Power Electronics

Test Company Attacks Root Causes of Power Distribution Problems

A start-up test-and-measurement company, Z Meters, aims to provide innovative measurement technologies for improving power quality and increasing energy efficiency in power distribution systems. As the name suggests, the company’s approach is based on utilizing impedance (Z) measurements and calculations. Incorporated in July, the company was launched by the former management of Reliable Power Systems (RPM). Founders include Robert Moore, chairman and CEO; Frederic W. Nitz, chief technology officer; and Ken Kious, chief operating officer. The company introduced its first product, the ZM100 Distribution Analysis System, at the recent PowerSystems World event in Baltimore.

As Moore explains, “Typical power quality and energy monitoring instruments, such as those we developed at BMI (Basic Measuring Instruments) and RPM, provide data on what events are occurring and when they occurred. The ZM100 system is designed to tell us why and where the abnormal conditions exist in the distribution system that set the stage for those events to take place.”

The types of events captured by traditional power quality and energy measurement equipment include voltage sags and swells, transients and conditions such as harmonics, flicker, etc. With their impedance-based measurement techniques, Z Meters’ equipment will address distribution problems by identifying root causes such as undersized transformers, overheating transformers due to excessive harmonics, undersized conductors, loose contacts and carbonized contacts. Z Meters’ unique approach employs correlation techniques to combine simultaneous measurements made at strategic locations (source and load) to calculate the characteristics of the distribution system.

The ZM100 system consists of two or more ZM100 Distribution Analyzers, each connected to a salient point in the facility’s electrical distribution system. Each of these analyzers is equipped to make time-synchronized and highly accurate measurements of voltages and currents for all phases and neutral. Measurements are made and data is gathered over a time period that characterizes the range of operating conditions that typically exist in the facility. The data then is communicated to a PC over a Bluetooth wireless link.

Using the data downloaded to the PC, the ZM100 Windows-based software performs a range of calculations and correlations, resulting in a characterization of the distribution system’s impedance at line frequency and harmonics. Using the resultant characterization, distribution impedance abnormalities can be readily identified and necessary corrective measures can be prescribed.

Power quality problems and poor energy use are universal concerns. However, they are particularly significant in energy-intensive industries such as semiconductor manufacturing, and in mission-critical environments like those involving medical equipment, banking transactions and communications.

The ZM100 Distribution Analysis System will be available in the first quarter of next year. The target price for the complete system, which includes two measuring instruments, connectors, current transformers and software, is $10,000. For more details, email [email protected]

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