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Power control at the NEC

20 October 2008

Severn Controls eased stand wiring at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), UK with an automated control system that is claimed to ‘maximise user friendliness’. The Gloucestershire, UK company installed the system, at the Birmingham venue, and has obviated the need for thousands of temporary cables installed for each exhibition.

With 21 halls totalling 200,000 square metres The NEC is the biggest exhibition centre in Britain and welcomes over three million visitors a year.

The Severn Controls system 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.

The new electrical infrastructure, called 'Plug & Play', is part of The NEC's £40m (€52m) venue improvement programme.

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 system is claimed to ease the identification of power supply problems, even on individual stands. Now, before the exhibitor can contact the helpdesk, the operator should know what the problem is and can make arrangements to remedy it.

The 65 panels can each supply 30 circuits and each circuit has 2 sockets, which adds up to 1950 circuits and 3900 sockets. Every panel and every circuit has a power meter so the system incorporates more than 2000 power meters, which map the complete energy usage of the site. Circuits are 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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