Issue 157 September - October 2023

Please note: The issue content below is just a summary of the articles in the printed magazine.
The articles are not available on-line. Please refer to the printed magazine for the complete article.
Innovation in action

Well into its 75th year operating in the electrical industry, Cuthbert Stewart Ltd has successfully realised a long-term goal with the unveiling of its Techlab Engineering Centre and Brewlab Innovation Centre.

The two new facilities at the company’s Auckland location in Mt Wellington are designed to show engineers, technicians and electricians the full scope of the industrial solutions now supplied by CSL.

They serve as a practical model of how the latest technologies can be applied to an industrial process and demonstrate these automation and digital techniques through different live solutions.

CSL has designed and built a fully automated craft brewery at its Auckland headquarters to showcase the smart design tools and technical support available from CSL and its partners. The new Brewlab features a big screen display that explains the technology and shows what smart panel manufacturing looks like from original 3D design to completion.

Visiting engineers can then see aspects of this carried through into enhanced product assembly at Techlab and learn about the full extent of the industrial services offered by the company today.

Cuthbert Stewart Ltd (CSL) managing director, Phil Elliott, says CSL offers a new approach to developing industrial solutions and has spent the last few years broadening its supplier base to cover a full range of industrial and automation products as well as building a systems integrator network to bring these solutions into play.

Standards citation – is there a better way?

The government’s suppression of electrical innovation has now reached a decade milestone since it last recognised a new edition of an electrical standard.

Hundreds of electrical and gas standards have been updated by EnergySafety WorkSafe and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) over the ten years but have been held back from regulatory citation by the government.

This means the old versions of electrical work standards using old installation techniques and technologies remain mandatory, and old versions of product standards remain the only standards that allow fittings and appliances to be deemed safe under the Electricity Regulations.

Why three successive governments and the Ministry of Innovation have suppressed electrical innovation by failing to cite these new standards remains incomprehensible to the industry, but on the eve of yet another government being elected there appears to be no policy commitment to allow the safe introduction of the latest technologies that will increase the wellbeing and prosperity of the country.

To this day, for example, the government has declined to cite any standard in the Electricity Regulations that addresses the installation of electric vehicle charging systems. Nor has it agreed to any general amendment to update the safety and compliance requirements in the body of the regulations to ensure the safety of children and people charging the electric vehicles that the government is incentivising them to buy.

Polarity testing – another inspector’s view

Following on from Athol Gibson’s article ‘Bulletproof Polarity Testing’ in the July issue, electrical inspector and EWRB competency course instructor, Al McGregor, suggests the method of measuring a mains neutral-earth loop immediately before connecting the neutral is simpler than by removing the MEN link. In the following article he addresses the expected loop resistance when the initial polarity test is carried out and a testing approach that verifies more than the protection’s required kA rating.

It was great to see Athol Gibson’s article ‘Bulletproof Polarity Testing’ in the last ElectroLink.

Expanding on it, the diagram in Figure 1 shows the mains L & N swap before the point of supply. In this case, lifting the MEN link interrupts a live circuit and the only means of isolation is at the transformer.

Solar farms – regulated as works, not installations

New forms of generation are challenging the skillsets of electrical workers and how they relate to the electrical safety and compliance regimes. Electrical inspector, Tony Doyle, looks at how solar farms are regulated differently to solar installations and how the rules in Victoria, Australia differ when the risk management function of inspection is applied. He comments as follows:

While commercial and domestic photovoltaic systems are regulated as electrical ‘installations’, solar farms are regulated differently as ‘works’. Different design and construction rules apply, with implications for their installation, compliance and inspection when connecting to a distribution network.

But even though solar farms are not subject to the same inspection and certification requirements of electrical installations, the compliance requirements are no less strict. Network companies still need to be satisfied that any HV electrical works connected to their network are designed, constructed and tested in accordance with the Electricity (Safety) Regulations 2010 (ESRs) and are safe to connect.

Works in a private development

The increasing prevalence of high-density housing and more complex private property developments has raised questions on how to design the distribution of power to multiple dwellings or lockups on the same site.

Continuing the commentary in the last issue of ElectroLink (July issue, page 8) principal technical advisor to Energy Safety WorkSafe, Peter Morfee, says the key issue is to get the separation right in the MEN system where works cease and installations begin.

Morfee says if you are doing a private development, you cannot wire it as an installation if there is a number of consumers on it.

“The regulations are written to prevent you doing that. You have to design the distribution as a works and wire it up the same way as a network company would wire it up in a street.

He says there are a few design fundamental requirements that have to be met.

“When you take the electricity from the local network, you have to make sure you protect the supply with fuses as it comes into the development and you have to be able to isolate it. You must have way of turning it off at the grid connection point when you need to.”

Who regulates what?

ver since the government separated its Energy Safety operation from the government department that was also responsible for its electrical worker licensing group, confusion has reigned over many in the electrical industry as to who is the electrical regulator and what organisation is responsible for the development of electrical law.

The electrical regulator today is WorkSafe and it has been since its creation when the Energy Safety Service was transferred out of MBIE and into the new health and safety regulator which was set up as an independent crown agency with its own governance board.

This mislocation left MBIE without the technical skills and regulation development expertise to keep the electrical safety and compliance regimes moving forward.

Even though WorkSafe is the electrical regulator, it has been given no power to update the Electricity (Safety) Regulations. That power remains with MBIE as the administrator of the Electricity Act and Regulations, but with no expert and experienced staff to do that.

EtherCAT celebrates twenty years

Few could argue that Ethernet technologies have been a real game changer for industrial fieldbuses - virtually every modern fieldbus utilises Ethernet now. The reason is simple, Ethernet delivers a breakthrough price/performance ratio that’s better than any propriety system by an order of magnitude.

As a result, those who adopt an ethernet based fieldbus will enjoy marked competitive advantages and, ultimately, better value in the longer term. The challenge then, moves to one of selecting the best technology, which can be hard given there are a plethora of industrial fieldbuses available.

To make matters more confusing, there’s often much marketing hype concerning fieldbus performance, and dubious claims made.

The choice of fieldbus is however an important decision, says Martin Rostan, the executive director of the EtherCAT Technology Group.

“The importance of the bus technology is often underrated. Most people think that the controller is the core of the control architecture, but in fact it’s the bus that determines if you can make use of that controller performance or not.”

Moreover, opting for the wrong standard means unnecessary cost, more difficult installations and ultimately, a loss of competitive advantage for the consumer.

So the lesson is clear, prospective users need to choose wisely. A detailed comparison between industrial fieldbuses is beyond the scope of this article, so we’ll concentrate on EtherCAT here, as it celebrates twenty years of existence this year.

That its sales have made significant inroads into a highly competitive market as shown in Figure 1, suggests it’s worth a second look.

Designing better area lighting

Area or Flood lighting is used to achieve many roles from security lighting to aesthetic or accent lighting through to illuminating specific tasks like sports fields or working zones such as ports, industrial yards and factories.

It is an aspect of lighting often given far too little consideration when assessing the requirements and design. There are many components to be investigated when looking at lighting large, generally exterior spaces, even beyond looking at the best way to achieve the lighting targets.

Flood lighting projects generally come with some extra infrastructure needs like mounting options, whether they be poles, towers or mounted to buildings and they tend to have the ability to broach shared boundaries with light trespass.

The first step even before looking at the lighting solution, is to find out the limitations of the project. These limitations will form the guide to your luminaire solution, so it is better to start any assessment of the project with setting the scope available.

The problem with the long life of LEDS

As September rolls around, it will see the final steps in the EU’s removal from sale of most legacy forms of lighting technology, including fluorescent tubes (both T8 and T5) as well as halogen lamps. At the same time, The U.S has removed the incandescent lamp from legal sale as of the 1st of August.

These phased rollouts have been a nod to the LED industries remarkable achievements, through many measures including energy efficiency, environmental impact, cost savings and astounding advancements in lighting technology.

There is no doubt that changing from traditional lighting technologies to those of the modern LED light source is the correct decision, and the continual advances of the industry, as well as ever lowering costs as economies of scale truly come to fruition only make it more important to keep pushing the speed of the changeover.

However, as we march forward on the road to eliminating the legacy technologies, it is important to consider what other ramifications these changes could potentially mean to end users as we transition to full LED installations. Many of these issues have more to do with external factors rather than any limitations of the LED technology itself and indeed are generated as a byproduct of the outstanding performance and longevity of LED luminaires.