Unplanned power outages in these facilities has steep consequences, often hundreds of thousands of dollars per minute. The business process interruption loss typically surpasses equipment or data losses. Common causes include:

  • Human / procedural error
  • Maintenance error
  • Design errors and omissions
  • Natural disasters

Whether negotiating an insurance claim, litigation, or simply seeking an unbiased expert to capture lessons learned after a facility downtime incident, we can serve your needs. Our electrical engineering expert has over 20 years of mission critical facility and power quality experience. He has served as a designer, operator, inventor and maintainer for facilities ranging from nuclear plants to major tier one data centers. Learn more about our data center services.

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