Year 2006 News

The effort we have put in over the last few years to help improve the electricity network in the North West of England really does seem to be paying off.

The strengthening of fault prone circuits and the introduction of automation and remote control on 11 kV circuits over the last few years is having the desired effect - customer minutes lost and supply interruptions have now dropped dramatically.

We commissioned 6 generator sets this year on 4 sites and provided technical support and maintenance at 18 other sites.   We visited Egypt, Italy, Spain, Qatar, India, Russia, Nigeria, Libya and Equatorial Guinea.

We were involved in the design of a number of electricity from waste plants.  Dealing with waste is quite a problem for the big cities and although burning rubbish creates CO2, the consequence of not burning it is the release of large quantities of methane from landfill sites, which is twenty times worse.     

National Grid are spending money again refurbishing protection in their 400 kV substations and some of this work filtered down to us in the form of our design and testing services for the manufacturers.  We were also pleased to be asked to provide staff to help with a considerable amount of laboratory testing of relays as we did many years ago.   These include tests to ensure compliance with various environmental standards such as temperature and humidity and electromagnetic compatibility requirements.  The equipment and facilities we use are impressively expensive.

Power system protection, at all stages of design through to commissioning, is very much our business and it has always been so but the whole subject has become very challenging indeed.  Commissioning protection relays in the field is an especially difficult task.  Modern relays tend to be highly flexible, multifunctional and to incorporate sophisticated measuring and communication software.  All this means that instead of having half a dozen settings to install as we had 20 years ago, we now have maybe 200 settings to establish and to make sure that everything then works as it should.  We need laptop computers to be able to make a start and we must have the right version of software to correspond to the particular version of software in the relay.  Technical manuals published by relay manufacturers are heavy going and some are more than 500 pages long.  Thus far, we have never refused to commission a relay or to fail in the attempt and our staff relish each challenge.  It seems too that the harder the job, the more our services are in demand, so we are not complaining.

The energy business is now high profile and energy policy is the subject of public debate because of the greenhouse effect and climate change.  We might suppose that this is a good thing, but it has led to some amazing projects which few level headed engineers would support.  For example, the CIS building, one of the tallest buildings in Manchester, is now clad with pv cells which make 490 kW of electricity from sunlight, when it is sunny.  The project costs were £15000 per kW and we are not offering a prize for the first to calculate the pay back time for this investment.  There is insufficient space here to list the mis-statements about energy on TV and in Parliament, but one sensible announcement from the prime minister was that nuclear generation was back on the agenda and replacement nuclear stations will be built.  Highlights of the past year included some excellent seminars organised by the local IEE .  Notably there was the Nuclear Day in January - electricity generation is not the biggest culprit in the greenhouse gas crisis but building replacement nuclear power stations will definitely help.  At the Fusion Event in May - fusing hydrogen into helium is now a repeatable experiment conducted somewhere in the world every day but it is still a long way from producing commercial power.  At the Micro-generation seminar in October - generation at home is practical but alas expensive.

The directors of the company thank all our staff and our clients and consultants and friends
for their loyalty and trust during 2006.

We wish them all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

John Sanderson, Director, 7 December 2006