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Diesel Generators Supply the Lifeblood of South African Industry

It is just a little less than two centuries ago when Michael Faraday performed the landmark experiment which revealed that an electromotive force (EMF) is produced in a suitable electrical conductor when it is subjected to variations in a nearby magnetic field. This important finding, which was eventually to become known as Faraday's Law, subsequently provided engineers with the basis for the development of the world's first device for the production of a continuous electric current. Known as a dynamo, its principle was further applied in the development of the closely related electric motor. What these two revolutionary devices offered the world was the means to convert mechanical energy into electrical power and electricity into mechanical energy respectively.


Practically, the most effective way to produce the desired electrical output was found to be either by rotating a conductive coil between the poles of a magnet or by rotating the magnet about the coil. In each case a direct current was induced in the windings of the coil and could then be used to power light bulbs and other devices. Subsequent improvements to the design soon enabled them to produce the more powerful alternating current in use almost universally today. In addition, the mechanical power is commonly provided by an internal combustion engine and is typical of the diesel generators that are now employed by most of South Africa's heavy industries as a primary power sources or as a means to augment the mains supply or replace it in the event of a mains outage.


These machines are exceptionally hard-wearing and are designed to maintain a high power output for long periods without interruption. They require only the minimum of preventative maintenance and, because they make use of a fuel that is non-flammable under all but the extreme conditions of temperature and pressure produced within the engine itself, they are both cost-effective and every bit as safe as they are reliable.


The ability to combine the outputs of multiple units has made it possible to power large-scale operations and to do so independently of national or municipal mains supplies. This is especially valuable in the mining industry, where operations must often be carried out in remote locations that are not served by a commercial power network. In these circumstances, a number of diesel generators are used to provide power for underground pumping and lighting, and to operate conveyors and related machinery as well as serving kitchens, offices and the miner's hostels.

While the power output generated by a single unit is determined by the speed at which it is operating, where an array of several units is in use, the overall output is commonly controlled by increasing or decreasing the number of units in operation. To achieve this, smart control systems are required to sense fluctuations in the load demand and to respond by adjusting the available power accordingly to maintain optimum safe performance.


Where a manufacturing plant is served by the mains supply, this alone may provide insufficient power to maintain production at times of peak load and so the shortfall must be met internally with one or more diesel generators. In addition, in the event of a mains failure, they may be required to power the entire operation. Once again, specialised control systems are essential in order to synchronise the output of the mains with that of the gensets or to switch sources automatically should the former be cut.


When commissioning a factory or mine, the need for a source of auxiliary power is a given but it is vital to determine the load requirements before selecting gensets. While an installation may be undertaken by a company's own engineers, each operation has its unique needs and so a tailored installation by PacB Power Solutions, the industry leaders, is the better option.


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