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Factory-assembled DC Systems – Why are they so popular?

SENS customers have deployed thousands of SENS factory-integrated DC systems for switchgear and industrial control applications in a wide-ranging set of industry segments: power transmission & distribution, renewable energy generation, virtual power plant controls, microgrids, pipelines, oil & gas production, traffic control, water/wastewater processing, and process manufacturing.  What’s driving this change from the traditional “assemble-on-site” approach?

  • Space savings. Three trends are driving the need to save space: Increasing automation means more equipment needs to be installed on pads and in equipment rooms. The power drawn by this equipment is often much more than it used to be, meaning bigger storage batteries and higher-powered charger/rectifiers must be installed. Meanwhile, the cost of space inside equipment rooms and containers is becoming enormously expensive. Cost-efficiently solving this challenge means providing more power in less space. Factory-integrated systems can save floor space worth thousands of dollars. Moreover, according to an Eaton Corp white paper[1], “Electrical space requirements for equipment assembled in a factory to Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standards are often different than the requirements faced by the electrician during field installation. For instance, stacking two 42-circuit panelboards, one above the other, is not practical or permitted in the “field” but is permitted in a factory-built switchboard meeting UL standards…”

    SENS PowerCab and MicroCab systems are each UL Listed, helping assure customers and AHJ’s (Authorities Having Jurisdiction) that the DC system is compliant with relevant standards.
  • Labor cost and risk savings. Integrating a DC system in a controlled factory environment is substantially less expensive than utilizing more expensive field labor to integrate discrete components at the packaging or job site.  And, since the COVID pandemic, qualified field labor is increasingly expensive and hard to find. 

    Battery installation labor is a clear example of labor savings. Lead-acid batteries are heavy, meaning that field installation requires either two strong field techs or lifting aids. Battery installation involves locating all parts for the battery rack, assembling the rack, unpacking batteries, inspecting for damage, lifting batteries onto the rack, installing intercell or inter-block connectors, installing the battery breaker and then connecting battery, charger, and load to the DC bus. These steps take a man-day, or much longer if unexpected problems arise.

    All those steps in SENS’ PowerCab are performed in our factory, meaning that none are needed in the field.
  • Logistics simplicity and time savings. With a traditional “assemble on site” approach, batteries, racks, panels, breakers, and battery chargers typically ship from different points and arrive at the job site at different times. Invariably something is late, requiring someone’s time to expedite the missing parts. Each receipt is a separate transaction. Someone must store the earlier receipts until the last receipt arrives, wasting labor, time and space and increasing the risk that something will be misplaced.  The current environment with widespread parts shortages and transportation delays only exacerbates these issues.

    Alternatively, with a complete DC system from SENS, everything arrives in a single shipment, pre-integrated, eliminating costly and time-consuming logistics issues.

SENS complete DC systems work for virtually any application for which 10-year VRLA batteries – standard or high temperature – are acceptable.

SENS DC PowerCab supports 24, 40, 120, and 240VDC applications with either single or three-phase input.  It is purpose-built for switchgear and higher power industrial control applications.  Indoor and outdoor versions are both available.

SENS MicroCab currently supports 12 and 24VDC applications with 48 and 120V versions available in 2022.  MicroCabs are rated for outdoor use and are ideal for industrial control applications.

[1]Electrical Equipment Floor Space”, Application Paper AP083007EN, Eaton, June 2018