The report on proposals for the National Electrical Code 2008 contains the new proposed Article 585 on Critical Operation Power Systems, raising the question as to the scope of the NEC, which some interpret as covering only installation; while it is too late to send in comments for the meetings, acceptance and incorporation of Article 585 into the 2008 NEC could significantly improve the uptime of the most critical of loads, vital economic centers and public safety facilities. Uptime is what power quality is all about, as it is matching the quality of the supply with the susceptibility of the equipment and the required productivity that matters most.
Some objections to Article 585 come from the following statement of its scope: “585.1 Scope. The provisions of this article apply to the electrical installation, operation, monitoring, control, and maintenance of critical operations power systems consisting of circuits and equipment intended to supply, distribute, and control electricity to designated vital operations in the event of disruption to elements of the normal system.”
The words “operation, monitoring, control, and maintenance” are viewed as exceeding the NEC’s purpose and scope, listed below:
(A) Practical Safeguarding. The purpose of this Code is the practical safeguarding of persons and property from hazards arising from the use of electrical.
(B) Adequacy. This Code contains provision that are considered necessary for safety. Compliance therewith and proper maintenance results in an installation that is essentially free from hazard but not necessarily efficient, convenient, or adequate for good service or future expansion of electrical use.
(C) Intention. This Code is not intended as a design specification or an instruction manual for untrained persons.
(A) Covered. This Code covers the installation of electrical conductors, equipment, and raceways; signaling and communications conductors, equipments, and raceways; and optical fiber cables and raceways for the following:
(1) Public and private premise, including buildings, structures, mobile homes, recreational vehicles, and floating buildings.
(2) Yards, lots, parking lots, carnivals, and industrial substations.”
The words “safety” and “maintenance” appear a number of times. This goes back to the origins of the NEC, which is tied to the efforts of insurance companies in conjunction with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA is the keeper of the NEC), to improve the safety of persons and property from fire, whether the origin is careless cooking and/or smoking, electrical, or equipment malfunction, among many of the sources. Next, one should consider the origin of the Article 585, which came in response to the Department of Homeland Security concerns after Sept. 11, 2001. Here, the safety of persons was measured in millions, and the economic losses were in the billions.
Safety isn’t just an installation issue. Safety starts at the design stage and carries on through the commissioning and onto the day-to-day operation and maintenance of electrical installations and equipment. Other NFPA documents cover the electrical equipment maintenance, such as NFPA 70B, and they refer to the NEC for the proper installation, just as the new article 585 refers to them for the proper maintenance.
Article 585 addresses additional requirements needed for these vital operations to continue for the safety of many, including the electrical conductors and equipment as well as communication conductors and equipment. It will involve costs beyond the more typical facility, but that would come to no surprise to those who design, install and operate data centers, such as those related to the stock markets, credit card companies, telecommunication centers and financial institutions. Operating at 99.9999 percent uptime or higher requires more investment up front and is ongoing; it doesn’t require all facilities to do so, not even the entire police station, but just those facilities or parts of the facility that require “critical operation power systems” by the “authority having jurisdiction” to meet these more stringent requirements of Article 585.
The new article raises the issue of “Why not just use Article 700 Emergency Systems?” It goes back to the article’s purpose: to keep the systems operational long enough for the safe evacuation of the personnel, rather than the continued operation of the equipment for as long as possible. Much of the structure of Article 585 was based on Article 700; though it goes beyond by more stringent requirements for things such as feeder distribution equipment being located in spaces with minimum fire rating of two hours and above the 100-year flood plain, continuous operation of power sources with variable loads for an unlimited number of hours, and minimum of 72 hours on-site fuel storage.
With many building codes adopting the NEC, there are special interest groups out there trying to protect their turf. Time will tell as to the final approval of the Article 585 by the NFPA membership at large. Maybe it will result in changes in the scope and purpose of the NEC as a whole, maybe not. Past events will hopefully motivate making the future a safer place. EC
BINGHAM, a contributing editor for power quality, can be reached at 732.287.3680.