Complex Projects: Data Center Infrastructure Upgrades

In the Spring of 2011, an IEA customer, and national Data Center, was experiencing reliability problems with its electrical switchgear. Data Center management contacted IEA to discuss possible solutions to the problem. IEA identified three open-transition automatic transfer switches as the source of the problem. Due to the design of the open transition ATS equipment, it was possible for the ATS to disconnect from the utility, but never connect to the emergency power source, causing an outage.

IEA recommended that all three ATSs (one 1,600 amp, one 2,500 amp and one 4,000 amp) be replaced with new closed-transition switches.
The problem: It was believed by Data Center management that it was not possible to remove the three ATSs without having to take an extended facility power outage, which was not acceptable (the facility had been in continuous operation for nearly 20 years and could not be shut down without incurring extraordinary cost and jeopardizing national customer operations)

The challenge: Replace three transfer switches without having to shut down any part of the facility, even for short periods of time.
The solution: IEA developed a plan that allowed the transfer switches to be removed and replaced without having to shut down the Data Center. How? By utilizing a combination of generator power and custom built temporary switchgear, power could be maintained throughout the three week, three-phase part installation.

IEA developed detailed equipment specifications, scope of work, and the detailed work instruction required to complete the installation. Each ATS had to be custom built to fit into the footprint of the old equipment. This involved measuring existing bus structures and then duplicating them to within a fraction of an inch. Standard ATSs were ordered, and then modified by the manufacturer to achieve necessary geometry. In addition, specific controls were required to coordinate operation of the three ATSs with 3 standby diesel generators, including a priority load management system designed to protect critical facility loads. IEA supervised each phase of construction, coordinating with customer management representatives and presenting project results at regular customer meetings.

IEA drafted and then supervised the execution of complicated post-installation testing procedures required to verify specialized ATS operational characteristics.

The result: The project extended over a period of almost 10 months from concept to completion and was completed on-time, under-budget, and with zero impact to customer operations. Reliability of the new equipment has been excellent.

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