By Anna Guy

E nabling Canadians to make renewable energy use the de facto option is an important endeavor, one that many of Canada’s brightest companies are making a priority. As a stand out in electrical engineering in power systems for renewable energy projects, in the province with far and away the strongest renewable sector, Prime Engineering is one of BC’s strongest niche engineering companies.

Founded in 2010, Prime Engineering is a full-service electrical engineering firm that specializes in medium and high voltage equipment design, commissioning, and power systems electrical and control system designs. The company solidified itself as a meaningful partner on renewable projects early on; Manager Eric Sleigh says Prime Engineering has been fortunate to work on some of B.C.’s largest capital projects through partnerships with contractors and distributors in the province.

Focus on Renewables

“We started the company with very big focus on renewable energy projects, with a focus on hydro electric projects,” says Sleigh. “My personal opinion is that it is extremely important for our local economy to focus on renewables. There are a number of places throughout the country that can leverage their natural resources in terms of water, mountains, wind, solar, etc. and we are excited to be part of those industries.”

Prime Engineering has blossomed from an eight-person team to now an employer of 80 including some of B.C’s most talented technicians as well as control and power system engineers. As Prime Engineering has grown, so has its offerings, which now includes a strong electrical distribution market segment that designs and manufactures custom and unique designs for power electrical industry—specifically medium voltage electrical switchgear.

This expansion was a natural fit, since Prime Engineering has extensive power system design experience: “We found a segment where we could integrate all the components in our facility, predominately servicing commercial customers, electrical contractors and distribution wholesalers, whose end clients are universities, hospitals, condominium building and business parks,” says Chris Duggan, Director of Operations and Services at Prime Engineering. “As a small and flexible company, we have the ability to provide component or complete turnkey electrical design and supply packages for a wide range of designs and customer needs.”

Prime’s exemplary custom service-driven strategy has caught the attention of the industry—Prime Engineering has been involved with almost half of B.C.’s current operating Independent Power Producer facilities. Clients choose Prime Engineering because they have proven they will go above and beyond what the project calls for again and again. “We propose solutions and improvements through custom engineering and then support our customers through the entire life cycle of a project, including feasibility studies, utility liaison, equipment supply, project scheduling, and project management services, ” says Duggan.

“What we are able to offer is customised to our clients’ particular and unique needs, which has been a big part of our success,” says Sleigh. “We also provide our customers quality assurance services for their large electrical upgrade projects. We will review designs, installation plans, schedules and test results, and provide feedback and reports to consultants and owners ensuring the project progresses smoothly and with no unplanned outages, as well as providing after project support in the form of 24-hour emergency service and preventative maintenance.”

Controlled Switching

To best serve its customers, Prime Engineering is leveraging both their in-depth grasp of customers’ needs, excellent reputation and engineering capabilities to bring two new products to market.

Vincent Balvet, Directeur, Expertise & Applications, of Quebec-based VIZIMAX Inc., says of their partnership, “We were looking for a solution partner having the acumen of the market, the switchgear technology and the flexibility to integrate the SynchroTeq® Controlled Switching Device (CSD) we developed and manufacture in a full-blown/stand-alone commercial switchgear apparatus.”

Prime Engineering was able to expand on the switching capability and quality of this cutting-edge solution “way beyond what vanilla circuit breakers can do,” according to Balvet. “Our embedded SynchroTeq is designed to mitigate very harmful power quality problems, so-called ‘switching transients’, that would otherwise occur when their circuit breakers are used to energize large power devices such as power transformers. It allows for minimizing the costly stress on power grid assets and the risk of forced outages such energizations may otherwise sporadically cause.”

Dead-Front Switchgear

Another example is Prime Engineering’s work with Eaton Cooper Power Systems. Prime Engineering worked with the Utility and local approving Authorities in the Province of BC to obtain approval of dead front pad-mounted switchgear for service-entrance applications. “Our relationship with Prime Engineering is a tremendous example of the true partnership that can develop over time between two independent Companies that are focused on the common goal of delivering innovative products and solutions to address problems that the Electrical Industry in Canada has faced for many years,” says Rob Goldsmith, Sales Director, Eaton.

“Prime Engineering worked with Eaton to develop a compact, environmentally friendly Cooper Power series Vacuum Fault Interrupter (VFI) dead front pad-mounted switchgear design specifically for service entrance applications,” says Goldsmith.

“This has been a game changer,” says Duggan. “We have taken what traditionally has required very large equipment to connect customers to their local utility and put it into very small footprint, while far exceeding previous safety regulations and reliability set by industry standards and accepted by the local utility. We have helped write the new standard.”

With such diverse clientele and client needs, Power Engineering is positioned to further diversify and explore expansion options. It’s currently working on opportunities in the U.S. and to expand its product offering. “It’s a very exciting time,” says Sleigh. “Working with our customers is really important to us. British Columbia has been really good on the renewable energy front. We have been really fortunate enough to take part in that.”