In Successful Field Trial Run, A Leading Communications Company Starts Standby Generator Faster with Maxwell Technologies’ Ultracapacitor Starting Technology
February 18, 2019 | Jessica Baris, Communications Specialist and Copywriter
The Maxwell GSS cranked the 350 KW Caterpillar diesel generator in 1.5 seconds, compared with a 2 to 3 second start with lead-acid batteries.A senior power maintenance engineer for a leading US-based global telecommunications company helps telecom engineers and field technicians manage the power systems, components and processes behind the telecom sites that support quality services to the company's customers.
The telecom sites are robust and run smoothly most days. But sometimes, Mother Nature decides to have her way.
When a storm takes out the commercially provided power, the standby generator at the affected telecom site comes online with a swift crank from an energy storage system. Lead-acid batteries are traditionally used for generator starting, but in this engineer's continuous lookout for higher performance technologies, he discovered the ultracapacitor-based Generator Starting Solution (GSS) by Maxwell Technologies.
"Lead-acid engine start batteries have a fairly limited life," says the engineer. "I had experience with Maxwell's ultracapacitors for short duration telecom backup, so I knew they were effective and have much longer life than what we're getting out of lead-acid engine start batteries."
NFPA 110, the standard for emergency and standby power systems, recommends replacing lead-acid batteries every 24 to 30 months to ensure reliable operation. After conducting a 15-month field trial run in which the engineer and his cohorts applied the Maxwell GSS and its compatible charger to starting a 350 KW Caterpillar diesel generator, he concluded that the solution's up to 10-year life* would result in potential long-term cost savings—within 10 years, lead-acid batteries would need one to three replacement cycles. The trial run revealed the Maxwell GSS has several performance advantages that contribute to longer life.
"Batteries lose capacity at cold temperatures," says the engineer. "Low temperature performance is one of the biggest advantages of Maxwell's ultracapacitors."
Related content: Generator Starting Solution Datasheet
Unlike a battery, which relies on an internal chemical reaction to operate, ultracapacitors (supercapacitors) deliver power via the transfer of ions in an electric field, making the device much more resilient in cold climates.
The engineer explains that this characteristic provides extra reliability in the field and would potentially contribute to lower maintenance costs in the long run not only from not having to replace the engine starting batteries as frequently, but also by not having to use electric heater pads to increase battery temperature in cold environments.
The Maxwell GSS's reliability in cold climates is also advantageous in the event a coolant heater fails.
"The engine oil becomes more viscous, which means you have to give that engine a hard kick start in colder temperatures. The Maxwell GSS mostly overcomes that by being able to deliver more current faster than a battery at especially low temperatures."
Another benefit is the solution's rapid response time.
"The Maxwell GSS starts the engine much quicker," says the engineer, noting that the ultracapacitor module's low internal resistance is the reason behind the ultrafast 1.5 second starts compared with a battery's 2 to 3 second starts on the engines that were tested. In addition to fast starts, the solution is relatively simple to install.
"The Maxwell GSS is specified to the BCI group 31 sizing which is a good idea because that's exactly the space that you're given in some of the smaller generator enclosures, so it drops right in."
The engineer adds that for larger engines, not only is Maxwell's solution much lighter than lead-acid batteries, but it takes up less space, especially if the maximum cranking time is limited to no more than 15 to 30 seconds.
From his perspective as a power system professional, why is reliable generator starting so important?
"If l have a site that serves the communications circuits for a local jurisdiction's 911 center, the FCC really cares that the customers are able to call 911. The ability of the engine to start and to take the load during a long outage is important from a regulatory perspective and a human life perspective."
The Maxwell GSS can be directly applied at sites not covered by NFPA 110. The solution presently requires specialized configuration or AHJ (authority having jurisdiction) permissions for sites that must comply with NFPA 110.
This particular power maintenance engineer participates in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Standards Association and identifies the next step as working on updates to IEEE recommended practices to include ultracapacitors among starting technologies for NFPA 110 sites.
Additionally, he plans to make recommendations to the NFPA 110 committee on future improvements so that the standard is more inclusive of reliable engine starting technologies other than lead-acid and NiCd batteries.
On a normal day, the engineer stays busy providing field support, completing technical troubleshooting and validating power equipment including generators, rectifiers, cables, fuses and breakers. When handling a wide variety of power systems and components, it makes a significant difference that the Maxwell GSS provides higher reliability and streamlined operation.
"My primary responsibility is maintenance, so I look at the ultracapacitor from a maintenance perspective. It's way less maintenance than a battery."
Related Page: Start Strong with Maxwell Generator Starting Solutions
Communications Specialist and Copywriter
About this author
Jessica A. Baris is communications specialist and copywriter at Maxwell Technologies and enjoys telling a good story. Her background includes writing and editing for the high-tech, construction, and meetings and conventions industries. A San Diego native, Jessica earned a Master of Arts in rhetoric and writing from San Diego State University and a Bachelor of Arts in linguistics from the University of California, San Diego.
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