07/09/2015

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Redundancy in airport electric power systems

The reality of electric power system redundancy at airports: Necessity or whim?

 

“We’ve got zero power!!!! Are you sure?”. This is the fateful sentence an electric power operations and maintenance engineer of any airport in the world never wants to hear.

The concept of redundancy is simple: always having the system duplicated, so that there is always an alternative in the event of a single failure.

We do not have to go too far back in time. Just recently, Belgian airspace was closed down due to a total electric power failure. Allow me to doubt it. I will now explain it to you.

Let’s view it in context. From an electrical standpoint, the most serious thing that could ever happen is a total loss of electric power systems. In other words, we would have an airport without electric power. This generally happens because something was not taken into account in the design phase due to a lack of knowledge about airport culture, impacts during the works or natural causes. Whatever may be the case, it has happened.

How to address this situation in order to resolve it could lead us to many approaches. But here we will only focus on one, “the redundancy model” under the criterion of a single electric power failure.

The concept of redundancy is simple: always having the system duplicated, so that there is always an alternative in the event of a single failure. How this alternative is built is what makes it complex.

In the case of airport electric power systems, we can ask ourselves what the critical system is. Some would say generation, others transmission or energy paths, others end equipment… In my view, all are correct.

The importance of an electrical engineer’s work resides in this, juggling all the environment’s conditions, including: costs, technology, experience and future forecasts to stabilise and add robustness to the design, without losing sight of the fact that what is truly important in an airport is that aeroplanes can carry on landing whatever may be occurring on the ground.

 

 

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