Public Release: 

POWERDIGM Switch Improves Power Quality, To Be Installed At Ford Motor Co.

Electric Power Research Institute

Palo Alto, Calif. -- November 1, 1996 -- The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) will demonstrate a PowerDigm solid-state transfer switch at the Ford Motor Co.'s Sheldon Road Plant. The switch, to be installed on Detroit Edison Co.'s distribution system, is expected to protect the plant from costly power interruptions.

PowerDigm is designed for commercial and industrial applications with two or more independent power sources such as dual utility feeders. Made up of high-power electronic components called thyristors, PowerDigm can sense a disturbance in one power source and automatically switch to a different source in a fraction of a cycle preventing any outages.

"Voltage sags and disturbances can be a major problem. We're talking about a million square foot facility where the process is a continuous operation. If one part of the process stops the entire plant is affected," said Gordon Hauk, manager of electrical programs at Ford. Hauk added, "It takes anywhere from one to two hours to resume production and this plant is a supplier for all of our assembly plants."

"We looked at an in-plant solution but the problems were scattered," said Bill Carter, director of transmission and subtransmission planning for Detroit Edison. "We made Ford part of the team to look for an answer. We reached the conclusion that the solid-state transfer switch is the best solution," he added.

Detroit Edison is providing two independent power feeds to the Ford plant so the transfer switch could greatly reduce the odds of a voltage sag affecting plant equipment and will result in a more reliable power supply.

The technology was developed by Silicon Power Networks (SPN) under EPRI sponsorship. Powerdigm is the latest addition to EPRI's Custom Power technologies which use thyristors in a variety of ways to improve power quality on utility distribution networks.

"EPRI's Custom Power tools, like Powerdigm and solid-state breakers, are so much faster than what we used before. We can consider new ways to isolate faults to give most customers on a distribution system the power they need to operate their critical loads without interruption," said Wade Malcolm, EPRI's director of distribution.

Three other EPRI member electric utilities will demonstrate Powerdigm solid-state transfer switches on their systems. The units will be built by SPN. EPRI's Distribution Business Unit is seeking additional demonstration sites for the solid state transfer switch equipment. EPRI has arranged a quantity discount on the equipment which is available to member utilities.

SPN is a partnership between Baltimore Gas & Electric Company, an investor-owned utility that provides service to Central Maryland and Silicon Power Corporation, which designs and manufacturers thyristors and advanced power electronic systems such as Powerdigm.

EPRI, established in 1973 and headquartered in Palo Alto, California, manages science and technology R&D for the electricity industry. More than 700 utilities are members of the Institute which has an annual budget of some $500 million.

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