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  • Writer's pictureTom Miller, CCIM

What to Know about Electrical Power and Industrial Real Estate

Electrical power is a topic that comes up daily in the world of industrial real estate. Prospective tenants need to be certain that the power in a space will meet their electrical needs, while savvy building owners know that bringing in adequate power to their building is a long-term investment for their property. In our industry, we regularly hear and use terms like three-phase, amps, and volts. But what does it all mean?

Amperage, Voltage and Watts Explained

  1. Amperage (amps) – amount of current flowing through a wire. For reference, this is similar to the amount of water flowing through a hose in a pressure washer.

  2. Voltage (volts) – the pressure that pushes amps through the circuit. This is similar to the power of the pump that pushes the water through the hose of that pressure washer.

  3. Watts – the measurement of electricity used (AMPS x VOLTS = WATTS). Watts are your energy consumption and similar to how hard the water hits a surface when sprayed with the pressure washer.

Main Switch Board vs. Distribution Panel

  1. Main Switch Board (MSB) – The main switch board is the main power panel that the energy company serves their power into from their transformer. This main power panel houses the main circuit breakers and is an accurate reading of true amps and volts coming into the site.

  2. Distribution Panel – A distribution panel is any panel that is downstream from the main power panel. In a multi-tenant building, these panels are used to distribute the power coming into the site to the demised spaces within the building.

It is not uncommon for the sum of the distribution panels to exceed the power rating of the main power panel. Electrical designers factor in the fact that it is highly unlikely that any single distribution panel will be used at 100% capacity at any given time. For example, you may see five individual 200A distribution panels served from an 800A main switch board. If you are combining already demised spaces, you have to be careful not to add up the distribution panels downstream from the main power panel.

Single-Phase vs. Three-Phase Power

We consistently have clients that state they need three-phase power. Three-phase power is the industry standard in manufacturing, warehouse and industrial buildings across the globe. Generally speaking, you are only going to find single-phase power in your house or small, non-industrial buildings. Three-phase power allows for smaller, less expensive wiring and lower voltages, which makes it safer and far less expensive to run.

  1. Single-Phase Power – Single-phase power has only one current and one voltage output per cycle. This power current travels in waves. When the wave passes through zero, the power supplied (voltage) is zero. Imagine a single paddler in a canoe. He can only move himself forward while his paddle moves through the water. When he lifts his paddle out of the water to prepare for his next stroke, the power supplied to the canoe is zero.

  2. Three-Phase Power – Three-phase power has three currents and three voltage outputs per cycle. These three currents travel in waves that overlap each other so the level of power supplied remains consistent. Picture the same canoe with three paddlers. If their strokes are synchronized so that no two paddles are lifted out of the water at the same time, there is consistent power supplied to the canoe.

Building sizes and power ratings are just the start to your industrial real estate search. If you are just getting started or established and looking to re-locate or expand your current facilities, let the experts at Miller Industrial Properties help you streamline your process. Contact Beki Dobson today.

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Miller Industrial Properties, Sparks, Reno, Nevada
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