Fiber-Optic Manufacturer Unphased by Northeast Blackout

Last summer's widespread blackout in the northeastern United States resulted in enormous financial losses for some, but at least one firm was well-prepared. Nufern, a Connecticut-based designer of optical fiber for telecommunications, creates fibers smaller in diameter than a human hair and as long as one mile.

03/01/2004


Last summer's widespread blackout in the northeastern United States resulted in enormous financial losses for some, but at least one firm was well-prepared. Nufern, a Connecticut-based designer of optical fiber for telecommunications, creates fibers smaller in diameter than a human hair and as long as one mile. Making this fiber requires precision machinery with the highest level of clean, consistent power. One blip on the electrical line can cause serious problems.

For backup emergency power, the firm relies on an 800-kW generator and two 300-kVA uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems. Company officials report that during the massive blackout, Nufern was completely unaffected due to the quick response of the battery-free UPS. When the power dropped, the flywheel UPS seamlessly transferred the load to the generator in only 13 seconds. "At first, we didn't know there was a blackout. Our lights didn't even flicker. The only way we knew something was going on was that our generator was on and our power monitoring systems were telling us we were on backup power," says Alan Laverdure, senior engineer/ facilities for Nufern and former manager at a local utility.

Laverdure credits the success of his UPS equipment to its battery-free operation. "Battery-based UPS systems were not viable for us," he says. "For our operations, we'd need a large room just to house battery banks, not to mention the inherent reliability problems and their environmental unfriendliness. We just can't trust batteries. They fail."

The flywheel UPS not only provide instant power backup; it also provides constant voltage regulation—a must for Nufern's operations. "Receiving voltage swings and transients can be just as damaging to our equipment and processes as blackouts," explains Laverdure. "The flywheel UPS made sure we had clean output at the proper voltage."





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