Case Studies

ESAC Electrical Systems and Advanced Control Inc.

Establishing renewable-energy systems in Ontario

Incorporated in 1989, Electrical Systems and Advanced Control Inc. (ESAC) has evolved as a vertically integrated company providing Engineer, Procure, Construct, and Manage (EPCM) of  electrical power systems . Located in London, Ontario, ESAC’s vertical integration allows for the integration of technologies, capabilities, and expertise across multiple disciplines to deliver cost effective turn-key solutions to clientele throughout Ontario.

ESAC offers a comprehensive program for renewable energy producers and electric utilities. “We do EPCM so we’re a one-stop-shop for all electrical services,” says general manager Alex Gubbels. “We do a lot of work for hydro generators and we’ve recently become involved with solar and wind energy.”

Other than concern for the environment, ESAC is also interested in renewable energy sources due to the scale of its projects. “The large nuclear or coal-fired plants are typically not the type of projects we look for.” ESAC currently has 11 full-time employees on board and the company is looking to grow.

ESAC has 25 years of experience which allows it to apply lessons learned and technologies from previous projects to develop customized solutions that are adapted to suit project requirements.  ESAC’s technical specialists and installers draw upon multi Mega-watts of experience to maximize system reliability and performance.  ESAC’s in-house installer’s factory test all systems and sub-systems prior to onsite installation and commissioning.

Putting safety and quality first

ESAC has not experienced any issues concerning the economic downturn in the past ten years. “At times we’ve been so busy that we’ve had to turn down jobs,” says Gubbels. “We’re really looking to grow and expand so that we won’t have to turn down good opportunities. Gubbels believes that the consistent workflow for ESAC is largely due to the one-stop-shop aspect of the company from concept evaluation to connection and regulatory compliance.

ESAC is dedicated to safety, timely construction and cost-effective procurement. During the project planning phase, ESAC works with clients to develop a detailed project schedule for procurement and construction as well as a health and safety plan.

“As an EPCM company we project-manage our subcontractors as well,” explains Gubbels. “It’s much different than, for instance, going to an engineering consulting firm, and they manage all of the sub-contractors.  Not knocking the consulting/project manage firms but without having onsite installation and commissioning experience themselves leads to communication errors, longer project schedules, and margin stacking.”

ESAC’s target market varies from strictly energy-renewable companies to larger scale utility corporations. “There’s a lot of consolidation going on in the market right now,” says Gubbels. A lot of people got into wind and solar and then after a year or two the bigger players were buying them up to leverage economies of scale.”

Utilities projects

ESAC recently worked with Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro. The project consisted of an upgrade to a current system as well as new system projects for large transformer stations. ESAC worked with the client’s engineering,  protection and control and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) departments in a combined effort to design and implement integrated protection, control and metering systems.

Throughout the project, there was an emphasis on developing a current solution standard that addresses the upgrades of both existing and any new transformer stations in order to achieve the project owner’s monetary benefits of automation and system reliability

With any project which combines innovation and technology, challenges were unavoidable. In order to perform upgrades on in-service existing products, an “overbuild” approach was used to maintain minimal outage time.

In 2002, ESAC completed a project with Hydro One Brampton. The project was a large, critical transformer with an integrated protection, control and metering system. The company saw the monetary benefits of automation. With an ESAC system, management acquired the reliability and accuracy needed in the operation’s new electrical distribution systems.

In order to monitor the company’s various locations closely, management requested a channel reaching each of the existing and future SCADA locations in Brampton. This channel would communicate audio, video and data signals to Hydro One’s central offices. Because the scalability and reliability of the system was of utmost importance, ESAC utilized a self-healing fiber-ring communication system to link all such locations around the city.

Renewable energy

On the Renfrew Power Generation project ESAC was responsible for the overall electrical as a design/build contractor with management of subcontractors.  The project involved upgrading of original plants 1 and 2 and a new hydroelectric generating station.  Production performance and historian trending and reporting quickly identify issues in optimizing equipment operation.  

ESAC was part of a groundbreaking project in regards to Hydro One Networking Inc. (HONI) interfacing when the company worked on a project for the Ferndale Wind Farm in Ontario. At the time, standards were not defined as they are today, which resulted in changes and additions over the years.

Achieving an accurate project budget and schedule with an evolving HONI interface presented a challenge in itself. The interface involved multiple organizations, required adequate foresight and risk analysis. A priority on the project was to develop a standard design that supports flexibility for the finite changes encountered. Additionally, defining a wind turbine generator short circuit model contribution ensured accurate protective device implementation, and Arc Flash conditions.

ESAC recently worked at the Otter Rapids Generating Station, installing an integrated protection and control system including generators and condition monitoring. With the generating station in a remote location, reliable central integrated control was essential.

As an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) project, ESAC designed and developed the RFP and managed the electrical subcontractor. As an older in-service generating station, the upgrades also required an “overbuild” design solution to minimize plant and unit downtime by deploying in zones. ESAC established design standards in staff and system documentation, ensuring plant-to-plant common understanding and skills requirement.

The challenges encountered in this project included existing drawings, custom fitting of condition monitoring, unit mechanical monitoring sensors and safely deploying the “overbuild solution.

In Grand Valley, Ontario, ESAC provided the main integration protection and control system for Grand Valley Wind Farms. The system has been operational since April, 2012 and ESAC has been providing ongoing support though remote access analytical logs with on-site service as required.

Acknowledging the growing capacity from renewable energy, grid integration of wind farms is a popular research area in the power systems industry. The operators of Grand Valley Wind Farm are provided with accurate, well-documented data from ESAC’s central SCADA addition integrating both protection and wind turbine generators to then analyze the systems grid interface and generator’s performance.

Company Values

Though new to the industry, Gubbels is proud of the work environment ESAC has created for its employees. “We provide a workplace that allows employees to excel,” says Gubbels. “We are always looking for hard working, creative and goal oriented people.” ESAC is an innovative company with projects that focus on design, development and implementation.   It is important for project success that the designer, developer, and implementer are the same person to avoid designs that cannot be implemented on site.

Philosophies at ESAC involve doing things right the first time and providing clients with a quality business relationship in which the goals a client has for a project become the team’s own. Gubbels and his colleagues take pride in offering excellent mentoring relationships, ongoing training – technical and otherwise, progressive benefits, attractive performance bonuses and continuing education plans.

ESAC’s success is based on four principle values: Excellence, Safety, Mentorship and Teamwork. ESAC consistently aims to be a strategic supplier for its clients by interpreting their vision and providing the operational expertise to implement solutions. The absence of workplace injuries speaks for itself concerning ESAC’s safety program.

Through mentorship, employees are encouraged to advance their careers through stimulating projects guided by senior staff members. These values combine to create the team environment that ESAC thrives on. Drawing on the unique education and experience of the staff at ESAC Electrical Systems and Advanced Control Inc., clients can expect innovative projects and services, on time and within budget.

Published on: July 14, 2015

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