As a utility engineer responsible for power quality investigations related to customer complaints, you need easy access to information on different types of PQ problems. You can draw from a wide variety of sources, including books, magazines, the Internet, and case studies performed by yourself or others. However, it's often difficult to keep this much information current and readily available. Since it's never feasible to search for particular examples every time a new investigation arises, your best bet is to organize the information and supplement it with more general power quality information. When you do, you'll reap the benefits of a valuable resource.

The Concept

Microsoft's Bill Gates and former Apple CEO John Scully have described this basic concept as “information at your fingertips” and a “knowledge navigator.” While deceptively easy to imagine, such ideas are often difficult to achieve in practice.

Despite the difficulty and investment required, power quality is one area where implementing an easy reference strategy pays off. Why?

  • PQ encompasses many specialties (e.g., harmonics, voltage-sag analysis, switching transients, grounding, and ferroresonance). This makes it difficult for one person to have a high level of expertise in all areas.

  • Customers reporting PQ problems have high expectations and generally need problems fixed immediately for economic or safety reasons.

  • The spectrum of different solution technologies is continually changing in both function effectiveness and economical attractiveness.

  • Many of the lessons learned from previous PQ investigations will be applicable to future investigations.

So let's take a look at some of the things to consider when setting up your own information library.

The Standard Tools

Putting PQ-related content on the Internet or company Intranet is critical to having it readily available to the end-user. Several different file types will probably contain the content, depending on the standard software products you use. The best Internet-based PQ library allows the user to browse and search easily and find the content of interest quickly. A relational database is typically the best means to achieve this characteristic. An advantage of using an “Office Suite” of applications is that the associated database usually will integrate well with the other products—allowing the user to create and update databases easily.

Using Templates

The advantage of basing content on a common set of templates is that all documents of a certain type will have the same look and feel. This naturally facilitates the ability to find any subset of information contained within the document. Different templates can be created for different document types (e.g., generic case studies, equipment test-data reports, field-measurement reports, etc.). You can develop other templates for generic power quality information, test reports, presentations, site monitoring results, and benchmarking reports.

In addition to defining the basic format, standard templates also can contain “macros” that help facilitate library maintenance. After entering the appropriate data, the user selects a menu item that adds the document to the designated Web library and updates the associated database with all of the data field entries.

A Good Web Interface

The Web interface should allow users to search and browse the power quality library content easily and effectively. It also should display enough summary information on a document so users can determine if they want to download the complete document.

It's preferable to provide two versions of a document for a download: a “read-only” and “native-format” version. The read-only version does not require any software (other than the browser or a standard reader) to view or print the complete document, while the native-format version allows an authorized user to modify or create a new document based on the file contents. Finally, good Web interfaces allow authorized users to easily add content to the library.

Despite the advantages, easy access to information is often a double-edged sword because the issue of security demands equal and proper attention. It really boils down to making the right information readily available to the right people.

The easiest way to accomplish this is to have multiple PQ library Web sites with their own entrance security gates. For example, to facilitate customer relations, set up a PQ library Web site with selected content and read-only privileges that is open only to specific customers or the public at large. Then, set up another PQ library with complete content and full privileges that is only available to the PQ group of engineers.

Sample Library

Last year, members of the “PQ Group” started a power quality library. This group is a membership-based power quality information and solutions organization formed as an alliance between E Source Inc. and Electrotek Concepts Inc. Members can access the generic version of the library at, although they have their own versions of the library running on their company Intranets.

The example search is for documents where any of the fields (keywords, titles, abstracts, etc.) contain the content “cvt” (constant voltage transformer). Once users find these documents, they can view or download specific ones with useful information in either read-only or native-format versions. The arrow navigation buttons allow users to advance or return to individual records, viewing each one's summary details.

Like any library, the available content determines the usefulness of the PQ library. Creating a readily available system that personnel can update easily is critical to its ultimate success. The basic nature of this resource is to grow in usefulness over time. Leveraging and incorporating experiences from in-house resources as well as those outside your company will accelerate this process.


Organizing your resource information is critical for developing an efficient, power quality service business. The system you implement should provide a library of resource information and help organize your own case studies. After all, your customers' experiences provide some of the most valuable resources available—ones you'll refer to as you continually tackle new problems.

A Web-based system is essential because you make the information available in the most convenient format and avoid the requirements of software support and training for all the system's users.