NEC Exhibitors get personalised power supplies
With 21 halls totalling 200,000 square metres (two million square feet) The National Exhibition Centre (NEC) is the biggest exhibition centre in Britain and welcomes over three million visitors a year.
Until recently, providing power to the tens of thousands of stands built every year was a complicated and labour intensive process involving thousands of metres of temporary cables being installed by an army of electricians. It was also a time consuming exercise, adding time to the build-up and breakdown of an exhibition.
All that has now changed thanks to a fully automated control system designed and installed by Gloucestershire-based Severn Controls. The system, which networks 65 Mitsubishi Q-series PACs (programmable automation controllers) over a Mitsubishi MX4 SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) package, uses 5km of cabling to connect all the exhibition halls into one integrated supply structure and incorporates an IT front end to maximise user-friendliness.
The new electrical infrastructure, called “Plug & Play”, is part of The NEC’s £40m venue improvement programme and represents an innovative yet technologically proven solution to exhibition stand-wiring.
Previously setting up manually could take up to two weeks and only then could carpets be laid and stand building begin. Just before the exhibition opened, the contractor re-entered the subway, put in the fuses and turned on power to the stands. The power supply then remained on for the duration of the exhibition. When the exhibition closed, contractors reversed the process and the cables were disconnected and put into storage, ready to go through the same process again for the next exhibition. Besides the significant labour costs involved, the downtime required to wire each exhibition meant that valuable exhibition time was lost.
The entire NEC is now pre-wired. Sixty-five electrical distribution panels are installed within the subways and almost 4000, 63A sockets permanently fixed in the various ducts. The sockets are hardwired back to the distribution panels and their locations accurately marked on the SCADA screens. Pulling points are provided in the floor enabling extension leads to connect the electrical supply to power points on the stands. NEC mains teams report that the new system is far more flexible than the old, because fixed sockets are so much easier to locate, and faults are easier to find and rectify.
The NEC and its customers both benefit from the greatly enhanced functionality of the Severn Controls system and the vast amount of information it is able to provide.
The system also makes it much easier to identify power supply problems, even on individual stands. Now, even before the exhibitor can contact the helpdesk, the operator knows what the problem is and is making arrangements to remedy it, which means that power can be restored very quickly.
The Severn Controls system is believed to be the largest single power monitoring installation in the UK by some margin, and is capable of providing vast amounts of information to NEC managers. The statistics are equally impressive: The 65 panels can each supply 30 circuits and each circuit has two sockets, which adds up to 1950 circuits and 3900 sockets. Every panel and every circuit also has a power meter so the system boasts over 2000 power meters, which map the complete energy usage of the site. And every circuit is fitted with a timer that can be set to turn on and off at predetermined times before a show opens and closes, so energy cannot be wasted.
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