ION 7000 monitors help JPL keep current on power usage

ION 7000 monitors help JPL keep current on power usage

Electrical management system provides digital measurements of NASA lab's all-important energy flow

By Drew Robb

Special to GCN

Surge protectors and uninterruptible power systems aren't enough for a massive research center such as NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

JPL's ION 7000 remote power monitors keep track of energy quality supplied to the lab's buildings.

'Good electrical quality is vital for the proper functioning of laboratory equipment,'' said Vaji Nasoordeen, JPL's manager of maintenance and operations, and the lab energy manager. Nasoordeen said that most of the lab's 144 buildings house sensitive or high-voltage electrical devices.

He said three types of electrical disturbances have caused the most problems at JPL: momentary transients, voltage sags and brownouts.

Transients are sudden voltage spikes lasting a few hundred microseconds and caused by utility capacitor switching or lightning. Voltage sags, which last several hundred milliseconds, usually are triggered by heavy equipment coming online. Brownouts, often the most dangerous, come from fallen power lines or utility equipment failures. Brownouts cut computer power levels, causing unexpected crashes that can corrupt data.

JPL's Electrical Services Group first installed power conditioners to purify the incoming electrical waveforms. That precaution didn't fully satisfy the group, however. It went on looking for a way to anticipate power quality fluctuations.

JPL finally chose a hardware-software electrical management system developed by Power Management Ltd. of Saanichton, British Columbia. The lab installed ION 7000 series remote power monitors throughout its buildings and connected them to computers by RS-232, RS-485 or Ethernet cabling.

42 channels

ION 7000 monitors can perform about 100 types of measurements, using up to 42 analog or digital input/output channels. The data goes from the monitors to a LAN with five workstations running under Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 in the Electrical Services Group's main office. It is then analyzed and graphically displayed using Power Management's Pegasys software.

A typical Pegasys primary workstation has a 500-MHz processor, 256M of RAM and dual 9G hard drives arranged in a mirror configuration for fault tolerance. The clients can run NT 4.0 or Windows 9x.

'We are gathering intelligence on power quality problems and studying possibilities for load modification and additional protection devices,'' Nasoordeen said.

JPL's Pegasys software has several modules:

•'Vista analyzes data and events, in real time and historically, and it gives graphical views of the entire power system.

•'ION Designer can configure and customize any of the ION 7000 series meters in the system, as well as any of the other Pegasys software components.

•'Report Generator makes three standard reports. Custom reports can be written with Microsoft Excel and Visual Basic. Reports are driven by schedules, events or manual choices and can be printed, e-mailed, saved to a folder or saved in Hypertext Markup Language.

•'Sybase Inc.'s SQL Anywhere database management system stores all the gathered data, including device configurations. Administrators can change meters without having to go offline and restart the software.

•'VIP, or virtual ION processing, lets users take measurements on virtual devices such as custom meters and electrical controls.

Besides guarding against equipment malfunction, Pegasys monitors energy consumption and controls demand.

'It provides insight into energy usage across JPL's campus,'' Nasoordeen said. 'It is a good tool for forecasting load patterns, which helps us optimize the distribution of power to various labs as new projects are added and others dismantled.''

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