Building automation controller for diesel generator.

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by Seneram, Mar 31, 2016.

  1. Seneram

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 31, 2016
    11
    0
    Hello everyone,

    I'm looking into making an automatic start controller for my hercules se 5000 df generator (https://www.isc-gmbh.info/isc_de_en/se-5000-df-herkules-6)
    Ive read a few other threads here and gotten a bit of an idea about the challenges and other obstacles surrounding the issue.

    Here is some information about the project itself.

    I run a small cloud hosting company, i am trying to build backup power for my main datacenter. i have a proper UPS that provides an power failure output signal and i have an automatic transfer switch for 3 phase ordered.

    The generator i bought back when i got a phone call from my electrical company telling me that "In 3 days we will cut power for 72 hours for maintenance" and i did some fast research and decided to buy this one. The one thing i missed on it and did not know to look for then was automatic decompression on starting. This is done via an pull out right next to the key.

    Due to this it becomes quite a lot more complicated to actually make an autostart for it.

    My plan is the following so far.
    1. Have an controller (what one and why is not decided as i am very limited in knowledge about programming micro controllers) that recieves an signal from the UPS.
    2. have the controller actuate an solenoid that pulls out the decompression.
    3. have the controller "turn" the key (Just bridge/relay the wires rather then physicly turn it) to on and start.
    4. After the flywheel has spun up after roughly 10 seconds release the decompression solenoid (Decompression lever is spring loaded, one way solenoid is all that is needed)
    5. Wait for 15 seconds and see if no power alarm from UPS has turned off and check generator output voltage.

    If successfull the generator will run untill manually turned off as the shutdown/cooldown procedure is a bit longer and due to the automatic transfer switch there is no need to take the generator off automaticly either.

    If not successfull it will return to step 2 and try again (For a limited ammount of tries.)

    What i have good knowledge in is the electrical/physical aspect of the whole build. What i have close to no experience in is the controller part and hence why i am here asking you guys..

    Would it be doable with an off the shelf controller from ebay? Do i need to make my own arduino project for this? and so on. Any input and sugestions would be highly valuable at this point, even if it is just to tell me that i am being stupid and it will never work and am better off buying a whole new (Kinda out of my budget) Generator that supports this.. Rough budget is about 1000 dollars but as my company is small the less the better.

    Regards, Mathias W.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2016
  2. TheButtonThief

    Active Member

    Feb 26, 2011
    219
    38
    An Arduino would be an excellent choice as they're an entry level micro platform designed to introduce people like yourself to micro electronics. All the tutorials you'll find will be really straight forward and written with the novice in mind. It seems like a pretty straight forward task and so programming a micro to take care of it would be something you could do after only reading up on the basics.
     
  3. Seneram

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 31, 2016
    11
    0
    Okay, that sounds promising. The main reason for me to doubt making it myself with arduino is that i fear overlooking something resulting in it not starting when needed or worse yet damaging the battery/startmotor of the generator by burning them out if the solenoid does not work as intended. I am very confident in my capability in electric wiring or physical construction and server systems and their controllers for backup power. But programming was never my strong side.. I do suppose that i could try my hand at it. Do you have any suggestions with what board i should look at and what SDK/tools i need?
     
  4. blocco a spirale

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jun 18, 2008
    1,440
    368
    For this type of application (as always) I recommend a small PLC/ smart relay. If you understand switches and relays you could have a working device in an hour or two with no previous experience of either electronics or programming.

    You can download software, including a simulator to test your design free from here:
    http://www.schneider-electric.co.uk...d/542-zelio-soft/?parent-subcategory-id=80336

    Without spending any money you can decide whether it suits you and you application.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2016
  5. Seneram

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 31, 2016
    11
    0
    That sounds pretty good aswell. I will download that and give it a look. But would a PLC capable of what i want to do not get a bit expensive?

    The Zelio smart relay from schneider sure looks interesting. and might even do what i want.. Cant really find a price for it tho, not even on the standard b2b electronic sources i use. Do you possibly have any idea about what price range they are usually at? Or perhaps you have an specific PLC/Smart relay you would like to recommend?
     
  6. blocco a spirale

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jun 18, 2008
    1,440
    368
    Prices are perhaps a little high compared to some solutions but are offset to a large degree in that you won't need to spend many, many hours learning a programming language and building/ prototyping reliable hardware. i.e. it's a ready to go solution rather than an electronics project.

    http://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/logic-modules/4798098/

    This kind of thing also pops up used on ebay quite regularly, just make sure that you can obtain the programming tools for that particular device.

    Whatever you choose, use the Zelio software to design and test your ladder logic and then it will be a trivial task to implement your solution in any smart relay.
     
  7. Seneram

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 31, 2016
    11
    0
    I just found some on Conrad.se and on an swedish retailer of rs, will deffo look deeper into this. It feels a lot safer and i feel more confident about using this since it does not rely on my programming skills but rather on my electrical skills. I could simply hook up a sensor to check if the decompression has been pulled out properly before initiating the actual turning of the keywith a delay of 10 seconds to allow for spinning up the fly wheel.

    You might have saved me a boat load of headache actually.

    I just got the software downloaded, going to try it out now and see how it looks. Will update here with reults.
     
  8. tcmtech

    Well-Known Member

    Nov 4, 2013
    2,039
    1,667
    I second that about using s prebuilt PLR unit. My personal preference are the Teco PLR's from here.

    http://www.bb-elec.com/Products/Con...rs/TECO-SG2-V3-Programmable-Logic-Relays.aspx

    I have several that have been running in near 24/7/365 operation for close to a decade now (V1 series) and not one has given any problems. ;)
     
  9. Seneram

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 31, 2016
    11
    0
    Heya again, Here is a quick update!

    I have now been playing with the Zelio software and i think i might be in love.

    Cant thank you enough for the tip of them and i have decided to buy an SR2 B121JD since it runs off 12VDC allowing me to hook it up to a 12V battery since it is what runs the backup system for the mains it therefor cannot run off the mains itself, while allowing me to have a battery maintenance unit on the battery while mains are working keeping it well charged.

    The SR2 B121JD also have enough inputs and outputs for what i need and is one of the cheaper Zelio units.

    Here is an image of the zelio software program aswell as the program file itself in case anyone is curious about how it was done.

    Since there will be an sensor for if the solenoid has actually been actuated you have to click it manually in the simulation whenever the solenoid relay is activated and click it again to turn it off when the solenoid relay is deactivated again.

    If anyone have any input on how i went about it with the zelio software or any changes that could make it better then i am all ears and would love to hear it.

    Thanks again.

    Regards, Mathias W.
     
  10. Seneram

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 31, 2016
    11
    0
    Hey everyone, I've had a look at it all and i am starting to question my pick of an solenoid for this purpose, i am not sure it will actually pull out far enough as most solenoids available sub 150 dollars are only up to 40mm range. I have started to consider using an pneumatic pusher / puller of some kind or servo for the purpose. Anyone have any good ideas of what could be used in replacement of an solenoid? The range of it needs to be able to be ordered with a specific range (The pull out range of the decompression wire) or mecanicly limitable. I wish to avoid programming as much as possible and rely on the Zelio as much as possible.
     
  11. shortbus

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 30, 2009
    4,015
    1,531
    Is it possible the generator maker has an add on for the generator that will do what your asking? I'd contact them first before building something my self. A DIY solution should be the last option for a business situation.
     
  12. tcmtech

    Well-Known Member

    Nov 4, 2013
    2,039
    1,667
    Follow the decompression cable back to the lever located on the engine and see how easy and far it moves. Odds are its a lot easier to move than the cable assy is and can be activated by a much shorter stroke length.
     
  13. blocco a spirale

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jun 18, 2008
    1,440
    368
    Take a look at linear actuators.
     
  14. Seneram

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 31, 2016
    11
    0
    i have already checked. Unfortually no such thing available.

    will have a look. But from what i remember i think it was about the same.

    i will take a look.
     
  15. KeepItSimpleStupid

    Well-Known Member

    Mar 4, 2014
    1,147
    204
    I want to make sure you have the "OTHER" parts covered.

    Hopefully, you have an automatic transfer switch. There is a lot of info here: http://www.ascouniversity.com/Products/ATS/atsmenu.html Although it for the US market.

    That's going to cover a lot of ground including an unloaded shutdown process.

    For starting your generator, I noted that they said to open the fuel cock, so you may want to include that.

    It has a oil level switch, and it's important to not do anything if the oil is low. So, don't even try to start it.

    Low fuel is an alarm you want to pay attention to.

    Although generator monitoring is not in the cards, you may want to look into it. http://www.netbiter.com/applications/power-generators-ups/genset-control

    Some UPS don't like generator output

    Hopefully your generator will know how to shut down and protect itself.

    Reliability generally means testing with or without transfer, checking fuel and oil levels.

    Transfer will be the responsibility of the automatic transfer switch.

    Starting is a bit different. It may involve measuring RPM. It may involve generating a "Failed to Start" alarm.
     
  16. Seneram

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 31, 2016
    11
    0
    While i apreciate some of the input it kind of feels like you have not read the thread at all.

    I stated in my first post i already have an automatic 3 phase transfer switch.

    My programming on the zelio takes care of retrying on failed startup as the UPS will not get a stable power feed, the UPS includes an input monitor aswell that will inform me if the input is outside of ranges.

    There is no way to do an automated unloaded shutdown on the generator i linked at all, it has to be done manually (I have to switch from 400V output to 0V manually)

    The fuel cock? I am going to assume you mean the fuel valve. That is already opened at all times with an sensor below that alarms me if there are leaks.

    I test the generator once a month with load to make sure it is ready when i need it.

    All UPS's meant for data centers like generator input. Mine runs filtering and cleaning of the power and takes an 50% dirty input and turns into clean output.

    I appreciate the time and effort to make an input but please take the bit of extra time to actually read the thread aswell, one thing i had definitly not thought about tho and i will look into in the future is fuel low. If the generator starts at all tho i know how many hours i have uninterupted and will take actions to make sure it does not run out.

    I feel at this point to avoid further confusion it might be worth mentioning that apart from my company i also work as an hardware and infrastructure specialist with datacenters, Most of the things arround the project i have already covered and thoughtr about. What i have come here for and many have helped me VERY well with is the controller for and the actual automatic startup of an generator that is not designed with automatic startup in question, an project that is progressing very well so far.
     
  17. Alec_t

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 17, 2013
    5,804
    1,105
    Windscreen wiper motor with its mechanism/lever?
    Can you hook a spring balance on the decompression puller and tell us how much force is needed and over what distance?
     
  18. Seneram

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 31, 2016
    11
    0
    I will be checking that this weekend, But i do think a pneumatic pusher or an Linear actuator are what i will be going with to make sure it is somewhat reliable.
     
  19. KeepItSimpleStupid

    Well-Known Member

    Mar 4, 2014
    1,147
    204
    Points well taken. Hey, I caught the fuel low. The generator manual mentioned opening the fuel valve. I don't know the ramifications of leaving it open all of the time or controlling it.

    I did somewhat assume that you might be automatically stopping the generator too. The panel I linked too seemed to use a START/STOP arrangement. e.g. A contact closure says "I want generator power" or "I don't want it". The ASCO switch did the unloaded cooldown or "Delayed the shutdown signal". Again, be aware of how the transfer switch signal works.

    I mentioned the "don't try to start if there is no oil", low fuel etc which may or may not be transfer switch aware. I think our panel reported them as a light.

    You have a UPS as well. Been there as well.

    Our generator which was about 30 KVA primary purpose was toxic gas monitoring, orderly shutdown (that needed the UPS) and ventilation of exhaust hoods. Lighting was important in a few labs and so was the key card building access system. Eventually we had to pull power from convenience items: A system would take about 8 hours to manually start up if the pump lost power for 5 minutes or more.

    Rotary servo's as in RC type servos are another option. See: https://www.pololu.com/category/23/rc-servos

    I do tend to look at everything in overkill mode and then reduce the specifications rather than design something specific. It generally works out better in the end.
     
  20. Seneram

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 31, 2016
    11
    0
    yeah. The look at everything and scale down from there approach is the same i take.

    Also, regarding the low oil switch. That part is automatic on the generator. It refuses to start with low oil. It wont even try.

    low fuel wont happen during startup phase since it is always full when not used. When it does start it has 11hours of fuel at 75% load. Plenty for me to get someone to it for refueling. But yeah. The automatic transfer switch i have is one way standard. Magnetic power when mains are hot holdsit in place. If mains are lost an spring snaps it in place to backup. When mains are back i have to manually reset it back which is what i want.

    it is rare that power goes out. But when it does it has a tendency in that area to come back after a while only to die again after 30-60 seconds and then come back again after a minute or two, this can happen 3-4 times befor it actually stay on. Which is not optimal for switching back and forth fully auto.
     
Loading...