Electrical Power & Protection


ACTOM’s one-stop power solutions

January 2024 Electrical Power & Protection


Mervyn Naidoo, CEO of ACTOM.

One of the most tangible effects of loadshedding on everyday business owners is the extra cost of maintaining standard operational levels – whether through solar, UPS or fuelling large-scale diesel generators. ACTOM’s market-leading technology and advanced products are perfectly positioned to address the issues facing the electromechanical industry. The company offers large-scale infrastructure installations and support services to smaller projects. With 12 specialist and fully integrated divisions, it is committed to meeting its client’s energy needs, without compromising sustainability for future generations.

The concept of a power island is growing momentum worldwide and has already successfully been implemented in some countries. The concept involves the independent operation of a whole network or part of a network that is isolated after being disconnected from the interconnected system. There is at least one power-generating module or HVDC system supplying power to this network and controlling the frequency and voltage.

These networks offer the best solution to meet the growing electrical demands of industrialised countries. Green power islands also reduce a company’s carbon footprint and maintain a cost-effective management plan by reducing energy costs and providing a significant return on investment. There are two conditions under which a power island can operate:

Synchronised mode: This is when the plant is connected to a distribution system, which in turn is connected to the utility grid. In this case, power can be given to the grid, or if required, power can also be extracted from the grid. This method is enabled in both captive and independent power plants.

Islanding mode: A power plant is said to be in islanding mode if it is dissociated from the distribution system or power grid. In this case, the plant runs on house load, i.e., a generator will generate only to cater for the in-house power requirement.

Generally, plants run synchronously with the grid because there is always some mismatch between power generation and demand. Also, if a power plant trips for some reason, it requires starting power that can be drawn from the grid. Usually, plants have their islanding mode enabled, which will automatically island or isolate the plant if there is some external disturbance in the grid, such as voltage dip or erratic frequency change, thus protecting the plant from external disturbance.

In the grid-connected mode, the host grid handles frequency and voltage regulation. However, in an islanded operation, a microgrid must be able to regulate internal frequency and voltage with proper control. Droop control is the commonly-accepted operation for power sharing among distributed energy resources (DERs) in a microgrid.

ACTOM offers a complete turnkey power island solution, and is a leading supplier of premium specifications and standard low-voltage motors, gearboxes, speed reducers and motor starters. The company custom designs and manufactures medium-voltage motors for the mining, industrial, processing and utilities markets in South Africa and globally.

ACTOM CEO, Mervyn Naidoo says: “We can deliver every element of a power island. We manufacture the boiler, the turbine, the generator, and the associated switchgear and control. So ACTOM offers the full scope of products for an effective power island. The 12 ACTOM divisions combine, by delivering an integrated solution within an efficient value chain.”

John Thompson, a division of ACTOM, has a long history, with many success stories about its unique boiler design and manufacturing. The company is a global leader in energy and environmental solutions through value engineering and innovation. It serves its global customers with tailor-made boilers, environmental solutions (including air pollution control), engineering, energy management, manufacturing, spares, maintenance and training. It specialises in generating power for sugar mills. Its engineering teams can accurately simulate virtually any scenario using the latest computational fluid dynamics technology.

When maintenance is needed, ACTOM’s electromechanical maintenance, service and repairs specialist, Marthinusen & Coutts can carry out maintenance and servicing of machinery and equipment for the mining, rail transportation, utilities, marine, and oil and gas industries. The company is a specialist repairer of power generation equipment, medium- and low-voltage AC and DC motors, transformers and coil manufacture, and has a full range of engineering, testing, diagnostics, balancing and maintenance services.

A power island would not be complete without an IIoT solution. ACTOM uses lIoT devices and artificial intelligence to provide tailor-made solutions to its customers. The company can digitise factories and equipment, and design programs which include applications in protection, control, and static power. The smart intelligence built into the equipment results in an increase in productivity and factory efficiency, and a reduction in downtime and wastage.

Static Power specialises in the design and manufacture of AC and DC standby equipment for the industrial, telecomms, rail and renewable energy markets. This includes a thyristor type charger, industrial batteries, power supplies, an industrial UPS, furnace control panels, AC/DC distribution boards, and battery tripping units. Static Power has embarked on turnkey solutions for renewable Energy and battery energy storage solutions. All systems are designed and engineered to suit their purpose for local and export markets.

ACTOM’s success stories are evident in its completed projects and efforts to keep the lights on. The Ngodwana Biomass Fuel Plant biomass power plant installation, established under South Africa’s Independent Power Producer Programme, was completed as a joint venture between John Thompson’s Industrial Watertube Boilers, an ACTOM division, and Lesedi Nuclear Services. The 25 MW power plant is adjacent to Mpumalanga’s Sappi Ngodwana pulp mill. According to Russel Warren, general manager of John Thomson, the installation took 20 months. John Thomson will operate and maintain the entire plant, comprising the boiler, turbine, and balance of the plant, over a five-year contract period.

ACTOM Power Transformers has designed several low-cost transformers for wind farms, including 157 x 2700 kVA pad-mounted, oil-natural and air-natural transformers. Consolidated Power Projects, the electrical BOP contractor for the wind farms at Noupoort, Khobab and Loeriesfontein, ordered its transformers from ACTOM. The company also previously supplied the Kouga wind farm project. Newer transformers also accommodate the load-break switch and current limiting fuses inside the transformer tank by mounting them under oil instead of the usual external arrangement applied to package transformers. This reduces the cost.

ACTOM can supply electrical equipment, services and balance of plant to any renewable energy project. The Nordex Kouga Wind Farm in the Eastern Cape is a renewable energy project which makes the most of the fresh onshore breezes that sweep the Eastern Cape coastline. Nordex engaged trusted South African contractors, Power Construction and ACTOM to undertake the civil and electric work.

Marthinusen & Coutts is Africa’s largest after-market service provider of electrical and mechanical rotating machines. The division works extensively on hydropower plants, and has recently been contracted to refurbish a synchronous condenser at the Inga River hydro project in the DRC. “ACTOM is involved in many power projects in the African market, including pump storage schemes like Ingula and the Drakensberg Pump Storage scheme. This reaffirms ACTOM’s position in the whole power island supply chain,” Naidoo added. “With renewable power generation being a major issue, we should look at our local manufacturers offering their unique value chain of services.“

ACTOM offers a complete engineering, procurement and construction value chain for the installation of a plant, and beyond that for the actual operation and maintenance of the plant. “We take the subcomponents from the cradle to the grave, where we have after-market services and repairs capability. ACTOM can manufacture all these products and support it through its full lifecycle, and ultimately facilitate the customer in achieving an optimised plant performance,” Naidoo concluded.

For more information contact Mamiki Matlawa, ACTOM, +27 10 136 0200, mamiki.matlawa@actom.co.za, www.actom.co.za


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