Trends In Major Power Distribution In Large Data Centers, the Rebirth of the 'Loadcenter' Unit Substation Concept

This series of "Cut the Copper" blogs is in direct response to questions I’ve received from many young engineers on the staffs of various data center owners and their consulting engineering firms I’ve recently met.

04/04/2012



You should know before we begin that I’m a highly opinionated old guy who’s been around the electrical industry for a very long time. What I’ll be writing will likely trigger controversy—the story will be light on theory, and heavy on practical experience. I expect to see agreement from about half the electrical industry, and strong disagreement and some hate mail from the other half. But, in any case, you might agree that the history is interesting, so let’s begin the story with some background.

Liquid-Filled Medium Voltage Distribution Transformers and “Loadcenters”

For the first 35 years of the U.S. electrical industry, everyone could see that the good old mineral oil filled distribution transformer was a wonderful apparatus—except when it failed catastrophically with a ruptured tank and a good supply of oxygen and an ignition source—in which case it became a lethal ball of hot, orange flames and dense black smoke. To be installed safely indoors, oil-filled transformers had to be placed only inside enclosed fireproof vaults. 

That all changed in 1935 when Monsanto Chemical Co. acquired a small chemical company named Swann Chemical Co., who had developed a new electrical insulating fluid compound having the name “Askarel.” The liquid had all of the desirable properties of mineral oil for use as an insulating fluid in transformers, including high dielectric strength, good thermal conductivity, and low coefficient of expansion. But, beyond that, it was an inert, synthetic chemical product that could hardly be ignited under any circumstances—its chief benefit was that it was essentially non-flammable, in addition to possessing all the other good properties you’d want in a transformer insulating fluid. 

Monsanto began to market the product to the electrical industry under the trade name Aroclor. The electrical industry giants back in the day, GE and Westinghouse, immediately recognized the potential of this new liquid, and began purchasing it for use in capacitors, transformers, lighting ballasts, and other products. GE marketed the product under the trade name Pyranol, and Westinghouse marketed the product under the trade name Inerteen. The new products containing those liquids were hugely successful and much appreciated in their respective markets.



Consulting-Specifying Engineer's Product of the Year (POY) contest is the premier award for new products in the HVAC, fire, electrical, and...
Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine is dedicated to encouraging and recognizing the most talented young individuals...
The MEP Giants program lists the top mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineering firms in the United States.
How to use IPD; 2017 Commissioning Giants; CFDs and harmonic mitigation; Eight steps to determine plumbing system requirements
2017 MEP Giants; Mergers and acquisitions report; ASHRAE 62.1; LEED v4 updates and tips; Understanding overcurrent protection
Integrating electrical and HVAC for energy efficiency; Mixed-use buildings; ASHRAE 90.4; Wireless fire alarms assessment and challenges
Power system design for high-performance buildings; mitigating arc flash hazards
Transformers; Electrical system design; Selecting and sizing transformers; Grounded and ungrounded system design, Paralleling generator systems
Commissioning electrical systems; Designing emergency and standby generator systems; VFDs in high-performance buildings
As brand protection manager for Eaton’s Electrical Sector, Tom Grace oversees counterfeit awareness...
Amara Rozgus is chief editor and content manager of Consulting-Specifier Engineer magazine.
IEEE power industry experts bring their combined experience in the electrical power industry...
Michael Heinsdorf, P.E., LEED AP, CDT is an Engineering Specification Writer at ARCOM MasterSpec.
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Consulting-Specifying Engineer's Product of the Year (POY) contest is the premier award for new products in the HVAC, fire, electrical, and...
Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine is dedicated to encouraging and recognizing the most talented young individuals...
The MEP Giants program lists the top mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineering firms in the United States.
How to use IPD; 2017 Commissioning Giants; CFDs and harmonic mitigation; Eight steps to determine plumbing system requirements
2017 MEP Giants; Mergers and acquisitions report; ASHRAE 62.1; LEED v4 updates and tips; Understanding overcurrent protection
Integrating electrical and HVAC for energy efficiency; Mixed-use buildings; ASHRAE 90.4; Wireless fire alarms assessment and challenges
Power system design for high-performance buildings; mitigating arc flash hazards
Transformers; Electrical system design; Selecting and sizing transformers; Grounded and ungrounded system design, Paralleling generator systems
Commissioning electrical systems; Designing emergency and standby generator systems; VFDs in high-performance buildings
As brand protection manager for Eaton’s Electrical Sector, Tom Grace oversees counterfeit awareness...
Amara Rozgus is chief editor and content manager of Consulting-Specifier Engineer magazine.
IEEE power industry experts bring their combined experience in the electrical power industry...
Michael Heinsdorf, P.E., LEED AP, CDT is an Engineering Specification Writer at ARCOM MasterSpec.
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
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