Latest Automatic Transfer Switches Bring New Intelligence to Generator Operations

Backup power systems – usually natural gas or diesel generator sets – 
controlled by automatic transfer switches (ATSs) are a code requirement 
for life-safety systems in healthcare settings and a financial necessity
 in data centers. These switches can sense voltage drops and immediately
 pick up connected loads whenever the utility grid has an outage. ABB

Chuck Ross

Backup power systems – usually natural gas or diesel generator sets – controlled by automatic transfer switches (ATSs) are a code requirement for life-safety systems in healthcare settings and a financial necessity in data centers. These switches can sense voltage drops and immediately pick up connected loads whenever the utility grid has an outage. Typically, these switches have been complicated to install and have offered little more than on/off functionality. That situation is changing, though, and today’s models are beginning to use onboard and cloud-based intelligence to make their operations even more automatic.

Automatic load shedding is one of the most valuable features of this latest generation of ATSs. Facility managers can prioritize electrical loads from most important – like life-safety systems or critical server circuits – to least important. A smart ATS can evaluate generator capacity against projected power consumption and switch off less important loads until utility services are restored, maximizing protection for a facility’s most critical equipment.

With remote data connections, today’s ATSs also can perform their own predictive maintenance and temperature monitoring duties and report any potential problems to facility management. In this way, operators won’t be surprised by issues that arise between scheduled maintenance sessions.

While this new generation of ATSs may seem to be a no-brainer choice in new construction applications, their installation can be a bit more complicated in existing facilities with legacy control systems. In these cases, it’s important to ensure the new device offers communications protocols that are compatible with the facility’s existing network. Not only do some of the latest ATSs offer multiple protocol options, they also can be capable of communicating via two separate standards at the same time.  


Photo courtesy of ABB