AUGUST 2011: Business organisations are constantly looking for efficient energy solutions, especially with the government regulations getting stricter, and rising costs involved with power usage.
P2 Power Solutions, a Noida-based company has developed iCon—an active power conditioner—which it claims will help in power factor (PF) correction, harmonics filtering, load balancing, neutral protection and bring a facility’s energy consumption down by at least 50 per cent.
iCon is an insulated gate bipolar transistor IGBT-based active filter controlled by a digital signal processing (DSP) microcontroller. It senses the load requirement of a machine every 200 microseconds and thus manages to handle any fluctuation in the loads. It was developed by Shwetank Jain, an IITian, with help from his professor Dr Gautam Poddar, as part of his BTech project. Later, he ventured out with his business organisation P2 Power Solutions, an engineering solutions provider that focuses on energy-efficiency and power-quality enhancement.
Problems faced in normal scenario
iCon takes care of power quality issues like poor PF, harmonics in the supply system, unbalanced loads and over-current in the neutrals. “The normal electricity supply we get has a frequency of 50 hertz. However, due to some heavy loads and equipment like motors, drives, UPS, lighting loads and other non-linear loads, wave-forms of other frequencies which are odd multiples of 50, e.g., 150, 250, 350 or 550 hertz, are introduced in the supply system. As a result, harmonics currents cause over-heating of the cables and transformers, random tripping of circuit breakers, or even damage to other machines connected to the system. Traditionally used capacitor-banks for PF improvement further intensify the ill-effects of the harmonic currents. This causes the maintenance costs, energy bills and other overhead costs to substantially rise up,” illustrates Rajeev Pandey, head, product development.
Plugging a power conditioner can help to produce a clean flow of regulated current to the equipment. Pandey feels that iCon is different from other power conditioners. “What sets iCon apart from other power conditioners is its ability to sense the load requirement every 200 microseconds, and hence, manage severe fluctuations in the power distributed to equipment. Meanwhile, factor correction system (RTPFC) takes a response time of three to five milliseconds and capacitor-banks controlled by relays take up to three seconds to sense the load and then do the necessary correction. Therefore these traditional solutions are comparatively much slower in managing the power fluctuations. Further, the ability of iCon to handle the Holy Grails of power related issues—low PF, harmonics, unbalanced load and neutral current—sets it apart from all the available products in the market,” he says.
How it works?
The hardware and software are integrated through an assembly of correct rating, make and type of the various components, and a proper algorithm to control the working of these components. The two things interface through a central microcontroller installed in the product. iCon comprises IGBTs, DC capacitors, microcontrollers, current sensors, voltage sensors, relays, inductor chokes and heat sinks. It also includes other common hardware components like power supplies, switchgear items, resistors, capacitors, cables/bus-bars and fans/blowers.
“The hardware of iCon is quite similar to an inverter. We use self-made microcontrollers and the best components available in the market like IGBTs from Mitsubishi, Fujitsu or Infineon, and LEM sensors,” says Pandey.
iCon uses P2 Power’s patent-applied software algorithm that is implemented through the two microcontrollers installed in the product. The software in the DSP microcontroller controls the functioning and operation of all the components assembled in the product. It identifies an effective physical layout and modifies the design of the load after observing various parameters, area of malfunction and the root cause of the problem.
“The microcontroller breaks down the current requirement of the load into harmonics, reactive current required to make the power factor unity, unbalanced current and neutral current. For example, if 100A reactive current, 50A unbalanced and 50A harmonics are required, a total of 200A is generated and is distributed to the loads as per the requirement. The software algorithm controls this distribution of current. The output current is controlled by IGBTs, which is also controlled by a microcontroller. We initially faced many problems in trying to stabilise the product and arrive at a perfect tuning between the product’s hardware and software. This resulted in several iterative improvements of the components and the software used to drive these components, thus, helping us make the product very stable and suitable in all electrical environments,” Pandey comments.
Application and cost
After buying the product the user can connect iCon anywhere in the supply system—to the transformer or to any desired sensitive electronic equipment. The power saved depends on the power factor of the equipment. “For example, if you maintain a high power factor of about 0.8, a minimum saving of 50 per cent is guaranteed. If your power factor is 0.4, you will save at least 75 per cent,” says Pandey.
Wherever there is a requirement of power, load-balancing harmonics is an important aspect. This product is suitable for any industry that consumes power and faces issues in load-balancing.
“It can be used in industries like cement, steel, paper, printing, hospitals and shopping malls, just to name a few. The government is trying to enforce regulations on the power consumption and the quality of power being maintained by the industries,” Pandey adds.
iCon has been priced significantly lower than similar products. As the product was developed in a university lab, costs on research and IP has been brought down. The product is available in various current ratings including 15A, 35A, 70A, 100A, 140A, 210A, etc. These units are typically priced between Rs 3500 and Rs 4000 (excluding taxes) per ampere. However, these prices are not applicable to the units of rating lower than 70A.
Besides these costs the customer has to pay for the packaging and freight charges. P2 Power’s scope of work covers the installation and commissioning of iCon but the customer has to bear the basic cost of trunking and cabling of the unit, and installation of CTs at their site. All these are nominal costs and the total expenditure on installation never exceeds Rs 10,000. Apart from ensuring regular cleaning of the unit, and a dust- and moisture-free environment, iCon doesn’t require much maintenance. It’s typical life is greater than 40,000 hours.
What’s in store?
P2 Power is planning to develop other variants and ratings of iCon in the near future. The company is working on several new features related to user-interface and user-customisation in the product.
“The design of the system will keep on improving. Other special features based on the study of grid-condition at the client’s sites and feedback from the client itself would guaide the type of improvements to be incorporated in the system,” Pandey concludes.
The author is from EFY Bureau, Bengaluru