The current escalation in the commodities market has left an impact on many of the materials used in electrical power products and their distribution. Most notably, copper prices have hit record highs and as a Wall Street Journal article pointed out earlier this year – the industry has taken notice. The shift from copper to aluminum has gained some momentum. However, there are system design considerations that should be noted when looking for opportunities to reduce the amount of copper used in an application.
Bus Bar and Power Cabling: Bus bars are responsible for the largest concentration of copper within an electrical system. Early in the design and layout phase, options may exist to minimize the costs associated with copper. Some question to ask include: - What are the distances between generator sets, UPS and switchgear? - Can you minimize the length of the bus? Another point to consider is that having redundant buses and cabling adds cost. Shifting the redundancy to a less expensive portion of the electrical system could be an alternative.
Voltage: An additional opportunity to reduce the bus bar size is to modify the system architecture with regard to voltage. If you can design your system to utilize a higher voltage bus, you can minimize the size of your bus bar for the larger sections of your system. You will need to account for the transformers needed at your site to step the voltage down where needed, and a cost analysis would be necessary to evaluate the transformer costs versus bus bar savings.
Here are my questions to the Community:
Do core material costs factor into your design considerations, or even change them, when you are planning your electrical systems?
Have you, or have you ever, considered changing the electrical system's layout, voltage or redundancy in order to minimize copper material costs?
If so, what changes did you make?
And conversely, what changes did you NOT make and why?