You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2011.

I was recently reminded of the state of the electricity industry recently when I tried to read the well-known absurdist play written by Samuel Beckett. He originally wrote it in French, but for some reason it seems to fit the electricity industry better. Freely translated, it goes something like this: Once upon a time, a customer called Puton and a supplier called Eish were waiting for the Inevitable. How long they had been waiting, neither they nor anybody else knew, but it was an interminable time, that much was sure… (more)

Eskom kept South Africa’s lights on during the peak winter demand period, thanks to the lower than expected electricity demand and to the initiatives Eskom had put in place to manage a tight system, the Chief Executive, Brian Dames, said at a recent “state of the system” update. He cautioned, however, that the system would continue to be tight during the summer season, when Eskom does most of the maintenance of its power stations… (more)

CBI has been receiving imitation CBI branded products from the market on warranty returns and have also been informed that imitation CBI products are available for purchase and distribution. They regard this matter as extremely serious in terms of trade mark infringement and patent infringements notwithstanding the compromise in safety aspects in terms of electrical protection… (more)

Eskom and the African Development Bank (AfDB) have signed two loan agreements for a total value of $365-million that will enable the first large-scale implementation of renewable wind and solar generation in Eskom’s history. The loans consist of $265-million from the AfDB’s own resources and $100-million from the resources of the Clean Technology Fund… (more)

Schneider  Electric  South Africa has teamed up with the French Ministry of Education  and  the  Vaal University of Technology (VUT) to launch a centre aimed  at  training  electricians,  electrical  technicians, and electrical engineers. Named  the French-South African Schneider Electric Training Centre, the new facility  is in line with the Department of Higher Education and Training’s vision of accelerating artisan training across the country… (more)

The Energy Intensive Users’ Group (EIUG) has raised concerns that the price path for electricity in South Africa may place consumers and business under even greater pressure in the next few years, since the first round of tariff hikes in 2010. Eskom’s results for 2011, released in June, show an expected rise in total revenue by 28,6% on the back of the 24,8% electricity tariff increases last year. But a spokesperson for the EIUG said it was of concern that primary energy costs have increased by 19,8%… (more)

Treasury has made a proposal that there should be a carbon tax in South Africa. In its discussion paper, the rationale for the tax is given as “Climate change and its effects are the result of GHG emissions, which are not paid for by the emitters. Such emissions impose external costs on society – an “externality” in economic terms. Because these costs have not been factored into the prices of goods and services, this is a “market failure”, which can be corrected by a pricing instrument.” But greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions are global, and the South African contribution is minor… (more)

Steam has often been described as the “lifeblood” of industry. It is the medium by which heat from a boiler is converted into an easily transportable form that can provide diverse services from office heating to the mechanical energy that drives turbine generators. The true cost of generating steam varies from installation to installation, depending on how effectively the generation set is optimised and the efficiency of transporting the steam throughout the operation… (more)

Switchgear standards historically considered the electrical capability of switchgear with little regard to the effects of internal arc. To achieve some degree of safety users and manufacturers have considered measures ranging from PPE, specific operating procedures, through to remote control and arc detection systems, however these measures do not change the characteristics of the switchgear, and therefore the switchgear/switch room should still be considered a high risk area… (more)

Fault location is a field of engineering beset with problems and uncertainties. Most of these are of a practical nature, which requires a logical approach to achieve success. It is often said that fault locating is more of an art than a science and, while there is a lot of truth in this, following a logical approach will enable you to find cable faults in power cable networks quickly, accurately and safely. It is often said that cables don’t carry electricity anymore; they carry money… (more)

Nearly twenty years after its inception in 1993, the standard transfer specification (STS) protocol has grown to its current status as the de facto solution for one-way pre-payment. To date more that 400 utilities in 30 countries are utilising this system to provide a vending channel for over 10-million meters. The protocol has been stable for more than 15 years and is has become recognised as the only globally accepted standard for pre-payment… (more)

High-tech solar tracking units track the photovoltaic systems to the movement of the sun and are therefore able to increase the yield of photovoltaic solar energy by more than 35%. Photovoltaic systems are at their most efficient when the sun shines as vertically as possible onto the collector surfaces and no shadow falls onto the solar cells. However, the sun’s radiation is subject to daily and seasonal fluctuation as well as to weather-related fluctuation… (more)

To celebrate the end of women’s month and mark the importance of finding sustainable energy alternatives, we asked four women who make their living in the solar industry to tell us a little about their experiences.“Listen to the consumer. Learn as much about this industry as you, then decide which green path you wish to follow,” are the words of advice from solar industry path-blazer, Marlene Snowden, to anyone thinking of entering the industry… (more)

India has been making rapid strides in the addition of wind power supported governmental policies and regulations by the central and state regulatory commissions. Although it is widely recognised that wind energy is the cleanest form of energy, there are perceptions which often put hurdles in the path of quick addition of the wind power into the power system… (more)

The importance of power management and backup solutions for South African businesses cannot be argued. Power remains notoriously unstable, with spikes, surges and dips in voltage that can cause damage to expensive equipment as well as frequent power failures that can cause loss or corruption of data. There is a growing requirement for greater intelligence when it comes to power management solutions… (more)

This study compared electricity consumption in two buildings of similar architectural design and floor space. One was retrofitted at a cost of R4,3-million. Results are significant. Metered and billed energy consumption for the retrofitted building exceeded that of the older building…  (more)

Recently there have been a lot of articles on the new reality of cyberwars in cyberspace published on the Internet and in the mass media, some of which are quite inflammatory. A matter of concern is that complex systems are also exposed to virus attacks and first of all  are  automatic systems operating  whole plants and metropolitan infrastructure, including public water supply and power supply systems, . Especially vulnerable are future smart grids… (more)

Documents for South Africa’s bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) have been submitted to the international SKA Siting Group. The South African response to the group’s request for information issued in June 2011 covers a range of information on the physical condition of the site in the Northern Cape province that was identified to host the SKA radio telescope. The SKA will allow astronomers to see billions of years back in time with the telescopes using the science of radio interferometry, where several telescopes observe a single body and the data is combined to give a more accurate picture… (more)

NASA’s decommissioned Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) fell back to Earth between 05h23 and 07h09 CAT on 25 September 2011, 20 years and nine days after its launch on a 14-year mission that produced some of the first long-term records of chemicals in the atmosphere. The precise re-entry time and location of debris impacts have not been determined. During the re-entry period, the satellite passed from the east coast of Africa over the Indian Ocean, then the Pacific Ocean, then across northern Canada, then across the northern Atlantic Ocean, to a point over West Africa. The vast majority of the orbital transit was over water, with some flight over northern Canada and West Africa… (more)

Salt is essential to human life.  Today, scientists have learned that they can harness this invaluable mineral to foresee the future of Earth’s climate. The oracles of modern climate science are the computer models used to forecast climate change. These models, which rely on a myriad data from many sources, are effective in predicting many climate variables, such as global temperatures. Yet data for some pieces of the climate puzzle have been scarce, including the concentration of dissolved sea salt at the surface of the world’s ocean, commonly called ocean surface salinity, subjecting the models to varying margins of error. This salinity is a key indicator of how Earth’s fresh water moves between the ocean, land and atmosphere… (more)

It is difficult to believe that after all these years the scourge of cable theft is still with us. It is costing the country billions, not just the cost of replacing communication and electricity cables, but also huge losses in productivity. Telkom has given up replacing stolen cables and in many areas has resorted to delivering services wirelessly or via satellites. In our own case at EE Publishers we have installed a microwave system to keep our telephone, internet and data services running. Mines are also being targeted and have replaced many of their communication services with fibre cable just to find that cables thieves, unaware that fibre has no scrap metal value, continue to pull cables from trenches. Many of the mines now use microwave systems for communication between the shafts… (more)

A new breed of CIO is needed to support the instant-on enterprise if it has to drive innovation and save costs in an increasingly complex IT environment.IT has to provide more innovation and get closer to business, while driving down costs through standardisation, automation and consolidation. IT certainly does need a new hero if it has to drive all this innovation and save costs in an increasingly complex IT fabric… (more)

In August this year South Africa hosted the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Region 1 triennial conference. This was the first time since the formation of the international body that this important policy-making meeting has been held in SA and hosted by the South African Radio League (SARL)… (more)

Over the past 20 years, software-defined radio techniques have not only revolutionised radar and communications systems, but they have also boosted system performance levels. One of the most widely-deployed and technically-challenging operations in these systems is beamforming. Beamforming is a signal processing technique that utilises an array of sensors to achieve directionality, increase the strength of transmitted signals and improve the quality of received signals… (more)

How can manufacturers ensure process control and still achieve speed of throughput in the electronics industry? Thermal profiling, as an element of proces control, provides many solutions. There is no doubt that in today’s more sophisticated electronics market process control is more important than ever. At the center of achieving that control, you will find thermal management. And since thermal management cannot be achieved, or documented, without thermal profiling, thermal profiling brings us to the heart of the matter… (more)

Software has been a critical component of automated test systems since it was first used to control stand- alone instruments more than 40 years ago. Since then the role of software in automated test has grown significantly. In fact, software development costs are often more than capital costs in most test systems today. Today’s industry-leading companies emphasise designing a robust system software stack to ensure maximum longevity and reuse of their software investments… (more)

When sensing metal objects, sometimes the standard inductive proximity sensor simply doesn’t cut it. For instance when sensing a rotary cam – the oblong shape necessitates a sensor that can detect the different shapes/sizes and where the object is within the sensing range. A simple prox sensor that merely detects the presence/absence of a target obviously would not apply. For these and similar applications, inductive linear analogue sensors are the best alternative… (more)

Nowadays industrial Ethernet switches and industrial Ethernet-based devices are suited to their environments and applications; such as being designed to meet the rigours of the task at hand –which in some cases includes harsh environments like oil, gas and the mining industry. Some of the facilities that would utilise equipment that would fall into this application environment would be oil refineries, oil platforms and petro-chemical plants. These types of facilities would have a need to install industrial Ethernet-based switches and devices for process control and monitoring, and would require devices that are certified to meet the harsh environments they produce… (more)

The use of wireless technology in industrial automation systems offers a number of potential benefits, from the obvious cost reduction brought about by the elimination of wiring, to the availability of better plant information, improved productivity and better asset management.However, the practical implementation of wireless technology faces a number of challenges – not least the present lack of a universally agreed standard. This article looks at some of these challenges and presents the approach being taken by Yokogawa… (more)

Communication in the industrial and utility sectors has evolved substantially over the last couple years, due mostly to the proliferation of Ethernet as the technology of choice for communication. In this article we will look at the evolution of different mediums for communications. Before the use of Ethernet in the industrial and utility sectors, serial communications was the technology of choice for allowing devices to talk to one another. Although being a stable and easy to use communications method, serial does have disadvantages when used in these environments… (more)

Building a wireless network can be quite an undertaking. Compared to wired networks, wireless networks require a great deal more planning to install and deploy. There are currently no standardised procedures for wireless network planning and installation. So before you begin site planning your network, you need to decide which technologies will be the most beneficial and whether or not comsumer-grade products can meet the needs of your appplication. This article explains the important factors you should consider in planning and installing a wireless network… (more)

Wireless applications empower industry and pave the way for remote control and SCADA applications, as well as providing platforms for remote monitoring of industrial plants, infomring management of what is happening in the plant.  In our panel discussion we addressed the subject with four participants from diverse wireless perspectives. I started by asking: How pervasive is wireless in the automation and control industry? Paulo da Silva from Honeywell Automation said that wireless technologies in automation and control have become a fact of life, although not yet in all sectors… (more)

Fibre optics (optical fibres) consist of long, thin strands of very pure glass about the diameter of a human hair. They carry much more information than conventional copper wire and one of the advantages of fibre cable is that it is completely insensitive to electromagnetic interference, making it ideal for installations in harsh industrial environments… (more)

Top-speed data communication is taken for granted in many areas today. So it is all the more remarkable that even very recently-designed trains have almost no wireless technology. This article discusses the difficulties faced and possible solutions. Frequent train commuters using modern high-speed trains will know the situation: the train arrives on time, but even before it reaches the platform it is announced that the cars are not in the order shown, and sometimes there are even cars missing. The result of this is that passengers on the platform, and subsequently in the train, have extreme difficulty locating their reserved seats… (more)

Previous issues of EngineerIT have covered the controversial debate regarding digital terrestrial television (DTT) standards. In January 2011 EngineerIT (pg. 14) reported on the outcome of the SADC decision in November 2010. This decision was confirmed for South Africa on 14 January 2011 by the Minister of Communications, resulting in South Africa, and the region, adopting the most advanced DTT standard, known as the second generation digital video broadcasting for terrestrial broadcasting, or DVB-T2… (more)

Panel discussions are a regular feature at the annual Southern Africa Telecommunication Network and Applications (SATNAC) conference. The overall conference theme was “Social Communications – challenging the limits of technology innovation”.In welcoming the delegates, the vicechancellor of the University of Fort Hare, Dr. Mvuyo Tom set the scene for the conference when he said that “Challenging the limits of technology innovation is very appropriate in this year when we have seen the use of social communication technology changing regimes in the north of Africa… (more)

Security of IT systems is a major issue in a world where they are becoming more and more prevalent. One way to test defences is by launching your own “friendly attack” – employing penetration testers or ethical hackers to find any potential weak spots. In autumn 2010, an “‘ethical hacking” experiment conducted in six cities across the UK showed that almost half of private Wi-Fi networks could be hacked in less than five seconds, even if they were password-protected. A report published around the same time by internet security and anti-virus specialist Norton found that more than half of UK adult internet users had been the victim of a cybercrime at some point… (more)

It has been predicted that by 2015 80% of devices connected to corporate networks will be privately owned, ranging from smartphones to iPads to laptops – or whatever device takes an employee’s fancy. Analysts believe that by then many employees will be almost completely mobile with their home or their favourite coffee shop as their place of work. “How will we be managing this and how will we be sure that our data is secure?”… (more)

A photonic integrated circuit (PIC) is conceptually very similar to an electronic IC. While the latter integrates many transistors, capacitors and resistors, a PIC integrates multiple optical components such as lasers, modulators, detectors, attenuators, multiplexers/de-multiplexers and optical amplifiers. Large-scale PICs, like their electronic counterparts, extend the scope of integration so that upwards of dozens or more distinct optical components are integrated into a single device… (more)

Over the past few months there has been much written about renewable energy, more efficient use of energy, sustainability and many similar buzz words. Perhaps the reality for us in South Africa is the fact that electricity is now expensive and this is starting to affect our pockets and companies’ bottom lines.It is ironic that for a nation that considers itself environmentally conscious, it has to be the effect on our pockets that spurs us on to take some action… (more)

Diversified power management company Eaton Corporation has introduced its business plan for the sub-Saharan region and announced its acquisition of three South African companies. The three acquired businesses, CHI Control, Meissner Interruptible Power and Norsa Electronics, recorded combined annual sales of some R440-million as of 1 July 2011 and employ approximately 500 people in this country. In total, Eaton now controls five production facilities, eight distribution centres and five sales offices throughout sub-Saharan Africa… (more)

It appears that there are not enough conversations taking place between manufacturing companies regarding sector competitiveness. Associations encourage dialogue. Nevertheless, the following questions need to be answered:  do these bodies comprise adequate forums to address the issues that affect manufacturing competitiveness? At present we have national bodies in place but not enough regionally-based manufacturing sector forums; and, have discussions in these forums expanded beyond wages to other key drivers of competitiveness? My observation is that the main agenda items remain wages and/or lobbying of government… (more)

The wheels of the electrical power industry are starting to turn, albeit slowly and with much creaking and squealing. The DoE has finally taken the first steps to get the RE program off the ground, has also announced that the plans for future nuclear power plants will be finalised shortly, and is proceeding with the resurrection of Approach to Distribution Assett Management ADAM.  Lastly the Treasury has announced a program of tax benefits for companies who implement energy efficiency programs. All in all three strong drivers for the industry… (more)

Oils serve a dual purpose in industrial applications. They are used as coolants and lubricants depending on the requirements mandated by the end-use application. Sustaining trouble free cable operation under harsh chemical and environmental conditions reduces costly manufacturing down-time and helps eliminate or minimise periodic maintenance and cable replacement. All of these factors play a major role in ensuring a consistent, smoothly run manufacturing operation which, in the end, results in higher profit margins… (more)

It is often said that fault locating is more of an art than a science and, while there is a lot of truth in this, following a logical approach will enable you to find cable faults in power cable networks quickly, accurately and safely. Cables don’t carry electricity anymore; they carry money. Therefore the pressure on all engineers and technicians undertaking fault location is increasing year on year… (more)

Because of the growth in systems to generate renewable energy, power producers are expanding low voltage and medium voltage supply networks, and are focusing on measured value acquisition. Using pluggable measuring transducer terminals, measuring and protection devices can be designed to be replaceable using prefabricated cables… (more)

Sophisticated technology has reached deeply into our homes and careers, and with the advent of e-commerce is continually changing the way we interact with the rest of the world. Intelligent technology demands power that is free of interruption or disturbance. The consequences of large-scale power incidents are well documented. A recent study in the USA has shown that industrial and digital business firms are losing $45,7-billion per year due to power interruptions… (more)

Many people are reluctant to use rechargeable batteries because they have heard horror stories about them. This article seeks to dispel ten of the most common myths. Myth: Rechargeable batteries are expensive compared to disposable batteries. Fact: Rechargeable batteries can be recharged over 500 times, replacing hundreds of non-rechargeable (disposable) batteries… (more)

Bulk belt conveyor drives are critical elements of any production process and the failure of one of these drives can cause lost production to the tune of millions of rand. A sensible approach to the procurement of this type of equipment is to obtain complete drive systems from one supplier. In this way, carefully selected and compatible drive elements are united into a harmoniously functioning single unit and the responsibility and accountability for satisfactory performance of the entire package rests with one organisation… (more)

Poor thermal management can lead to early LED product failure. Fortunately, these types of failures can be avoided in the design phase with the use of simple, inexpensive thermal management techniques. This article discusses these techniques and is intended to give manufacturers, engineers, and product managers some basic tools for good LED thermal system design… (more)

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