Sunday, February 23, 2014

Maintenance and troubleshooting works in a ski resort

Every ski resort have their own electrical engineering team to monitor the operation of gondolas, ski lifts, kitchen, hotel, staff accommodations and all other buildings. This team of technicians and engineers are to be available everywhere and at all times to ensure that everything is working smoothly. During summer, maintenance and troubleshooting works are being done.

Dave Monminie is an electrical supervisor at Sunshine Village Ski and Snowboard Resort in Banff National Park. He came across Agilent’s website while searching for multimeter to replace his old Fluke 12 which he accidentally dropped from 30 feet up a ski lift tower. While researching, Dave also came across Ideal, Greenlee and Fluke’s meters, but thought that U1194A Handheld Clamp Meter was the one. But he then saw the U1213A Handheld Clamp Meter with Bluetooth connectivity and thought that it could be a very useful tool, and will be able to turn a 2-person job into a 1-person job.

Here are some examples given by Dave:

On our Great Divide lift here at Sunshine Village, there was a 10 amp breaker located inside our top operator's shack, wayyyyy up there out of sight, which was tripping. The circuit feeds 4 different branches which are outside, 10 meters or so to the ladder and up in the return station which looks much like the drive station below.
The Great Divide lift at Sunshine Village Ski and Snowboard Resort
Having just hiked for an hour and a half to the top, I was the only person available to troubleshoot. The problem was that when the breaker was reset, it would trip before I could get into position up in the station to take a measurement. Now, I could have disconnected all the branches, went down the ladder, flipped the breaker, climbed back up the ladder, placed the amp clamp on a wire, touched it to the power rail with my hand, and noted the amperage draw, but that creates arcing and sparking which our all too finicky electronics do not appreciate. If only I could see the display on a clamp meter measuring the amperage of one of the branch circuits all the way up in the station while I flipped the breaker down in the shack, I could find the problem all by myself. It'd be like I was in two places at once.

Mentoring is another area I’d find it useful. The doors to our lift control cabinets are pretty narrow, and definitely have room for only one pair of shoulders at a time. Having a second display, on my android phone, would allow me to see what my apprentice is seeing while measurements are being made.

Lift Control Cabinet at Sunshine Village Ski and Snowboard Resort
In regards to safety, our lift motor control cabinets are 480volts. It'd be much faster, safer and convenient to kill the incoming power, attach the meter leads inside the cabinet, close the doors and then power up to take measurements rather than have to change our clothes from snow gear to flash protection clothing and back again every time we need to open these doors.

Lift Motor Control Cabinet

Another thing we could have done more safely was when we recently suffered flood damage from an incredible amount of rain in the Bow Valley, Alberta. Our warehouse flooded and the distribution panel was approximately 3 feet under water. When the water eventually drained, we pressure washed the bus bars, set up fans and waited 3 days for everything to dry out, did continuity tests from phase to phase and phase to ground. Everything checked out... still, it would have been safer to energize the
distribution panel from the generator room outside and watch the readings from a safe distance.

 Flood at Bow Valley, Alberta

Dave is one of the winners of our Wireless Remote Connectivity application stories contest. He has some concern over meter’s operating temperature, as they will experience cold spell of -30 to -40 °C at least twice a year. Well Dave, check out our multimeter that is made for these extreme temperatures – U1273AX Handheld Digital Multimeter, 4.5 digit, OLED display. You don't have to hide them in your pockets anymore!

Congratulations Dave, and thanks for sharing your stories with us. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Solar LED Street Light Test

Solar LED street lighting has been talked about more and more these days.  It adopts the green energy supply technology – photovoltaic (PV) panel with sun power that will never exhaust.
Another advantage of using LED lighting is that it consumes lower energy and has longer life compared to the old compact fluorescent lighting (CFL). Lower energy consumption also means there will be a decrease in carbon dioxide (CO2) emission, sulfur oxide or other waste that is harmful to the environment.  The average life span for the LED is approx. 50,000 hrs whereas the CLF is only 8,000 hrs. This indirectly helps to reduce the maintenance cost of replacing light bulbs.

Solar LED street lights got popular at remote locations where electricity is not available or irregular. Today, it is common in the urban areas with the independency of conventional power supply and the energy efficiency towards the green energy.

Figure 1  New Solar LED street light adjacent to the electricity street light

Solar LED street light consists of 5 main parts: Luminaire, solar panel, battery, pole and a system that consists of a module to integrate the LED driver function and the solar charger to battery. The electronic module is housed in the luminaire which is mounted at a few meters height. 
During the installation, a person has to climb on the pole and check on the electronic module for its complete functionality. This takes more than 10 minutes and has to be monitored by the person on the pole. By connecting to Agilent Wireless Remote Connectivity Solution, there can be one person monitoring measurement results on the ground while another person probes for readings using the Agilent handheld multimeter. 

Figure 2 Agilent wireless remote connectivity solution
 Sometimes, the worker needs to climb on the pole to check and monitor the PV panel, battery, or LED side parameter for any fault for extended hours. A wireless metering/monitoring device with data logging would help to save the time and effort of staying on the pole.

Using the Agilent Wireless Connectivity solution, the worker can now comfortably capture and monitor the measurement reading on the ground while the Agilent handheld multimeter can be easily secured on the pole with its hanging kit. The measurement results are transmitted via Bluetooth adaptor to an  Android tablet or phone of the worker for further analysis.