What is a generators control panel?
The control panel on a diesel generator controls and protects the generator. The control panel will be a collection of components, together they should monitor the diesel engine and AC alternator as they run and ensure the readings stay within pre-set parameters.
The control panel is also used to start and stop the generator, read any Diagnostic Trouble Codes on compatible engines and display parameters to the user. It can also be used with an ATS panel for automatic mains failure operation.
What are the major parts of a diesel generator control panel?
The control module
The control module is the heart of the panel. This electronic module is essentially a small PLC, taking in the electrical signals and deciding what to do next. These are usually programmable to achieve different outcomes for different applications.
Older generators may have the same functionality using analogue instruments and devices.
The terminal rail
The terminal rail - not always fitted but generally useful. it is a connection point for all the cables coming from the engine and alternator, these are then connected to the control module. Equally outputs from the control module are taken to the terminal rail and then fed to the engine and alternator. Fuses or small circuit breakers are often found on the terminal rail and act as protection devices.
Current transformers are used to convert the high current output of the alternator to a lower current for monitoring. Sensitive electronics in the control module cannot monitor directly the huge currents coming from the alternator terminals. Typically current transformers convert the current to a 0-5A range for monitoring.
A circuit breaker
the main output breaker - not always found in the control panel - it can be separate and free-standing on large units. The circuit breaker is used to stop the flow of current in the case of overload or short-circuit.