Standby Electric Power Systems for Agriculture

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Few people realize how important a constant supply of electricity is until we lose power due to a storm or other unexpected event. For some people, standby electric power is very convenient. For others, it is an absolute necessity. In agriculture, electricity is utilized to control the environment and maintain the life of livestock, poultry, and plants, and to prevent food spoilage, avoid financial loss due to failures in harvesting and sorting, and as security of the farm capital investments.
A standby power system should be considered as a form of insurance, with the cost of installation and maintenance compared with the potential loss as a result of an extended power outage. A properly sized, installed and maintained standby electric power system can eliminate most of the financial losses and inconveniences resulting from a power outage. When an emergency standby power system is being considered, there is a tendency to cut corners on equipment based on the assumption that the system may never be needed. Equipment that cannot handle the job is little better than none at all. In fact, an undersized, under maintained system may be worse than none at all because it gives a false sense of security. When standby power is needed, it is desperately needed. It must be ready to go at a moment's notice and must be capable of handling the loads applied to it. The best and most reliable equipment pays off at such times.
Equipment required for standby electric power service include (1) an alternator to produce the alternating current, (2) an engine to power the alternator and (3) a transfer switch. In addition to the required equipment, a power failure alarm may be desirable where an outage cannot be tolerated for more than a short time. Even with an automatic start system, alarms and emergency ventilation systems should be considered for such applications as controlled environment livestock buildings. An electrical problem such as a tripped main breaker at the service entrance of a building may be undetected by the automatic power sensor. Even if it were, the situation would not be helped by turning the standby system on.
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John W. Worley
University of Georgia