Sourcing Wayside HEP Power Systems for Rail Yards

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Head End Power Unit Configurations for Passenger Trains

In the late 1990s, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), implemented practices for Head End Power sources throughout the passenger rail industry.

According to 3.1.3 in APTA RP-R-015-99, Head End Power (HEP) is defined as “A system by which 480 VAC 3-phase electrical power, to operate auxiliaries, is provided to railroad vehicles from a central source via a trainline system. The power source can be locomotive (hence “Head End”), power car, or wayside source.” Read more

How to Prevent Exploding Reefer Plugs & Connectors

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Those who have plugged in Refrigerated Containers (a.k.a “reefers”) know firsthand that water intrusion can cause reefer plugs and connectors to explode.  This is extremely dangerous and can result in injury to the operator, damage to the plug, receptacle, and surrounding equipment.  And obviously, the refrigerated cargo is no longer being cooled.  Experienced operators will even shake the plug prior to plugging in; if they suspect water is inside they know better than to energize the plug.

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California Transport Refrigeration Unit Regulations in Development

Pending TRU California Regulation

Pending TRU regulations in California may restrict idling at applicable facilities to a maximum of 5 minutes by 2025 in an effort to help improve the environmental impact of the trucking industry.

Truck Refrigeration Units, commonly referred to as TRUs, are refrigeration systems that are typically powered by internal combustion engines. TRUs control the environment of temperature-sensitive products that are transported in refrigerated trucks, trailers, railcars and shipping containers. TRUs are used to transport and store many products such as food, pharmaceuticals, plants, medicines, and chemicals.

Some companies use TRUs for extended cold storage. Distribution centers and grocery stores may run out of cold storage space in their buildings and then opt to store overflow goods in TRU-equipped trucks and trailers outside their buildings. Distribution centers, truck stops and other cold storage facilities also attract large volumes of TRUs that contribute to higher localized health risks. New regulations are developing concepts to reduce emissions from facilities with TRU activity by transitioning to zero-emission operation where practical.

According to SCE.com, Southern California Edison is aiding in these pending regulations by offering a program designed to help qualifying SCE commercial customers install the charging/powering infrastructure needed to electrify medium- and heavy-duty fleets. SCE’s Charge Ready Transport Program is providing a four-year funding initiative for installation of infrastructure to SCE commercial customers. Through this program, SCE’s goal is to advance the vision for a clean energy future while providing medium- and heavy-duty fleet owners the opportunity to save money. The program is offering opportunities such as, no-cost installation of electric infrastructure or giving businesses the option to install, own, operate and maintain the infrastructure on site for a rebate at 80% of cost. SCE is also offering special incentives such as commercial rate options that make EV charging and TRU shore power more affordable during certain times of the day.

In addition to SCE’s infrastructure programs, CARBs Clean Off-Road Equipment Voucher Incentive Project (CORE) will feature a streamlined voucher process for buyers to receive funding to offset the adoption costs of clean, commercial ready zero-emission equipment including transport refrigeration units, cargo-handling equipment, and more. CARB is also offering eligibility opportunities to offset electricity costs through the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) Program which is designed to encourage the use of cleaner low-carbon fuels in California, encourage the production of those fuels, and therefore, reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Charge Ready Transport, LCFS and CORE are some of the many incentives available in California that provide opportunities to reduce your organization’s carbon footprint and improve the air quality of your community all while cutting operation and maintenance costs to your fleet.

Get ahead of the competition; learn more about SCE’s Charge Ready Transport and reducing greenhouse gas emissions here: https://www.sce.com/business/electric-cars/charge-ready-transport.

If you’re interested in learning how ESL can help provide safe utility power to electric or hybrid TRUs check out our eTRUconnect:  https://eslpwr.com/etruconnect/

Designing a Safe Reefer Connection: Part 2

Designing a Safe Reefer Connection

Increasing safety

While little has changed in the construction of the receptacles themselves over the years, ESL is constantly challenged to find new solutions that meet unique customer safety and operational requirements. Usually terminal operators have limited or no control over the maintenance and standards associated with male plugs on reefer container cables, the quality of which varies considerably. A male plug with water and salt ingress can “flash” outwards into the operator when the interlock actuator is engaged. In order to energize a receptacle from a safe distance, ESL designed a rear-actuated receptacle that removes this safety risk by requiring the operator to engage the actuator rod from behind the assembly enclosure, out of the way in case of a flashover. Since the development of our rear-actuated receptacle, ESL has installed systems at terminals in Philadelphia, Nairobi and Vancouver. In Philadelphia, ESL added LED lights on the rear of the enclosures so operators can see they have energized the correct receptacle.

Damage control

Properly treated and maintained, a safety-interlocked reefer receptacle is designed to last many years. The reality, however, is that equipment is often damaged through misuse. In our experience, the number one cause of receptacle damage is “drive-offs”, where the reefer is moved without first being disconnected. This will destroy a nylon or plastic ROA, but not a stainless steel one. Stainless steel ROA’s can be repaired by just replacing the receptacle or swapping out a safety-interlocked outlet from another ROA. In North America, the incidence of drive-offs is such that stainless steel ROAs should be considered as an industry standard. ESL also offers microswitches in the receptacle that signals whether a container is connected, regardless of whether the reefer is energized or not. This information could be sent to the terminal operating system (TOS) and an instruction to move a reefer could be blocked if it is still connected.

If you missed part  of our series  focusing on operating reefers at terminals efficiently click here.

Designing a Safe Reefer Connection: Part 1

Safe reefer operations require a receptacle system that exceeds minimum standards in electrical codes.

Designing a safe connection - part 1

Safely connecting and disconnecting reefer containers operating on 3 Phase 440-480v power represents one of the largest safety risks from an electrical hazard at the majority of container terminals. Reefer receptacles are designed and listed to electrical safety standards of UL and CE self-certification, but these only “certify” that the receptacle can carry the required electrical load. Other standards, such as IEC 60309-1 and 60309-2 cover configurations of the plug and receptacle and ensure compatibility. It is widely accepted that dealing with 480v, 32A supply presents a safety (and liability) risk and that the standard is to have interlocked connections. A safety interlock is a mechanical or electrical device that prevents a receptacle from being energized unless the male plug is properly engaged and disconnects the power supply automatically as the plug is removed. Although the safety interlock design prevents operators from “making” or “breaking” under load, it is not required under electrical codes and in some cases, terminal construction contractors look to install non-interlocked receptacles, which pose a higher safety risk to operators, but offer cost savings. Some situations arise where contractors facing strict budgets try to install non-interlocked receptacles. The objective is to make sure interlocked receptacles rather than “complying” receptacles are specified when projects are tendered. As far as the design of the interlock is concerned, there are several options. ESL’s standard system detects the ground pin of the male plug before allowing the unit to be energized, whereas other designs interlock off the key on the side of the plug. ESL believes the ground pin is the safer option. Additionally, in some markets, plug keys are frequently “shaved off” to allow a 32A plug to mate with a 30A (non-interlocking) receptacle, meaning the 32A male plug must be replaced elsewhere in the supply chain in order to safely connect to a receptacle that interlocks at the key.

Operating Efficiently

Another important aspect of reefer power supply is designing the receptacle system so the terminal can perform reefer operations efficiently. In considering the layout of the reefer area(s), terminal management has to weigh the initial costs of installing more reefer outlet assemblies (ROAs) against the labor costs of managing cabling from fewer centralized ROAs. A reefer rack structure is typically six or seven containers wide and some operators opt for an ROA with six or seven receptacles mounted centrally. This configuration is more prone to tangled reefer cables, which present tripping hazards and the chance of disconnecting the wrong cable. Terminals with wider reefer racks may even require extension cables to reach the outer containers. Installing more receptacles per ROA is ultimately a cheaper solution, but a trend towards two and three-gang ROAs due to operational efficiencies is growing. Demand is also increasing for two LED lights, one to indicate line power is available to the ROA and a second to show that the receptacle is energized and power is flowing. If the first LED is not showing, the operator will know immediately that there is an upstream power supply problem. An available option is the incorporation of an equipment ground fault protection (GFP) device on an outlet module to isolate the effect of a phase to ground short. ESL has frequently been asked to incorporate a simple ground fault protection device that can isolate a fault at the receptacle and prevent upstream switch gear from being tripped by a short. Terminal design engineers need to take into account that reefers generate ground currents during the defrost cycle, so the GFP devices should be selected and set at a value above the defrost cycle ground currents to avoid nuisance tripping.

Read part 2 of our series  focusing on reefer receptacle safety and damage control.