Forensic Analysis

Utilities

Utility generation, transmission, and distribution power systems are made up of a signification amount of electrical and electronic equipment interconnected and spread out across their service territories. Large amounts of energy are generated, transmitted to distribution substations over transmission circuits, then to customer facilities over distribution feeders. Generation facilities, with on-site transmission substations require large pieces of equipment like transformers, circuit breakers, and capacitor banks among other equipment. Although utility transmission power quality (TPQ) and distribution power quality (DPQ) have improved, excess disturbance energy still develops across these systems, resulting in severe damage to equipment components in the power chain.

Frequently, a disturbance will cause a lack of electrical energy (e.g., voltage sag, momentary interruption, etc.) to propagate through the system, potentially causing havoc to customers along the way. When catastrophic damage occurs, utilities sometimes need expert electrical forensics engineers to witness or participate in forensic analyses carried out on damaged equipment. Electrotek engineers are knowledgeable regarding failed power system components, as well as modeling and simulating the causes of failure of components. Detailed inspection of failed components and analysis of system power quality data are critical parts to determining the cause of failure when modeling and simulation is done.

Architecture & Engineering Firms

A&E consulting firms are sometimes responsible for designing utility and customer power system components into their respective power systems at utility and customer levels. When failures occur, some of which are catastrophic, power system owners and operators look to the A&E firms to help them determine the cause of failure. A&E firms may not have the power quality expertise to determine the cause of failure. Looking to Electrotek power quality expert engineers, A&E firms can rely on our expertise to determine the timeline of power system-, facility electrical system- and load-related disturbance events which led up to the failure. When catastrophic damage occurs, utilities and customers sometimes need forensic analyses carried out on damaged facility electrical systems and electrical and electronic equipment. Electrotek engineers are knowledgeable regarding failed power system components, as well as modeling and simulating the causes of failure of components. Detailed inspection of failed components and analysis of system power quality data are critical parts to determining the cause of failure when modeling and simulation is done.

Equipment Manufacturers

All manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment experience premature product malfunctions, failures and groups of malfunctions / failures. In some cases, problems occur within the warranty period. In other cases, they occur short after the warranty period expires. Malfunctions and failures that occur with variable frequency drives (VFDs), electronic lighting ballasts and drivers, power supplies, and inverters among other products disappoint customers and weaken their confidence in the reliability of those products. Customers are not patient when it comes to malfunctions, premature failures and groups of failures. Customers expect product to work without problem directly out-of-the-box. Moreover, sometimes products malfunction or fail directly after they're energized. This is especially true if the products are new technologies with no field history. Another problem that occurs far too frequently is incomplete product testing, testing at the wrong severity level and skipping tests listed in a standard when manufacturers don't have the proper test equipment or funding to complete all required tests. In other cases, products that were designed to prevent catastrophic electrical failures to begin with experience early failure.

Manufacturers desire to show the customers that they're dedicated to replacing the failed product and determining cause(s) of failure. To keep these commitments, manufacturers contract with Electrotek to represent them at the customer's site on an independent, third-party basis. Electrotek expert PQ engineers have extensive experience in conducting forensic analysis of failed electrical and electronic equipment, both in our Forensics PQ Laboratory and in the field at customer sites. Equipment weighing less than 200 pounds can be shipped to Electrotek’s PQ Engineering Laboratory in Knoxville, Tennessee for a forensic analysis.

Electrotek engineers pack and ship sophisticated test and measurement equipment when making site visits to conduct a forensic analysis on larger equipment. Electrotek has relationships with many manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment. Developing a trustworthy and confidential technically-based relationship with manufacturers helps to expedite data vital to understanding the chain of electrical and operational events leading to a failure and determine the true facts regarding cause(s) of failure. Electrotek also has relationships with independent forensic experts who conduct failures analysis of power and signal components. This is used to determine if a component failure occurred due to misapplication in a design, an over-voltage or over-current condition, illegal use of second-grade components or perhaps related to another system or environmental condition.

End Users

The old adage "the buck stops here" is often repeated by end users who experience premature product malfunctions, failures, or malfunctions / failures of groups of electrical and electronic equipment. Typically left without products that operate, end users are faced with decisions critical to getting a production line back in operation. They are also faced with finding an experienced, professional power systems- and power quality-related engineering consulting firm with the right experience to solve a major facility issue when equipment suddenly malfunctions or fails.

When unfortunate equipment failures occur, end users want to talk to a human as soon as possible without having to wait for a return phone call or reply email days and even weeks after the event occurred. When a customer inquiry arrives, a qualified expert PQ engineer will contact the customer within an hour or two. End users frequently turn to Electrotek expert engineers to carry out independent, third-party power quality investigations combined with forensic analysis of malfunctioning and failed equipment. Electrotek policy is to design the plan for investigating the facility and its equipment failures within a 24-hour period.

Electrotek engineers frequently work with many different manufacturers when investigating these problems. When the cause of failure is determined, Electrotek will continue investigate the facility’s electrical system to determine if wiring and grounding errors played a role in the equipment failures. Electrotek expert PQ engineers have a vast amount of experience in forensic analysis of end-use equipment, investigating wiring and grounding errors, and determining if disturbances were "amplified" when they encountered such errors.