Electricity in case of emergency

Automating the backup power grid at one of the Netherlands’ biggest hospitals

The challenge


The likelihood of power failures in Europe is growing dramatically due to stretched energy supply networks, growing customer demand and a greater reliance on variable sources of energy. Power shortages are inconvenient for any business but, for critical establishments like hospitals, they can cost lives. That’s why Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, Netherlands, turned to Ovarro, the control technology specialist, to provide an automated backup energy management and SCADA system that would help protect it from power outages.

Europe is currently facing a growing energy crisis thanks to a perfect storm of factors including colder winters, importing natural gas, the coronavirus pandemic and lower-than-usual output from renewable energy sources. All this brings home the fact that the transition to renewable energy generation, while essential to reduce CO2 emissions, results in an increasingly fragile energy supply. An uncertain power supply can, in turn, lead to costly power outages.

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Product Type
DSG Series
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Fast, fine-tuned switching for backup power

Long before this crisis, the Erasmus University Medical Centre recognised its need for a backup power system. Without backup generators, any power outage could leave essential parts of the hospital completely in the dark, and everything from automatic doors to life-support machines without power.

The answer wasn’t as simple as just installing a backup generator or two. The first challenge was the size of the hospital. In fact, the Erasmus University Medical Centre is the largest of its kind in Europe, making it impossible to keep the entire hospital running on backup power. A more focussed solution was needed, where key systems could be prioritised depending on the amount of electricity available at any given time.

Critical systems were needed that could switch to the backup power as soon as an outage occurred, without the need for time-consuming manual switching or decision making. The hospital also wanted a dynamic system rather than a hardwired one, so the system’s priorities could be added or changed as needed.

That’s why, in 2010, the hospital turned to Datawatt, now part of Ovarro, to help create a solution that would automate the Erasmus University Medical Centre’s backup power grid. In response, Datawatt designed a complete energy management and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system.

The energy management system and SCADA uses standard hardware, which is connected through a fast and reliable fibre network. This makes it simple to connect more devices into the system as the hospital expands. Where the system is really unique,  however, is in the level of control it gives for where the backup power is directed. Very specific areas or assets in the hospital — the emergency lights, for example — can be swiftly provided with power thanks to the energy management system’s fine-tuned switching capabilities.

The system doesn’t only automate the distribution and switching of power in emergency or outage situations. It also collects data to monitor power consumption and the switching of electricity. This information can be used to maximise the efficiency of the system and identify any problems, to ensure issues are addressed before the next time the backup generators are needed.

A growing system

Over time, the energy management system and SCADA system supplied by Datawatt has grown to include over 200 remote telemetry units (RTUs) around the hospital. Although the system was initially built with the D05 RTU model, it has gradually been updated to the latest version, the DSG RTU. The DSG offers maximum security and even more flexibility than its predecessors. The RTU combines with 600 remote Input/Output (I/O) units placed in various cabinets, to offer complete control over where power can be directed.

The DSG is a cost-effective, state-of-the-art RTU for integrated network applications. It’s designed for maximum security, yet is still flexible enough to be used in complex applications. Datawatt, now Ovarro, has combined the DSG RTUs with other components to create a full-cabinet system that can be installed easily around the hospital.

Despite beginning in 2010, the project between Erasmus University Medical Centre and Ovarro is still expanding, as older buildings are being demolished or renovated. Not only is Ovarro responsible for maintaining the energy management and SCADA system, it is also continually adding to it — a simple task, thanks to the system’s modular design.

For this project, it was essential to collaborate with the customer so Erasmus University Medical Centre could gain the most from the expertise Ovarro brings to the table. Customers aren’t just looking for a supplier, but a partner — whether Ovarro is supplying remote monitoring and control systems for hospitals, water networks or other applications.

As pressure mounts on the European electricity grid, power cuts may become more common. Fortunately, this needn’t be a major concern for Rotterdam’s Erasmus University Medical Centre. With its automated energy management and SCADA system supplied by Ovarro, backup power can now be supplied almost immediately and exactly where it needs to go. Going forward, the system’s data can be monitored and analysed, which gives the medical centre even more control over its power system to keep the hospital keep running safely.

For other types of business looking for an automated backup power or SCADA solution, Ovarro can supply similar systems with switching capabilities suited to your requirements. Enquire today.

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With Erasmus University Medical Centre’s automated energy management and SCADA system supplied by Ovarro, backup power can now be supplied almost immediately and exactly where it needs to go.
Key deliverables
  • Automated energy management
  • DSG RTUs offer maximum security and even more flexibility
  • Modular system design can be expanded easily
  • Data can be monitored and analysed
  • More control over the hospital’s power system keeps everything running safely