Modernization without downtime

When you think of drinking water, you probably take it for granted that your tap never runs dry of clean refreshing water to drink as well as to irrigate your lawn, and you probably don’t think about the challenges faced by aging and obsolete electrical equipment at water treatment plants that is essential to keep the plant running smoothly.

All too often, electrical power and control systems that originally were robust, slowly age over time and don’t always keep up with plant improvements while requiring ever more maintenance, equipment replacement, and potential costly downtime.
It’s one thing to be inconvenienced by a power disruption or electrical equipment failure in your home, but another thing entirely when such an event occurs within any of the critical infrastructure of your community, which could endanger your drinking water quality and availability and even deprive water to fire departments to fight fires.

This is why water treatment plant staff and municipal authorities closely monitor the condition of all the electrical and standby power systems in their plants, to ensure uninterrupted continuous operation 24/7/365, even in the event of loss of utility power to the plant. In addition, plant staff are always trying to gain greater efficiency and productivity with limited resources by leveraging new technology and equipment that include surge protection and greater capabilities. But when the time comes for an extreme makeover of the power and control systems, can this be accomplished with limited and out-of-date record documentation as well as the necessity to continue to operate the plant without interruption? The good news is YES!

A recent example of such a project was the extensive modernization of the electrical power and control systems at the City of Naples Water Treatment Plant located inconspicuously just across the street from the Coastland Center Mall in Naples Florida, which provides all of the potable water for the city. With some electrical equipment dating back as far as the 1950s, plant staff recognized the pressing need for replacement of the existing electrical systems due to the deteriorating condition of the equipment. The major types of equipment to be replaced were switchgear, motor control centers (MCCs), control panels, distribution panelboards, transformers, wiring, and raceways. There were several primary project objectives that were identified for this upgrade:

  • Replace two large existing generators with a new set of modern generators that could all work collectively to provide standby backup power to the plant in case of loss of utility power. The new generators were designed to utilize integral fuel tanks that allowed for a much more robust and straightforward standby power arrangement as well as the elimination of old environmentally increasingly troublesome diesel lines and diesel tanks within the plant.
  • Replace the existing major electrical and control equipment that was currently located throughout the plant floor in various locations and instead create a modern dedicated temperature-controlled electrical room to house most of the new major electrical and control equipment. This not only provided a much better working environment for the electrical equipment, but freed up valuable floor and wall space in the plant which could be used for other purposes as well as eliminate some obsolete equipment and associated components.
  • Replace several electrical distribution panelboards that were obsolete and lacked expansion capability.
  • Provide the related programming and startup services to optimize and better integrate the equipment design with the intended equipment functionality while each piece of equipment was gradually replaced. Upgrade the power quality and motor control equipment to yield much more data and greatly improve the ability of plant operators to monitor and control the various systems involved in the water treatment processes for the plant.

Despite the many construction and schedule challenges entailed by an extreme makeover of the water treatment plant electrical systems, all work was completed without any interruption of service to the city.

If your plant also needs an extreme makeover, we can help! For more information, contact Wayne Wright, PE at mkt@johnsoneng.com.