Ensuring Safety for the Hawke’s Bay –Pump Station Variable Speed Drives Come to the Rescue

Power Electronics and partners deploy rapid response and support during Cyclone Gabrielle

In February 2023, the Hawke’s Bay region of New Zealand faced the destructive force of Cyclone Gabrielle. When three critical flood pump stations were destroyed on February 14, the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC), a long-time customer of Power Electronics, reached out for help. With the flood pump stations out of action, the Heretaunga Plains were in imminent danger of flooding, endangering the lives of numerous residents. Unfortunately, Power Electronics' Napier office had also suffered damage during the cyclone. The situation was becoming increasingly urgent.



Figure 1. Note the high tide mark at top of switchboard


V5 Series Soft Starter: an emergency solution

Working against time, Power Electronics took swift action. We had an engineer on site from 5.30am, and despite the challenges, an emergency air freight shipment of V5 Series Soft Starters was arranged from the Christchurch office, arriving in Napier only six hours later.


Figure 2. V5 Series Soft Starter


The power of collaborative teamwork

While Power Electronics coordinated the delivery, contractors Pro Electric and Arthur D. Riley, along with the HBRC, exhibited exceptional dedication to getting the sites up and running again. Despite closed roads, lack of communication infrastructure, and significant traffic delays, these teams worked tirelessly to install and commission the V5 soft starters, which they completed over the next two days.

The pump stations were initially started Direct Online (DOL) which required manual intervention to turn the pumps on and off. This put additional strain on HBRC's already stretched resources. Full automation of the sites was achieved by connecting the existing level transducers into the V5 4-20mA input.  Start and stop levels could then be set on the V5 using the internal comparators.  Driftwood from waterways was causing some additional issues at the pump sites.  This was overcome by utilising one of the many protections offered by the V5, the "shear-pin" function.  The shear pin detects a sharp current rise, which is indicative of a blockage in the pump, and very quickly stops the motor.  The V5 Series Soft Starter proved to be a game-changing solution. By implementing this functionality, valuable manpower was freed up by reducing downtime.  This in turn allowed the HBRC to allocate resources more efficiently.


Figure 3. Brooksfield's Pump Station Switchboard 

It's important to note that there was very little internet access and massive time pressures on the teams installing the V5s – they couldn’t/didn’t have time to look up how to set-up the units. Power Electronics provided invaluable support in the sense that they could call any one of us (salespeople included) and we were able to take them through the commissioning over the phone.

The collaboration between Power Electronics, Pro Electric, Arthur D. Riley, and HBRC was testament to effective teamwork, resulting in the successful restoration of the flood pump stations.


 Figure 4. Mission Pakowhai Pump Station SD700

Completing the solution with the SD750 Series VSD

Following the initial deployment of the V5 soft starters, we arranged an emergency shipment of SD750 Series VSDs from Spain. These advanced variable speed drives arrived three weeks later and were promptly installed alongside new switchboards, further enhancing the functionality and reliability of the pump stations.


Figure 5. SD750 Series VSD


Swift lead times during a crisis

Our ability to get the initial V5s to Napier in only six hours, plus our support during the installation and our recommendation to use automation played a vital role in restoring these critical flood pump stations. Collaboration and teamwork with Pro Electric, ADR and the HBRC throughout the installation process ensured the successful automation of the pump stations, optimising resources and safeguarding the Hawke’s Bay region from potential flooding. In times of crisis, we proved to be a reliable partner, delivering innovative soft starter and VSD solutions and unwavering support.

Learn more about the SD750 VSD and the V5 soft starter.