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Stand By Power Generation


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I am hoping for some feedback from anybody who has lived in Thailand for a while and has experienced the reliability or lack thereof of the electrical grid.

I have manufactured diesel generator control systems in the UK for a number of years. Predominantly Automatic Mains Failure panels for singke phase

(domestic) or three phase (business/manufacturing). An AMF panel is a link between a stand by generator and house/business electrical distribution board.

The AMF panel constantly monitors the state of the mains supply, when it drops below specified parameters the generator will start and once operating the

panel will pass the house/business load to the generator. When a stable mains supply is restored the panel will pass the load back to mains. The complete

Operation of the panel is automatic and requires no user input.

I am considering a move to Thailand and would like to know what if any market exists for control panels such as this.

If you could assist me with information regarding any of the following questions your comments would be greatly appreciated:

1) How reliable is the mains electrical supply in Thailand?

2) Do you or any of your friends own a stand by generator for home or business?

3) Would you consider purchasing a stand by generator for home or business?

4) If you own a generator, does it have an Automatic Mains Failure panel?

5) Does the concept of Automatic Mains Failure stand by power appeal to you?

In advance, I'd like to thank anybody who takes the time to respond to this post, please feel free to email m if you wish.

Kind regards, John

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1) How reliable is the mains electrical supply in Thailand?

Very variable depending on the area you live. Brown outs and black outs are pretty much to be expected.

2) Do you or any of your friends own a stand by generator for home or business?

Candles and UPS for the computer amongst friends. A lot of big hotels have standby generators.

3) Would you consider purchasing a stand by generator for home or business?

Not for home use. If I was running a resort then depending on the price I might. A lot of power cuts seem to be just accepted as "part of the holiday experience", and it is, in fact, not unpleasant to sit on the balcony with no noise, no television and just a candle.

There is definitely a market, but you would be competing against the Chinese imports.

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There may be a market if you can do it cheap enough. I know several businesses who have backup diesel generators, and all have opted for manual switching due to cost. A complete install of an automated system including the panel, wiring, accessories and labor will set you back about 100,000 baht. By contrast a simple manual procedure works fine for everyone I know, and costs about 5000 baht. Out of 6 people I know who have diesel generators, I don't know a single person who elected to spend the money for an automatic switch, so I would guess your market base isn't all that big at that price level.

If you can make your product so it can be competitively installed by the retail companies with all accessories for about 10,000 baht including labor and their profit margin, you may be able to pick up some of that business which currently does not see the value in automated systems.

As for power, it can be spotty at times, but the people are Thai and they simply don't complain. Sure, they'd like more convenience, but only if it is free. They are an amazingly tolerant people when fixing the problem would cost money. Keep that in mind when you are making plans. This is an over simplification of course, but in my experience not far from the truth.

Congratulations on your move to Thailand. Good luck with whatever you decide.

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A complete install of an automated system including the panel, wiring, accessories and labor will set you back about 100,000 baht. By contrast a simple manual procedure works fine for everyone I know, and costs about 5000 baht. Out of 6 people I know who have diesel generators, I don't know a single person who elected to spend the money for an automatic switch, so I would guess your market base isn't all that big at that price level.

i had a panel installed which serves two purposes. potential future use for a genset and presently to protect starting relays of aircon units and various pumps. reason: we have quite often a voltage drop of one or two of the three phases. the sensors can be adjusted for a drop from 0 to 20% and kick in by switching off the individual phase when the voltage drops below the set percentage. at the same time relays would reroute the power supply instead from mains but from the generator (if one existed). sensors also check every 12 seconds (time adjustable too) the voltage from mains and switch automatically back when applicable.

total cost for material and labour, both done in excellent quality, was 31,000 Baht. not including is approximately 8 meters of wiring from the panel to the foundations of the (future) generator which also needs a relay to switch off engine when mains supply is satisfactory.

i agree with Greg that there is hardly any market except when it concerns german mad dog perfectionists (like me) :o

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The short answer is no - besides, everything you make has been available commercially for many, many years - ever heard of Caterpillar?!.

i second your opinion but would like to point out that the reason you stated is irrelevant. fact: the panels the OP is planning to produce in Thailand are not available/produced domestically but have to be imported. besides CAT there is a bunch of indian and chinese companies which produce these panels. i had the chance of physically inspecting indian panels and the horror as well as the entertainment to dig through the technical specifications of chinese manufacturers. none of them were convincing.

although i think have done it indirectly it's only fair to answer the OP's questions. here we go:

1) How reliable is the mains electrical supply in Thailand?

no representative answer possible as it depends on the area. i experience per year ~3-4 days when due to repairs/maintenance power is switched off from 08.00-17.00hrs (advance notice given normally the day before). 2-5 times a month one or two out of three phases off for a few minutes to 2 hours. 2-5 times a month when the voltage of one or two phases drops below 150 volts, duration a few minutes to 4 hours.

conclusion: presently no real need for a generator.

2) Do you or any of your friends own a stand by generator for home or business?

no

3) Would you consider purchasing a stand by generator for home or business?

yes, if conditions deteriorate.

4) If you own a generator, does it have an Automatic Mains Failure panel?

not applicable

5) Does the concept of Automatic Mains Failure stand by power appeal to you?

it does if > see my answer #3

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The short answer is no - besides, everything you make has been available commercially for many, many years - ever heard of Caterpillar?!.

BR>Jack

Short, sweet and to the point... That’s the spirit Jack.

Sure, I've heard of caterpillar... I've also heard of and built panels for Scania, Volvo, Duetz, Perkins...etc. With respect I think you have misunderstood my questions, or perhaps I haven’t been clear.

If somebody has deep pockets and wishes to purchase a complete Automatic Mains Failure set up, from a brand name supplier, which (as Naam pointed out) would have to be imported, then subsequently find a competent individual to wire the generator, terminate the control wires in the panel, connect the mains supply and commission the panel… that’s certainly one option.

I am talking about panel fabrication, generator wiring, installation, commission of the panel and after sales service you could hang your hat on! Built by my own fair hands, with all the bells and whistles of a premium AMF set up, at a fraction of the price. I am presuming that a market (albeit small) may exist amongst expatriates who have purchased generators for home/business in the first instance, although I would be delighted to supply and fit panels to Thai homes/businesses also.

For the expatriates, an added bonus (I hope…) will be the ability to communicate clearly with the guy building, wiring and fitting the panel, that’s not to say that expats can’t communicate clearly with Thais, I manage quite well myself, but there have been moments when I have experienced utter frustration.

Thanks for your opinion and for taking the time to air it.

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The short answer is no - besides, everything you make has been available commercially for many, many years - ever heard of Caterpillar?!.

i second your opinion but would like to point out that the reason you stated is irrelevant. fact: the panels the OP is planning to produce in Thailand are not available/produced domestically but have to be imported. besides CAT there is a bunch of indian and chinese companies which produce these panels. i had the chance of physically inspecting indian panels and the horror as well as the entertainment to dig through the technical specifications of chinese manufacturers. none of them were convincing.

although i think have done it indirectly it's only fair to answer the OP's questions. here we go:

1) How reliable is the mains electrical supply in Thailand?

no representative answer possible as it depends on the area. i experience per year ~3-4 days when due to repairs/maintenance power is switched off from 08.00-17.00hrs (advance notice given normally the day before). 2-5 times a month one or two out of three phases off for a few minutes to 2 hours. 2-5 times a month when the voltage of one or two phases drops below 150 volts, duration a few minutes to 4 hours.

conclusion: presently no real need for a generator.

2) Do you or any of your friends own a stand by generator for home or business?

no

3) Would you consider purchasing a stand by generator for home or business?

yes, if conditions deteriorate.

4) If you own a generator, does it have an Automatic Mains Failure panel?

not applicable

5) Does the concept of Automatic Mains Failure stand by power appeal to you?

it does if > see my answer #3

Hi Naam

Many thanks for taking the time to comment on my post.

I appreciate that the reliability of the mains supply varies according to location, I’m sure that seasonal affects play a part also, high winds and heavy electrical storms may threaten mains service to some extent during the rainy season, especially in more remote areas. I guess I am hoping that enough ‘German mad-dog perfectionists’ exist out in the sticks to get the ball rolling, so to speak.

I couldn’t agree more with you on the issue of the Chinese/Indian technical specs, another issue is the quality of the electrical components used in the panels. It is easy to knock out AMF panels with cheap components, but when the coils/relays etc fail, have you really done yourself of your customer any favours? I swear by Telemecanique components, I regularly build AMF panels for generators in the 15 to 550 kva range and they perform flawlessly time after time.

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I guess I am hoping that enough ‘German mad-dog perfectionists’ exist out in the sticks to get the ball rolling, so to speak.

i hate to empty a bucket of icewater over your optimism Genset. the reality is that the mad dog breed is quite rare. that applies to cities and to the sticks. search the thread "how much do you pay for electricity?" and read. you'll find a multiple number of expats who's views are

-my electricity consumption was 350 Baht last month, good more money in my pocket,

-what for do you need aircondition? haven't you adjusted to the warmer weather yet?

answering the question raised in this thread i read amongst other derogatory and envious remarks "arrogant Naam is boasting that his electricity bill exceeds 10,000 Baht a month!"

i guess your chances to succeed producing panels are rather slim. however i assume that your technical knowledge covers much more than panels only. why not think of alternatives too?

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1) How reliable is the mains electrical supply in Thailand?

It's not great, but its not appalling either. I get probably a couple of small outages a week, for a few minutes (somtimes half an hour) at a time. I can put up with it, it's not like its Kathmandu or anything.

2) Do you or any of your friends own a stand by generator for home or business?

No. The hospital next door certainly does, but they have a fairly clear need for it.

3) Would you consider purchasing a stand by generator for home or business?

I don't think you'll find many takers for home. But you may just find a niche business market if you look around. I wish the lab I do some work in had one to protect their deep freezers, but I can't imagine them actually paying for one unfortunately.

5) Does the concept of Automatic Mains Failure stand by power appeal to you?

It appeals to me in the same way that having a private jet appeals to me. But its not likely to happen :o You're probably better off looking at business market not residential.

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There may be a market if you can do it cheap enough. I know several businesses who have backup diesel generators, and all have opted for manual switching due to cost. A complete install of an automated system including the panel, wiring, accessories and labor will set you back about 100,000 baht. By contrast a simple manual procedure works fine for everyone I know, and costs about 5000 baht. Out of 6 people I know who have diesel generators, I don't know a single person who elected to spend the money for an automatic switch, so I would guess your market base isn't all that big at that price level.

If you can make your product so it can be competitively installed by the retail companies with all accessories for about 10,000 baht including labor and their profit margin, you may be able to pick up some of that business which currently does not see the value in automated systems.

As for power, it can be spotty at times, but the people are Thai and they simply don't complain. Sure, they'd like more convenience, but only if it is free. They are an amazingly tolerant people when fixing the problem would cost money. Keep that in mind when you are making plans. This is an over simplification of course, but in my experience not far from the truth.

Congratulations on your move to Thailand. Good luck with whatever you decide.

Thanks for your input Gregb, it’s very much appreciated.

I agree that the majority of Thai people don’t complain when the power is interrupted. It has also been my experience however, that the irritation threshold of expats in similar situations is somewhat lower, I don’t mean to tar everybody with the same brush, but I’m sure we’ve all heard mutterings of discontent from time to time.

You have correctly identified the problem as being one of cost over convenience. I am not really desperate to hit the ground running and begin manufacturing panels countrywide. I would be happy to begin slowly, building just a few panels a year if necessary, and catering to a niche market of customers who recognize the true value of an AMF set up to their home or business as being more than just convenience. A good example is the one cited by crushdepth, of protection for his workplace deep freezers, wherever a business has perishable goods chilled or frozen this would of course be of value… especially if you’re the lucky chap who has to rush to start the generator by hand at 03:00, no doubt in the midst of a torrential downpour… lol… likewise, businesses who rely on their internet servers operating 24/7 would be similarly well served. I will even consider building panels at cost initially, in order to establish myself and hope that word of mouth/referrals, will aid growth. I’m really not in a rush.

In addition to providing an automatic safety net in the event of power interruption, the control panels I manufacture include a trickle charger which pulls power from a mains phase and conditions the battery so the generator always has sufficient DC power to start, further the control panel can periodically test the generator while the mains is uninterrupted. Once a day, once a week, once a month for 30 minutes, 60, 90, whatever the customer feels is prudent thereby ensuring that the generator is always in peak condition and ready to operate should it be needed. This avoids the “crap the lights have gone out… quick start the genny… s**t, the battery is flat” scenario.

I read with interest your comments on the price of panels. Whilst I believe that 100,00 baht is over the top, similarly, 10,000 baht wouldn’t even cover the cost of the components, for example, two contactors are required to be placed in the switchover panel, one for the mains supply and one for the generator supply, they are connected with a mechanical interlock (preventing the mains and generator supply to be connected simultaneously), the contactors must contain a coil so they can be activated automatically by the control panel. I use the Telemecanique TeSys range of contactors, because I have found them to be very reliable, it is possible to buy cheaper, but its false economics to buy something at half price then replace it three times during the lifetime of the panel. Schneider Electric in Thailand provided me with a price list last year the cost for one LC1 D50 (50amp) was 4,520 baht, the LC1 D25 (25amp) was 2,230 baht… two are needed plus an interlock, a panel, fuses, fuse holders, relays etc. The electronic control panel is an additional 5,000 baht (cost). So as you can see it would be difficult to bring a panel in around 10,000 baht. In addition to the components, wiring between the panel and generator is also required, depending on size, I would suggest that 15 to 20,000 baht to be the cost for assembling a good quality system.

At the end of the day the question really is, the value of an AMF system to your home or business. In my experience, that value isn’t fully realized until disaster strikes and money is lost.

Thanks again for your comments and opinion

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I'd also like to point out that your equipment design will need to be approved by MEA/PEA. This would probably include a type test to insure that there is no chance that the genset will feed into the MEA/PEA distribution system.

I also think that there is probably a small niche market for this.

Edited by Deke
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1) How reliable is the mains electrical supply in Thailand?

It's not great, but its not appalling either. I get probably a couple of small outages a week, for a few minutes (somtimes half an hour) at a time. I can put up with it, it's not like its Kathmandu or anything.

2) Do you or any of your friends own a stand by generator for home or business?

No. The hospital next door certainly does, but they have a fairly clear need for it.

3) Would you consider purchasing a stand by generator for home or business?

I don't think you'll find many takers for home. But you may just find a niche business market if you look around. I wish the lab I do some work in had one to protect their deep freezers, but I can't imagine them actually paying for one unfortunately.

5) Does the concept of Automatic Mains Failure stand by power appeal to you?

It appeals to me in the same way that having a private jet appeals to me. But its not likely to happen :o You're probably better off looking at business market not residential.

Hi, very grateful for your input on this topic.

I found myself laughing at your comment regarding the private jet, very funny, but quite an accurate assessment.

I am beginning to get the impression that the electrical supply in Thailand is really quite reliable (not withstanding a Mass Coronal Ejection... Google it if youre interested), and as you have suggested, identifying a niche market of business users (who will suffer monetary loss of one kind or another) in the event of power interruption should be my focus.

Thanks again.

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I'd also like to point out that your equipment design will need to be approved by MEA/PEA. This would probably include a type test to insure that there is no chance that the genset will feed into the MEA/PEA distribution system.

I also think that there is probably a small niche market for this.

Hi Deke,

I wasnt aware of this, thanks for bringing it to my attention. Have you had prior experience of having an equipment design of some sort being approved by MEA/PEA? If so i would be grateful for any additional information you may have regarding the process. I am 100% confident in the design of the AMF panel and that it would pass scrutiny by MEA/PEA, but Thai bureacracy is another story altogether, so your experience would be valuable.

Thanks for your comments Deke.

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I'd also like to point out that your equipment design will need to be approved by MEA/PEA. This would probably include a type test to insure that there is no chance that the genset will feed into the MEA/PEA distribution system.

I also think that there is probably a small niche market for this.

Hi Deke,

I wasnt aware of this, thanks for bringing it to my attention. Have you had prior experience of having an equipment design of some sort being approved by MEA/PEA? If so i would be grateful for any additional information you may have regarding the process. I am 100% confident in the design of the AMF panel and that it would pass scrutiny by MEA/PEA, but Thai bureacracy is another story altogether, so your experience would be valuable.

Thanks for your comments Deke.

The process is pretty straightforward but might take some time (state enterprise employees aren't known for their high level of productivity).

I don't have any direct experience with submitting equipment for acceptance but do have almost thirty years of experience as a consultant to EGAT/MEA/PEA so could probably point you in the direction of the right people when you're ready.

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I'd also like to point out that your equipment design will need to be approved by MEA/PEA. This would probably include a type test to insure that there is no chance that the genset will feed into the MEA/PEA distribution system.

I also think that there is probably a small niche market for this.

Hi Deke,

I wasnt aware of this, thanks for bringing it to my attention. Have you had prior experience of having an equipment design of some sort being approved by MEA/PEA? If so i would be grateful for any additional information you may have regarding the process. I am 100% confident in the design of the AMF panel and that it would pass scrutiny by MEA/PEA, but Thai bureacracy is another story altogether, so your experience would be valuable.

Thanks for your comments Deke.

The process is pretty straightforward but might take some time (state enterprise employees aren't known for their high level of productivity).

I don't have any direct experience with submitting equipment for acceptance but do have almost thirty years of experience as a consultant to EGAT/MEA/PEA so could probably point you in the direction of the right people when you're ready.

That would be great, very helpful.

I'd like to get the approval process started as soon as possible for precisely the reasons you stated. Is the approval process based simply on a wiring diagram or will they need a completed panel to test?

If you would be kind enough to email me with some contact info for MEA/PEA, I would be most grateful.

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