The Role of Power Protection for Modern Industries

Power outages, sags, surges and other power supply events represent one of the greatest threats to industrial facilities and manufacturers around the world. For organizations like these, the damage caused by even a small interruption to a clean electricity supply could be devastating.

As power interruption is on the rise in both frequency and severity, many facilities are installing power protection systems to protect equipment and maintain productivity, even during extreme power conditions. This article examines the potential problems of power supply fluctuations and how industries can be protected from harm using equipment such as voltage conditioners and uninterruptible power supplies.

For many people, power outages are not much more than an infrequent annoyance, however in industrial facilities and large organizations, they can be a serious threat. It is estimated by General Electric that one third of businesses have the potential to lose more than $50,000 during just one hour without electricity. In larger companies this figure could be up to $6.5 million.1

Industrial organizations and manufacturers are most vulnerable to power supply problems and anomalies. In industries that produce food and drink, cars, electronics, pharmaceuticals or those that operate medical equipment, a power outage that lasts more than ten seconds can mean more than just a momentary lapse in production.

Even a very short loss in power can cause a large amount of damage to machinery, sensitive equipment, materials and the final product. On top of this the ensuing restart of the machinery and equipment can be incredibly time consuming and expensive.2

The amount of damage caused by both power outages and the subsequent surge can be difficult to easily grasp. Control systems for electronics may revert to default settings and could need to be reprogrammed. If power is lost in the middle of a critical production stage or chemical synthesis, this can ruin yields and end up wasting materials that could be very expensive.3,4 Automation in modern industry is constantly increasing and therefore the impact of power outages is greater than it has ever been before.

Temporary voltage drops have the potential to cause a huge array of problems for industrial facilities. Drops in voltage, known as “sags” make up more than 92 percent of all power-quality events, this makes them the most common power supply problem for businesses.5

Voltage “spikes” can also cause significant problems with servers, computers and other sensitive electrical equipment. British Airways hit the headlines in May 2017 when a momentary power supply even forced a crucial data center to restart.

This resulted in around 800 flights being cancelled from London Gatwick. Even though the power supply interruption was brief, the incident was estimated to have cost over $100 million for British Airways.6,7

Power supply problems are unfortunately worsening worldwide, in both severity and frequency.8 As an example, on average the number of US power outages has doubled every five years from 2000 to 2014.9

The electrical distribution infrastructures were originally designed to handle much smaller loads, and are now struggling to bear the strain of an ever-growing population and an increasing reliance on electrical and electronic equipment industry.

Considering this, an increasing number of industrial and manufacturing facilities are choosing to install power protection hardware in order to protect themselves against the sags, surges, spikes and blackouts of the overworked and aging power grids.

Industry and Manufacturing Power Protection Equipment

ABB is fully aware of the problems and damage that unpredictable power supplies can cause. To this end ABB has designed their PCS100 range of advanced power protection solutions to be able to keep industries standing under even the most demanding conditions.

Included in the PCS100 range are two Active Voltage Conditioners; PCS100 AVC-40 and PCS100 AVC-20. These have been developed to ensure a continuous and clean power supply when there are grid disturbances.10,11

The PCS100 AVC-40 was built for the most sensitive or demanding machinery and can offer a power range of 150 – 3600 kVA. The PCS100 AVC-20 has a power range of 250 – 3000 kVA, which makes this voltage regulator ideal for most industrial and commercial applications.

Both of these voltage conditioners detect anomalies in utility voltage and apply correcting voltages which do not rely on an energy storage solution to ensure a perpetually reliable and clean 3-phase power supply. These units are built to act both effectively and rapidly and can detect voltage disturbances within 250 µs.

The PCS100 UPS-I (Industrial Uninterruptable Power Supply) is a product that can protect customers’ loads during major voltage disturbances and outages. These events can be caused by issues with the electricity network as well as weather events such as lightning which are more common.

The PCS100 UPS-I was built as a solution for recloser events such as deep voltage sags (dips) or swells, it also supports critical loads until the utility voltage returns to within the normal specification, or until standby generators start.

The backup time length will depend on the power requirements of the load and the capacity of the storage system. The PCS100 UPS-I range includes models up to 3 MVA at a low voltage, which makes it suitable for large industrial process.

References and Further Reading

  1. General Electric - Critical Power Infographic. (2013).
  2. After a storm: if you lost power, check for unseen problems at your industrial facility that could cost you. Available at: (Accessed: 3rd August 2018)
  3. Powering the pharmaceutical industry. Available at: &LanguageCode=en&DocumentPartId=&Action=Launch. (Accessed: 3rd August 2018)
  4. Power Outage at Samsung’s Fab Destroys 3.5% of Global NAND Flash Output For March. Available at: (Accessed: 3rd August 2018)
  5. Protecting the most sensitive equipment for high-end technology. Available at: (Accessed: 3rd August 2018)
  6. British Airways Owner Says Power Outage Cost 80 Million Pounds - Bloomberg. Bloomberg Markets Available at: (Accessed: 25th April 2018)
  7. British Airways system outage 'caused by IT worker accidentally switching off power supply’ | The Independent. Available at: (Accessed: 25th April 2018)
  8. Exergy and the City: The Technology and Sociology of Power (Failure). Byrd, H. & Matthewman, S. J. Urban Technol. 21, 85–102 (2014).
  9. Power Outages On The Rise Across The U.S. | Inside Energy. Available at: (Accessed: 3rd August 2018)
  10. 2UCD301135-P PCS100 AVC-20 product brochure. Available at: (Accessed: 5th August 2018)
  11. PCS100 AVC-40 product brochure. Available at: (Accessed: 5th August 2018)
  12. PCS100 UPS-Industrial (UPS-I) product brochure. Available at: nz&LanguageCode=en&DocumentPartId=&Action=Launch. (Accessed: 5th August 2018)

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by ABB Power Conditioning – Electrification Products Division.

For more information on this source, please visit ABB Power Conditioning – Electrification Products Division.


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